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Mahaska Health Partnership is offering assistance through a free support group focused on managing symptoms and coping with diabetes care at home. The support group is help semi-regularly and each meeting focuses on a different topic specific to living with diabetes.

The next support group will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 9 from 5:00 – 6:00 pm in the Cedar Bluff Learning Center on the MHP Campus (entrance #3). The key topics will be emotions, holiday stress and healthy holiday eating.

MHP Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator Sharon Ferguson explained that the holiday season can be especially trying for those with diabetes. “With holiday parties, traveling, big meals and lots of seasonal snacks available, it can be overwhelming when trying to manage your blood sugar levels. However, there are many tricks to help make the holidays less of a burden on your diet.

“For instance, I recommend people do not skip meals in preparation for a larger meal later on in the day. Eat your breakfast and snacks earlier in the day, but pace yourself at your holiday meals. Limit your consumption of starchy foods as well. You can still get a taste, but take small helpings instead of large ones for a single meal. This means you will have more leftovers for another day!”

Ferguson also recommended calorie-free drinks like water, tea, seltzer or diet soda, limited alcohol consumption and getting some exercise after the meal. “People often want to rest after a big holiday meal, but get up and have some fun as a family instead! Football in the yard, a nice walk outside or even indoor games with the kids is a great way to get some exercise while also spending quality time together.”

When it comes to managing diabetes, Ferguson suggests remembering to put your health first. “During the holiday season, make a promise to yourself to make your health a top priority. You have worked hard all year to manage your diabetes, but the holidays and stress can have a huge impact on your diet and well-being. Attending this support group is a great way to get a jump start on your plans for the holiday season!”

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 30 million children and adults have diabetes, with close to 95% of those being afflicted with type 2 diabetes. “Diabetes can be a scary diagnoses for many individuals,” Ferguson shared. “Attending a support group can help those struggling with diabetes to learn coping skills among their peers in a relaxed environment.”

For questions regarding Diabetes Education at MHP or upcoming diabetes support group dates, call Ferguson at 641.672.3422.

Bank Iowa President Daryl Petty presents a breast cancer donation to MHP Director of Radiology Julie Hartke as staff look on. 

Bank Iowa of Oskaloosa presented a donation to Mahaska Health Partnership Director of Radiology Julie Hartke on Friday, Nov. 20, to contribute to breast cancer awareness in Mahaska County.

“Many of our staff have had family members affected by cancer so we understand first-hand how debilitating the disease can be,” Bank Iowa Regional Marketing Director Vicki Jones shared. “As a community bank we work to support local causes as much as possible and enjoy partnering with MHP.”

The funds presented by Bank Iowa resulted from a jeans day they held in October. “Many local businesses held jeans days this year which really helped increase the amount raised for free mammograms in our community,” Hartke explained.

Businesses who hosted jeans days include Bank Iowa, Musco, Clow Valve Company, Oskaloosa Community Schools and TruBank. “Thanks to such generous community partners, there is no reason anyone should go without a mammogram,” Hartke stressed.

“Early detection is the best protection and with our new advanced digital mammography system, we can capture clearer images faster with a third of the standard radiation dose.”

November is National Home Health and Hospice Month. Mahaska Health Partnership reminds the public of the many options available locally through their Home Health and Hospice Services to meet a wide variety of patient needs.

“There are many home health and hospice services available in our region, but MHP Home Health and Hospice Services is a nonprofit and the most comprehensive,” MHP Home Health and Hospice Services Director Jean Gibson explained. “If a patient transitions from home health to palliative care or hospice, we are able to provide a seamless transition for patients and their families.”

Home Health Services is often the starting point for patients who are looking for additional assistance with everyday tasks at home. “Our home health services offer more than just skilled nursing services in the home,” Gibson shared. “We also offer home tele-monitoring; Meals on Wheels which are delivered daily to Oskaloosa, University Park and Beacon residents; Med-Alert Systems and palliative care.”

According to Gibson, palliative care is a short-term program for individuals who need assistance managing pain and symptoms, as well as other supportive care. “Our staff works with a patient’s primary care provider to develop an individualized plan of care,” Gibson said. “This is a wonderful resource for those who are facing a serious illness and need relief in the home setting. This service is free of charge to the patient thanks to funds provided by the United Way of Mahaska County, which helps reduce the stress on families too.”

For individuals and their families facing end-of-life illness, hospice services are available to patients, either in their home or at the MHP campus. “When inpatient hospice care is needed, patients benefit from the Hospice Serenity House, a residential facility that provides a home away from home for a patient’s last days,” Gibson explained. “The Hospice Serenity House has provided hundreds of families quality end-of-life care since it opened in 2010.

“Many families comment on the wonderful care provided and beautiful facility after utilizing the Serenity House,” Gibson continued. “We often hear a family’s biggest regret is not calling us sooner. We are proud to be able to provide comfort, support and peace of mind to patients and their families in whatever setting they need it; our job is to assist families with the care, so families can enjoy the time they have together.”

For more information about the home health, hospice and palliative care options at MHP, call 641.672.3260. Anyone can make a referral and services are provided throughout Mahaska and Keokuk counties, surrounding areas, and at the MHP Hospice Serenity House.
Mahaska Health Partnership announces Thanksgiving holiday hours as follows:

MHP Medical Group, Home Health and Hospice Services and Public Health will be closed for the holiday on Thursday, Nov. 26, and will be open for normal office hours on Friday, Nov. 27. A nurse will be on call Thursday to assist with any home health and hospice needs.

Behavioral Health Services will be closed Thursday, Nov. 26, and resume normal hours on Friday, Nov. 27. Please call the switchboard at 641.672.3100 for emergencies or to reach the on-call therapist.

The New Sharon Medical Center will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26 and 27. They will resume normal business hours on Monday, Nov. 30.

For more information on Thanksgiving holiday hours, call 641.672.3100. From the MHP Family to yours, have a happy Thanksgiving!


Since their introduction in 1941, antibiotics have cured millions of people from bacterial infections. While they are strong medications, they do not cure everything, including viral illnesses.

According to Mahaska Health Partnership Family Practice Physician Bridget Shariat, DO, antibiotics are used to treat illnesses caused by bacteria. “Strep throat and pneumonia are some of the common illnesses caused by bacteria,” Dr. Shariat shared. “These infections will benefit from the use of antibiotics. However, the medicine is only effective if the entire prescription is taken, so make sure to finish the dose.”

Although antibiotics are used to treat illnesses, they do not work for viral infections. “Antibiotics are life-saving drugs when used to treat the right illnesses,” Dr. Shariat explained. “However, many illnesses are caused by viruses, such as the flu, colds, runny noses, some ear infections and many cases of bronchitis, which cannot be treated by antibiotics. It’s important to discuss your symptoms with a primary care provider to ensure you are treating the illness appropriately.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), taking antibiotics incorrectly can lead to the development of resistant bacteria. “If you do not finish a dose of antibiotics for a bacterial infection or take antibiotics for a viral infection, resistant bacteria can begin to grow,” Dr. Shariat warned. “These bacteria are stronger and harder to kill, which can lead to severe illnesses that cannot be cured with antibiotics. It’s important to make sure that your family is taking medications only when necessary to avoid this issue.”

Dr. Shariat explained that while many parents want to make sure their child is getting the best treatment, pushing for antibiotics is not always the best solution. “I know it can be hard for some patients, and especially parents, to accept that there are no prescription medications for viral illnesses, even when their symptoms are making them or their child miserable. However, it is better to take no treatment and let the illness run its course or treat with over-the-counter medications, rather than take unnecessary antibiotics that will not treat the virus and could lead to other complications.”

Dr. Shariat treats patients of all ages and also delivers babies. She is now accepting new patients on the MHP campus in Oskaloosa. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Shariat,call641.672.3360.


Mahaska Health Partnership is among 30 rural hospitals in Iowa recognized for Excellence in Patient Satisfaction.

According to MHP Director of Business Development Ross Schultz, the recognition comes from the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH). NOSORH was established in 1995 to assist State Offices of Rural Health in their efforts to improve access to, and the quality of, healthcare for America’s 61 million rural citizens. The organization worked with iVantage Health Analytics to develop a data-driven program to identify indicators of excellence relevant to hospital performance and patient care across a broad spectrum.

“MHP was recognized for Excellence in Patient Perspectives, reflecting top quartile performance when compared to all acute care hospitals in the country,” Schultz explained. “This is a great honor, and it recognizes the tremendous accomplishments achieved in rural healthcare this year.

“As we celebrate National Rural Health Day on Nov. 19, MHP would like to thank our doctors, providers, nurses and staff throughout our health system for providing excellent care. We also thank our community for the trust and support they continue to provide.

“We believe this recognition is rooted in our commitment to our mission,” Schultz stressed. “Linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. We strive to make healthcare personal through every interaction with our patients and visitors. Our delivery on this commitment results in an enhanced patient experience at MHP which is reflected by this honor.”

Over the past year, MHP has maintained high patient satisfaction percentages in Inpatient Services, the Birthing Center and Surgical Services; with some service lines consistently obtaining the top 95+ percentile. “We’re very proud of our updated facilities which do have an impact on patient’s satisfaction,” Schultz shared. “However, it’s the dedication of our providers and staff that has the most profound impact on our patients and this reward is a direct impact of their care.”


As you hit retirement, maintaining your health is important for living a long and healthy life. Mahaska Health Partnership encourages Medicare Part B beneficiaries to utilize free wellness visits.

“Medicare offers a ‘Welcome to Medicare Visit’ as well as ‘Annual Wellness Visits’ every 12 months, as part of the Part B benefit,” MHP Family Practice Physician Dr. Peter Hoftiezer said. “This is a covered service to assess your overall well-being and determine any tests or screenings you should be having."

According to Dr. Hoftiezer, the focus of healthcare in the United States has been shifting from treatment to prevention. “We look at ways to give people the tools they need to get or stay healthy, to avoid illnesses and injuries we used to be focused on treating. We of course still treat illness and injury, but wouldn’t it be great if you could be making adjustments to your lifestyle now to prevent chronic illnesses in the future?”

To aid in helping people stay well, Medicare offers a no out-of-pocket cost ‘Welcome to Medicare’ visit within 12 months of enrollment and an ‘Annual Wellness Visit’ every year thereafter. These visits are designed to help you take control of your healthcare. “The best way to stay healthy is by living a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Hoftiezer said. “You can help prevent disease by exercising, eating well, keeping a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco and having the appropriate annual screenings.

“Although the annual wellness visit is not the same thing as having a physical, it provides you with an opportunity to talk with your provider about any health concerns you may have. This free visit allows you and your provider to develop a personalized prevention plan that takes a comprehensive approach to your health.”

At MHP, when you call to schedule an initial or annual Medicare Wellness Visit, you will be connected with Medical Group Care Manager Mary Brandt. An experienced Registered Nurse, Brandt will meet with you to ask questions about your health and assist in any paperwork related to the visit. Brandt will escort you to your provider’s exam room and, if needed, complete an EKG (test to check the activity of your heart).

“During these annual visits, we will discuss you and your health goals. We’ll make a plan together to help you keep your health on track through the coming year,” Dr. Hoftiezer emphasized.

To schedule your ‘Welcome to Medicare’ or ‘Annual Wellness Visit,’ contact Brandt at 641.672.3360


MHP Volunteer Victoria Laird of Oskaloosa and her Pet Therapy dog, Lincoln, recently celebrated their 250th visit to Mahaska Health Partnership. Victoria and Lincoln have been visiting patients, families and employees on the MHP campus since 2010. Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry staff welcomed Victoria and Lincoln with a cake and celebration on their 250th visit.

Mahaska Health Partnership Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry recently celebrated its 250th visit from Pet Therapy dog Lincoln, and his trainer, Victoria Laird.   

According to MHP Volunteer Coordinator Kim Langfitt, Victoria has been bringing her therapy dogs to visit patients for many years. “Victoria and her three therapy dogs have been volunteering at MHP since 2010. Lincoln is our most frequent visitor. It’s great that we have reached such a milestone!”

All three of Victoria’s therapy dogs are graduates of Therapy Dog International (TDI), a volunteer group organized in 1976. Through the program dogs are tested and evaluated for therapy work by Certified TDI evaluators. While many dogs provide love and companionship in the home, not all dogs are qualified or have the temperament suited to be a therapy dog.

“I chose to take my dogs through the training course due to their affectionate and kind demeanors, which I thought would be a great thing to share with others,” Laird explained. “Each dog had to pass a rigorous test, which included some steps of the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. They were evaluated on many key factors, including listening to commands, appearance and grooming, as well as friendliness and accepting a friendly stranger.”

TDI dogs are also required to have an annual Health Record Form that is completed and signed by a licensed veterinarian. According to MHP policy, patients must agree to be visited by a therapy dog, strict hand hygiene is enforced and the dog’s handler must be present for each visit.

The Pet Therapy Program at MHP is currently utilized in Inpatient Services and Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry, a service that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of complex mental health problems for senior adults.

“Lincoln brings such joy to patients whenever they see him,” Laird explained. “He can sense when someone needs him or when they would rather avoid interaction with him. Sometimes families need him more than the patients, and he reaches out to them as well. He’s very in tune with his surroundings and who can benefit from his services.”

“His presence at MHP brightens the lives of not only our patients but their families, visitors and our staff,” Langfitt stressed. “We are so grateful for Victoria’s commitment to providing this valuable therapy in Oskaloosa.”