St. Joseph may divest physicians' groups
After three years of buying up private
primary care medical practices throughout Humboldt County St. Joseph Health
System is now looking at divesting.
St. Joseph Chief Executive Officer Mike Purvis confirmed that the not-for-profit corporation, the county's largest health care provider which owns St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals, community resource centers and St. Joseph Home Care, has opened negotiations with five area physicians' groups with the goal of "restructuring" that may or may not mean selling the practices back to the doctors.
Four of the practices Arcata Family Health Center, the Center for Women's Health Care in Eureka and McKinleyville, the Gastroenterology Center in Eureka, and Health Care Medical Associates in Eureka and McKinleyville were purchased in 1996 and 1997 and currently operate as departments of the health system with the physicians under contract. The fifth, Eureka Family Practice joined a private medical foundation in 1998 for the purpose of contracting with St. Joseph.
EFP physicians, who serve about 15,000 patients, say they will be resuming financial control of their practice sometime this year.
"We're obviously disappointed it didn't work out," said Dr. Leo Leer of EFP. "We had envisioned a Utopian model of seamless integration of hospital, office, home therapy melded and blended with the ability to do a lot more community and job site work. The goal was to provide even better care by reducing some of the competition between physician and hospital.
"It didn't work out for a variety of reasons, in part because of the (St. Joseph) health system's financial stress," Leer added.
Purvis confirmed that the health system operated in the red last year and is in the process of "course corrections. Throughout the state of California, all hospitals, private and nonprofit, lost a total of $200 million."
Purvis said the health system's financial woes can be traced back to federal cutbacks in Medicare reimbursement which also prompted reductions in its home health care budget last year.
Negotiations with each physicians' group are unique and private, he stressed.
"It's fair to say we have not met our financial goals" following the purchase of the practices, Purvis said. "As to how we might want to restructure, those options are confidential, but there is no threat of closure."
Officials at Arcata Family Health Center, which serves 12,000 patients, and HCMA could not be reached for comment. Dr. Eric Lieberman of the Center for Women's Health Care, with 11,000 patient visits per year, said no changes are planned.
"We're going to keep on doing what we're doing," Lieberman said. "The hospital purchased our equipment and the physicians have contracts. We'll listen to anything they have to say.
"But it's not strictly a business situation. We are committed to serve the entire population, every socioeconomic group."
Lieberman said the North Coast has been very lucky so far to have good access to medical care, but that may change.
"The quality is not going to change for those who have access to medical care. I'm concerned the access to care may change. Those who have access worry about quality. Those who don't have access worry about access."
Leer said even though his practice will likely be terminating its agreement with St. Joseph, the relationship "has been worth it."
"We have a far better working relationship and understanding of the health system," he said.
Free beer, Jesse Ventura dolls
Last year film commissioners representing Wyoming, Montana and Idaho brought along a live bear. This year they gave away free beer. Not to be outdone, Minnesota's film commissioners constructed a pyramid entirely of Gov. Jesse Ventura dolls to attract attention.
Humboldt County's film commissioner, Jensen Rufe, simply brought along a gigantic photo of Redwood Creek -- in full color -- and lots of brochures.
The event, called Locations 2000, is a trade show held at the Los Angeles Convention Center designed for scouts and producers to interact with film commissioners from around the world. An estimated 3,700 television, film, video and production company representatives attended the event held two weeks ago.
Considering that all five of this year's Academy Award nominees for best picture were shot outside of Hollywood, the locations business is more competitive than ever.
The three-day bazaar showcased nearly every geographic marvel, from volcanoes to 500-foot waterfalls. Film commissions came from all over the world eager to present their home terrain via video clips and color pictures.
This was the second year Rufe was there hustling for Humboldt.
Rufe said he lets the natural beauty of Humboldt County sell itself.
"It's important to simply let film scouts know we're here for them," he said. "This year there were a couple scouts looking for a fishing village. I told them Humboldt County could be what they are looking for."
Eureka band takes first
The Eureka High School Jazz Ensemble took first place in a national contest sponsored by the Selmer musical instrument company. Their prize? An all-day clinic/rehearsal with members of the neo-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
One hundred and thirty students enrolled in the school's band program will participate in the workshop with horn players from the Big Bad band culminating in a joint evening concert at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium Tuesday, March 14.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is the most prominent of the swing revival bands. It played for the half time show at last year's Super Bowl and is currently featured in an ad campaign for Fox TV.
Director of bands Rob Taylor said the Eureka band found out about the contest only two weeks before the deadline to enter. The band sent for and received sheet music to "Go Daddy-O," a tune from the Interscope album, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, but Taylor said, "The arrangement was too easy."
The band decided to create its own arrangement basing it on the version on the album.
"I think that's part of what impressed the judges," Taylor added.
The band recorded the tune at the high school and sent in a tape that also included two songs from Keep on Keepin' on, the CD recorded last year by the jazz ensemble. The tape was judged against those from 65 bands from across the United States by a panel including members of the Tonight Show band. BBVD trumpet player Glen "The Kid" Marhevka called last week to inform Taylor that the jazz group's tape was the best in the country.
Marhevka and two other BBVD horn players will work with the jazz group students all day Tuesday before performing with them at the Muni. Proceeds from the show will help pay for the band's trip to New York City at the end of April.
Funny money coming
The Humboldt County Local Currency Project is calling for area artists to design the soon-to-be implemented Humboldt County local currency. The bills are intended to be used for a proposed local barter system.
Entries must be received by March 25 and the winners will be announced May 1. Multiple artists may be chosen and they will be asked to merge the best components of each for the final project.
Requirements for the currency design include submitting either front or back designs with space on the back blank for text. At least in two corners on both sides of the bill must be the bill value, and both sides must have the bill value in words at the bottom. The currency name must appear across the top and leave space for a 10-digit serial number.
Send entries to Humboldt Local Currency Project, P.O. Box 1052, Arcata 95521.
Call for grand jurors
Every year in July the Humboldt County Superior Court selects 19 volunteers to serve as grand jurors for the following year. If you have lived in Humboldt County for at least a year, this could be your turn to apply.
The grand jury is an investigative, advisory panel of citizens chosen from a random pool of applicants to ensure a fair representation of the county population. Jurors typically serve for a one-year term although some may choose to do a second year.
Additional information may be obtained by calling the jury commissioner at 269-1270.
Topic: HMO health care
Sen. Wesley Chesbro will hold a town hall meeting Thursday, March 9, to discuss the future of HMO health care in Humboldt County.
Representatives from the senior organizations, business leaders, Native American and community clinics will attend as well as health care providers and health insurance advocates.
The meeting will run from 6-8 p.m. at the Eureka City Hall Council Chambers and will be broadcast live on community access Channel 10.
Essence of a good teacher
Humboldt State University's Outstanding Professor Ann Diver-Stamnes is not only an author, an editor and a scholar, but she is a teacher whose classrooms have included the inner-city schools in Los Angeles and the outbacks of Oregon.
"The word we don't use in public education much is love -- and yet that's the essence of a good teacher," Diver-Stamnes said. "But classroom teaching is where my heart is. My first love is the students."
Diver-Stamnes, HSU's chair of the department of education, received her nomination from John Costello, dean of HSU's College of Professional Studies, who said, "She is without a doubt the most outstanding teacher I have encountered in over 20 years of evaluating faculty members."
Her classes iniclude counseling skills, educational psychology, conflict management for teachers and nonviolent crisis intervention. Costello said that her student evaluations are the best he has ever seen.
One student even wrote, "She could teach barn shoveling and I would take it."
--reported by Judy Hodgson, Bob Doran, Amanda Lang