Sen. Wicker wants to expand rural telehealth services

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker helped introduced a bill this week with the goal of expanding access to rural telehealth services. The Reaching Underserved Rural Areas to Lead on Telehealth Act, which Wicker co-sponsored with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, would remove some limits on reimbursements for large non-rural hospitals under the Federal Communications Commission’s Healthcare Connect Fund. “Telehealth services are critical to increasing rural Americans’ access to quality care,” Wicker said. “Mississippi is leading the nation in developing telehealth technology. Our health-care providers have demonstrated that targeted investments in telehealth can increase access to life-saving services and drive down costs.”

If passed, the legislation would allow non-rural hospitals in a telehealth consortium to qualify for the 65 percent health-care provider broadband connectivity discount under the Healthcare Connect Fund—as long as a majority of the hospitals in that group serve patients in rural areas.

Bobbie Ware named Baptist Medical Center-Jackson CEO

Mississippi Baptist’s Chief Nursing Officer Bobbie K. Ware has been named CEO of Baptist Medical Center in Jackson. Ware’s promotion is the latest leadership shift since Mississippi Baptist Health Systems merged with the larger Baptist Memorial Healthcare of Memphis. Ware, who also was named chief operating officer of the former Mississippi Baptist Health Systems in 2016, is the first registered nurse to take the reins as chief executive of Baptist Medical Center. “Bobbie is a strong and experienced executive with a great passion for Baptist and our mission. Patient care is the main factor in every decision she makes.

Lucedale man gets 49 years for murdering transgender ex-girlfriend

Joshua Brandon Vallum of Lucedale received a sentence of 49 years in prison for what the U.S. Justice Department called the “bias-motivated” murder of his transgender ex-girlfriend, Mercedes Williamson. This is the first case prosecuted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act involving a victim targeted because of gender identity. “Today’s sentencing reflects the importance of holding individuals accountable when they commit violent acts against transgender individuals,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “The Justice Department will continue its efforts to vindicate the rights of those individuals who are affected by bias motivated crimes.”

Vallum pleaded guilty in December 2016 to charges under the federal Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and, as part of his plea deal, admitted that he decided to kill Williamson after learning that a friend had discovered Williamson was transgender, according to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department. During his plea hearing, Vallum, a member of the Latin Kings and Queens Nation gang, kept both the sexual nature of their relationship and Williamson’s transgender status secret from his family and friends. After Vallum ended his romantic relationship with Williamson, he said they had no contact until he reached out to her on May 29, 2015, when he lured Williamson to his car and drove her to Mississippi. The day before Vallum had learned his friend had discovered Williamson was transgender, and he said he was terrified he would be targeted if his fellow Latin Kings gang members found out about their relationship.