- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014
Wisconsin hospitals conserving saline in shortage

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Wisconsin’s hospitals and first responders are conserving intravenous saline solution after federal officials warned of a national shortage possibly linked to an influenza outbreak.

Medical officials say they’re cautious but not worried yet and patient care shouldn’t be affected. Suppliers of the salt solution, which is used to rehydrate trauma patients and assist in the delivery of drugs, say they’re ramping up production but can’t guarantee when the supply will be fully replenished.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began receiving reports in December of supply problems, production delays due to maintenance and other issues at three major saline-solution makers. The FDA began monitoring the situation and seeking alternate sources, said Valerie Jensen, the associate director of the agency’s drug-shortages program.

She said the problem was exacerbated by high demand, potentially due to an increase in influenza patients who needed fluids.

FDA officials haven’t heard of situations where patient care has been affected, but doctors are reassessing how they use saline solution.

“Hospitals are having to make decisions to treat more critical patients,” Jensen said.

First responders also are being cautious, conserving their supplies and using smaller dosages.


2 rural Wis. hospitals to stop delivering babies

NEILLSVILLE, Wis. (AP) - Two hospitals in west-central Wisconsin will stop delivering babies, saying it’s too hard to recruit doctors willing to assist with births at rural medical centers.

Memorial Medical Center in Neillsville will no longer deliver babies starting Feb. 15. Rusk County Memorial Hospital in Ladysmith will suspend deliveries March 2, a move officials hope will be temporary, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported (https://bit.ly/1fTmXNrhttps://bit.ly/1fTmXNr ).

Both medical centers have been directing expectant mothers to hospitals in neighboring communities, including Black River Falls, Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire and Rice Lake.

Lisa Montgomery, a business-development manager at Memorial Medical Center, said one factor in closing the birth center was the declining numbers of deliveries. About 30 babies are born in Neillsville every year, she said.

Over the past five years, Rusk County Memorial Hospital saw between 47 and 68 births per year, hospital CEO Charisse Oland said.

“It was a very painful decision,” Oland said, “… but we knew we could never put moms and babies at risk.”

Montgomery and Oland both said their hospitals will continue to provide pre- and postnatal care and pediatric services, as well as handle emergency deliveries. Oland said Rusk County Memorial is actively recruiting new doctors and she hopes the suspension of deliveries will be short-lived.


300 Wis. libraries getting Internet upgrades

MANITOWOC, Wis. (AP) - More than 300 libraries around the state will be receiving new high-speed Internet connections this year, allowing more patrons to surf the Web without slowing down the experience for others.

The libraries are being upgraded from copper to fiber-optic connections, which will increase bandwidth and also simplify the process of maintaining hardware, HTR Media reported (https://htrne.ws/1bdRGpmhttps://htrne.ws/1bdRGpm ).

The cost is being paid in part by the state’s Technology for Educational Achievement program. The grant will cover the cost of bringing the fibers to the building, but libraries will generally be responsible for the cost of work inside the building, said Cherilyn Stewart, the director of the Manitowoc Public Library.

She said the new system will eliminate the need to pay for commercial wireless services, saving $250 per month, and it will also improve the experience for library patrons.

If the upgrade works as expected, staff might be able to used iPads throughout the building to check out materials, eliminating wait time at the service desk, Stewart added.

Library officials in Kiel and elsewhere say they’re excited about the upgrade.

But others, such as Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, have opted out of the upgrade. The library’s director, Jeff Dawson, said library officials are happy with their private provider.


Apostle Islands ice caves creating brisk business

BAYFIELD, Wis. (AP) - Some 4,000 sightseers have been trekking to the Apostle Islands each weekend to see glistening ice caves made accessible by frozen Lake Superior, leading to an unexpected tourism boom in otherwise hibernating villages.

Small businesses in Cornucopia and Bayfield, in far northern Wisconsin, are generally closed for the winter. However, establishments including an inn and general store are staying open to cater to the brisk business, Wisconsin Public Radio reported (https://bit.ly/1o5cr9Dhttps://bit.ly/1o5cr9D ).

Mike Upthegrove, who runs Ehler’s General Store in Cornucopia, generally closes down until April. But because of the surge in visitors he said he’d stay open during the weekend because the ice-cavers need hot drinks and brats.

Down the road, The Village Inn is full and its restaurant is unusually busy, proprietor Cheryl O’Bryon said.

“The last three weekends have been like nothing we’ve seen before,” O’Bryon said. “It is definitely an economic miracle, there’s no doubt about that. I’m staffed right now like I would be on the Fourth of July weekend. It’s incredible.”

She speculated that demand was being driven by earlier visitors who were posting beautiful photos of the ice caves on Facebook.

The caves feature rock formations covered by icy stalactites and stalagmites, giving the space the appearance of a pincushion. And the ice on the lake is so clear in places that the bottom of the lake is visible.

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