Patty Wight

News Producer

Patty is a graduate of the University of Vermont and a multiple award-winning reporter for Maine Public Radio. Her specialty is health coverage: from policy stories to patient stories, physical health to mental health and anything in between. Patty joined Maine Public Radio in 2012 after producing stories as a freelancer for NPR programs such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She got hooked on radio at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, and hasn’t looked back ever since.

Ways to Connect

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A new study suggests that major garden and home improvement stores may be contributing to the decline of bees through the plants thet sell.

"It is important to note that most gardeners have no idea that their gardens may be a source to harm bees," said Chad Churchill, a greenhouse nursery manager.

Speaking at a gathering in Portland today, Churchull said that a Friend of the Earth study showed that plants sold as "bee friendly" at major chain stores are routinely pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, which can kill bees.

This fall, Medicare will penalize hospitals with the worst rates of patient injury. Two Maine hospitals are on the preliminary list.

Patty Wight

Now that President Barack Obama has said he will send 300 military advisers, rather than combat troops, to Iraq, members of Maine's congressional delegation are weighing in on that decision. All four say they share the public's fatigue with the war.  But they disagree on the president's overall strategy, and next steps.

Patty Wight

No one likes paying medical bills, much less being over-billed.  About five years ago, the federal government created a program to guard against overpayments in Medicare.  It's called the Recovery Audit Contractor - or RAC - program. So far, it's identified about $5 billion in overpayments.  But many hospitals say that's little return for the enormous administrative cost that's required to comply, and that the program does nothing to improve patient care.  Patty Wight reports on what the RAC program means for Maine hospitals.

Patty Wight

More than 3 million people in the U.S. have Hepatitis C, a difficult-to-treat infection that can cause serious liver disease and death.  When a drug called Sovaldi was released late last year to treat Hepatitis C, it soon made headlines for its 90 percent success rate - and for its cost: $1,000 a pill.  The price tag has some states putting treatment on hold, and insurance companies are reeling.  Patty Wight reports on the impact of Sovaldi in Maine, as well as the questions it raises about the cost and benefits of certain drug regimens.

Bodvar Eggertsson

At 7:00 tonight, five seals will emerge from kennels and flop across a Biddeford beach into the ocean. It will be the final release of rehabilitated seals from the University of New England's Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation Center. UNE announced last month the center would close due to financial constraints and a shift in programming. Those who rescue stranded marine animals say they're scrambling to figure out how to continue helping animals in distress.

Patty Wight

For 25 years, Portland has called Archangel, Russia a sister city.  But civil rights supporters in Portland say that relationship now needs to change.  They say gay activists in Archangel are being bullied as a result of their civic activism both at home and during a recent visit to Maine.  Now, members of Portland's gay community want Portland's City Council to suspend all visits with Archangel government officials in a show of solidarity with Russia's LGBT community. 

When a hospital increases the quality of its care, patients are healthier and need fewer services. While that's good for patients, hospitals lose money. It's created a conundrum for hospitals such as Franklin Memorial in Farmington, which serves as the financial underpinning of the community's entire health network. Patty Wight brings us the second of two reports on how the hospital is working to keep in line with expectations under the Affordable Care Act and still remain financially afloat.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Under the Affordable Care Act, the quality of health care you receive is supposed to improve. Hospitals, for example, are expected to reduce readmissions, cut down on unnecessary tests. But these are the kinds of services that have been the bread and butter of hospitals for years. Take them away, and the hospital loses money. So the challenge for hospitals is how to increase quality and still stay in business. Patty Wight visited one hospital in western Maine that's grappling with that task, and tonight she has the first of two reports on what she found out.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Voter turnout was expected to be low on this primary day. And with the exception of Lewiston, that appears to be true for most precincts across the state. Still, local issues and contested primary races for Maine's 2nd District Congressional seat are the reason some voters are heading to the polls.

Some voters hit the polls out of a sense of duty. Like Janice Tripp of Lewiston - she's been a steadfast voter running on 60 years. "I always have been, since I was eligible to vote," she says.

Last month's mass shooting near a California college campus has revitalized Congress' efforts to reform the country's mental health system. One bill from 2013 that's getting renewed attention is the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Among other things, the law would loosen patient privacy rules to give family members more of a say in the care of loved ones with mental illness. But mental health advocates in Maine oppose the idea of chipping away at patient rights.

What goes up, as they say, must come down. But the law of gravity doesn't necessarily apply to insurance premiums. Next year, Maine insurance premiums for the Affordable Care Act's online Marketplace will generally go up, but far less than expected.

Forty-one percent. One-hundred percent. Four-hundred percent. These were some of the projections on how much insurance premiums would rise on the individual insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

According to newly released federal data, Maine ranks 17 percent below the national average in Medicare expenditures. While some hold up the report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as evidence of low hospital costs in Maine, health policy advocates say the numbers may not be as promising as they seem.

Patty Wight / MPBN

For decades, the best way to get good health insurance in the U.S. has been through the workplace. But with the Affordable Care Act's online marketplace, health insurance doesn't have to be tied to a job anymore. It's allowing some people to escape so-called "job lock" - saying with a job purely for the health benefits. And while critics of the ACA worry that the law will encourage companies to cut staff and hours to avoid insurance mandates, some Maine workers say new insurance options have freed them to pursue their career ambitions.

There is one place in Maine where individuals with mental illness can stay overnight, surrounded by peer support, when they're in emotional distress. The Learning and Recovery Center in Brunswick serves as an alternative to emergency rooms and crisis centers. But after 10 years, the Center will close at the end of June due to a lack of funding. Some advocates fear the trend could continue.

The Learning and Recovery Center offers peer services to those with mental illness. That means everyone who works at the center has struggled with mental wellness.

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