Medical / Health

Friday, November 20, 2015

GMO Salmon Spawns Huffman's Ire

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 11:30 AM

  • Thinkstock
Congressman Jared Huffman is not having the fish. According to a press release, Huffman is "deeply concerned" about the Food and Drug Administration's approval of genetically engineered salmon. He cites the engineered salmon's potential to damage wild salmon populations, ecosystems and the fishing industry, as well as the lack of labeling requirements for producers. The congressman is co-sponsoring legislation to ban GE fish.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Congressman Introduces Bill to Abort Essure

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2015 at 3:45 PM

The Essure contraception device. - COURTESY OF BAYER
  • Courtesy of Bayer
  • The Essure contraception device.
A Pennsylvania congressman has introduced legislation that would ban Essure, the controversial permanent birth control device that has women across the country complaining of horrible side effects.

This week, Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick introduced a bipartisan bill that would revoke the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s premarket approval status of the contraception device and require the pharmaceutical giant Bayer to immediately pull it from shelves.

“Bayer is a trusted name in the industry,” the Republican congressman said in a press release. “However, right now, one of their products, the Essure device, is harming women and needs to be removed from the market.”

Featured in “Living Trials,” the Journal’s March 5, 2015 cover story, Essure is marketed as a nonsurgical, non-hormonal alternative to tubal ligation sterilization. From the story:

“The device itself is made up of two 2-inch-long metal coils — one nickel titanium alloy, the other stainless steel — wrapped around polyester fibers. Using a scope device that enters the uterus through the vagina, a doctor implants one coil in each of the openings of a woman’s fallopian tubes. There, the coils are designed to induce inflammation — an immune response as the body attempts to reject them. Over the course of three months following implantation, scar tissue — or a ‘natural barrier,’ as Bayer puts it — builds up around the coils, blocking the fallopian tubes and thus the ability of sperm to fertilize a woman’s eggs.”
An illustration of how Essure is supposed to work. - NORTH COAST JOURNAL GRAPHIC
  • North Coast Journal Graphic
  • An illustration of how Essure is supposed to work.
But, as we reported back in March, the procedure has been fraught with problems for some women like Eureka’s Tamara Myers, who suffered a host of post-implantation complications. 
Eureka's Tamara Myers describes her Essure experience as akin to torture, followed by a poisoning. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Eureka's Tamara Myers describes her Essure experience as akin to torture, followed by a poisoning.
First of all, Myers said the procedure itself was painful and left her faint and dizzy. But other symptoms followed almost immediately: swollen lymph nodes; a burning sensation in her veins, pelvis and abdomen; numbness in her face and arm; muscle twitches; fatigue; a jolting sensation that felt like electrical shocks; and a metallic taste in her mouth. Ultimately, Myers had the implants removed and underwent a full hysterectomy.

Myers is far from alone, as a Facebook group devoted to Essure problems quickly amassed thousands of members and took to lobbying Bayer, the FDA and, ultimately, Congress to take action. Fitzpatrick has now taken up that call. We’ll update the bill’s progress as it moves forward.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Overdose Antidote Available Over the Counter...But Not In Humboldt

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 2:18 PM

  • Thinkstock
A life-saving opioid antidote — Naloxone — has been approved for distribution over the counter since April of this year, but not a single pharmacy in Humboldt County is currently offering this option. 

Naloxone is available as an injection or nasal spray. Also known as Narcan, it can save the life of a person who has stopped breathing and whose heart has slowed due to an overdose of opioids, such as heroin or prescription pain medications. Assembly Bill 35, passed in 2014, permits pharmacies to offer the drug without a prescription. It was strongly supported by health and drug organizations as well as parent's groups. The bill came in response to a growing national trend of overdoses. Drug and alcohol related deaths made up twenty percent of all deaths in Humboldt County over the last three years. Fifty-three percent of local drug-related deaths between 2009 and 2013 were due to overdoses.

According to the California Board of Pharmacy, pharmacists must receive an hour of training before they can offer Naloxone over the counter. None of the pharmacies we called — Lima's, Cloney's, Barnes, Walgreens or CVS — have trained their pharmacists on Naloxone distribution.

"I think what’s needed is a protocol," said John Backus of Red Cross Cloney's Pharmacy. "We don’t have a protocol through a doctor’s office yet. For right now, we only distribute Naloxone on a prescription basis."

Elsewhere, Naloxone has been included in harm reduction kits for active substance users along with clean needles and wound care supplies, but for the time being access for harm reduction advocates will be limited.

Brandie Wilson, founder of the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction, attributed the problem to a moral judgement on the part of pharmacies, saying it mirrors the debate over whether syringe exchange was "enabling" addicts.

"Being as we have so many substance users, we should have better access," said Wilson, adding that her group is working on getting a standing order established through a doctor at a local pharmacy. "There's the law, but it's really just a mythical concept. The policy says one thing but getting people to act on those are another another thing. It’s definitely a weird trudge."

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Anti-Vax Measure Won't See the Ballot

Posted By on Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 9:21 AM

Efforts to repeal California’s new mandatory vaccination law have failed.

Signed into law in June by Gov. Jerry Brown, the new law requires that all children be vaccinated for a variety of infectious diseases before attending school, closing a long-standing exemption for families that opted not to vaccinate due to religious or personal beliefs. The law has faced a fierce backlash from a parents who fear vaccinating imperils their children’s health or is against their religion, and saw the law as an infringement on their rights. A repeal effort spawned almost immediately.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

UPDATE: Gov. Brown Approves Right-to-Die Bill

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 12:24 PM

  • State of California
  • Jerry Brown.
Local doctor Michael Fratkin, who began the palliative care program ResolutionCare featured in the Journal here, emailed the following response to the news that Gov. Brown had signed the bill.

Gov. Brown has signed in to law the 'End of Life Options' bill. That's quite something and reflects an electrified social conversation that is transforming healthcare.

I expect that the people of California will demand the highest possible quality of care and support for people with serious illness facing the completion of their lives, as well as their families and caregivers. This means greater access to palliative care services, especially for rural Californians.

I have always felt that the only one qualified to determine their path and destiny is the person themselves. I trust people to know themselves when they are seen & heard, as well a deeply informed and empowered. As the future arrives, we will approach our own path with the sobriety and humility called for by the respect and love we feel for the people that come to us for help. 

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Humboldt Revs up the Style

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 11:58 AM

Looking dapper, very dapper. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Looking dapper, very dapper.
If you think Humboldt’s all Carhartt and hoodies, and bikers are all leather, all the time, well, you should have caught the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride on Sunday. If you had seen the dozens of dapper folk on motorcycles weaving their way through Eureka, the Samoa Peninsula and out to Blue Lake, you’d know Humboldt’s got cravats and pin stripes to spare and that bikers can rock a vest and matching pocket hanky with the best of them.

The ride is a global affair, with more than 20,000 people participating in 257 cities spread across 58 countries last year to raise awareness and help fund a cure for prostate cancer. In 2014, the event raised more than $1.5 million.

The local jaunt was the brain child of Will Bagnall, whose father was recently diagnosed with the disease, and Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe owner Jeff Hesseltine. More than 39 bikers participated in the inaugural ride, raising more than $6,000 in the process. Local photographer Mark McKenna dappered up and tagged along for the cause, sharing the following photos.

Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015
Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015

Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2015

By Thadeus Greenson

Click to View 11 slides

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

HSU Gets Sexual Assault Funding

Posted By on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 12:30 PM

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Humboldt State University announced recently that it won a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce sexualized violence on campus. It's part of a $8.5 million nationwide effort at 27 colleges.

The funding will allow the university to expand its Check It program, which the Journal wrote about in February, as well as work with community programs designed to reduce and respond to sexual assault.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Right-to-die Law Goes to Gov. Brown

Posted By on Sun, Sep 13, 2015 at 2:07 PM

  • State of California
  • Jerry Brown
The California Senate and Assembly passed legislation this week that will allow terminally ill people to end their own lives with a doctor's assistance, so long as Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill.

The bill will allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to people who've been told they have six months or less to live, providing they are of sound mental capacity to make the request. The Journal featured a story on the effort to enact right-to-die legislation earlier this year. Former North Coast Assemblywoman Patty Berg has long been undertaking an effort to pass the law. 

Experts appear to be stumped as to Brown's position on the law. 

Read the previous Journal story here

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

St. Joseph Nurses Allege Understaffing, Departure from Values

Posted By on Wed, Aug 26, 2015 at 10:59 AM

Union members stand in front of St. Joseph. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • Union members stand in front of St. Joseph.
Representatives from the local chapter of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United convened in front of St. Joseph Hospital last week to discuss concerns over the health system’s proposed merger with Providence Health & Services, as well as what they call a “shift in values” from its founding principles. The union rolled out a slick public relations campaign, wearing matching red scrubs and handing out red folders containing a summary of its report on the hospital, titled “Falling from Grace.”

The report, which is available online at the National Nurses United Website, breaks down a series of complaints, places where the nurses say the health system has strayed from its mission. St. Joseph Health System, which is comprised of a network of hospitals, was established in 1920 by Catholic nuns. Union members allege that the system today is more concerned with profit than patient care, and that it has been exploiting its not-for-profit status to avoid paying taxes on money shunted into hedge funds and offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands. Representatives from St. Joseph Hospital responded to some of the concerns in an emailed statement from President David O'Brien saying that, despite dramatic shifts in the world of healthcare delivery, its commitment to patients and employees has not wavered. The hospital has also been waging a public relations campaign of its own for several months following allegations from the National Union of Healthcare Workers that they pay “poverty wages” to caregivers and housekeepers, running ads that emphasize its “commitment to care."

Among allegations from the nurses is a lack of adequate supplies. The report says nurses in the emergency department at St. Joseph have occasionally delayed giving patients antibiotics and other I.V. drips because of a consistent undersupply of Alaris pumps, which regulate the rate of medication from the I.V. Other supplies such as some formulas and I.V. tubing are also in short supply, according to James Ladika, a registered nurse who joined his fellow union members on Thursday.

“If the right person asks, then they’ll find the money,” he said, adding that the concerns of nurses on the floor often went unmet. Ladika and others said that they do not have enough specialized equipment to do their jobs, and are often called on to share some equipment, such as a bladder scanner, with other departments. A patient who needs a vital test might have to wait until a piece of equipment can come from all the way across the hospital.

The nurses also say that they are critically understaffed, and that patients often sit unseen in the waiting room because there aren’t enough people to attend to them.

“It doesn’t make you feel good,” says Susan Johnson, an RN who has been with the hospital for 30 years. “This isn’t why we went into the profession.”

Both Johnson and Ladika expressed concern over the conditions in which they work, saying they are continually filing “Assignment Against Objection” forms when they start a shift. The forms are meant to document that workers feel an assignment is unsafe for patients or staff.

“Nurses are often pressed to work under difficult circumstances,” says Ladika. One of his colleagues said they often make grim jokes in the breakroom about who has held his or her pee the longest, and that several nurses have collapsed on the job due to dehydration, stress, and urinary tract infections.

“We’re continually training new people, but they don’t stay very long,” says Tiffany Green, a clinical coordinator in pediatrics. “I can work six to seven days in a row, and some nights I’m the only person on shift. There are so many children who are flown out of the area. It’s hard on them, and hard on the parents.”

Karen Gladding, another RN, echoed Green’s concerns about training.

“New hires are supposed to get six weeks, they’re lucky to get two to three weeks,” she said, adding that she was “nervous about the level of care” patients were getting.

The union alleges that the lack of proper training circles back to the hospital being miserly with its salaries, unwilling to double up on staff during the training period.

The union also says that the St. Joseph Health as an institution ranks far below its competitors in charitable giving, a departure from its founding values. In its response, the hospital said that the association "has significantly understated our charity care and community benefit.”

Dr. David O’Brien, President of St. Joseph Health, said the hospital’s contribution to the community is significant.

“We contribute 10 percent of our net income each year to programs that support the poor and vulnerable in our Humboldt community. That money goes to a broad range of services and initiatives ranging from charity care, food insecurity grants, community resource centers and care for the homeless.”

Whether charity care qualifies as the type of charitable giving outlined in the Catholic foundation’s tenets may be a matter of semantics. Every hospital provides a certain amount of unpaid care to indigent patients.

The union workers have requested a number of changes, including reversal of cuts to employee disability benefits and retirement security and an investment of excess revenue into patient care rather than executive salaries.

Lesley Ester, a union member and registered nurse, says that her colleagues would like to see more transparency about how the hospital’s money is being spent, and to better understand why it is understaffed.

“My most pressing concern is that this is the hospital that my children, my grandchild and my friends go to for medical help and I desperately want us to have the best possible care. And that, quite frankly, is not what is happening at this time,” says Ester. “The nurses and ancillary staff take pride in the work we do - we just need to be staffed appropriately.”

A full copy of the union’s report can be found here

Statement from St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka on CNA Report:

Aug. 20, 2015, Eureka, CA — St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka issued the following statement regarding a report from the California Nurses Association.

The following is a statement from Dr. David O’Brien, President of St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County:

“St. Joseph Health began in Humboldt County more than 100 years ago with a commitment to serve the needs of our community. While it’s true that healthcare is changing dramatically, our commitment to our community and our employees absolutely has not changed. We deeply value the work our nurses and our entire staff do every day to care for our community. But we are saddened by the report issued by the California Nurses Association and do not agree with the union’s opinions or assertions.

“Especially disappointing is that the CNA has significantly understated our charity care and community benefit, and misrepresented our stellar record of patient safety and care. At a time when hospitals are getting paid less to do more, St. Joseph Eureka actually spends tens of millions of dollars on charity care and community benefit each year, and we contribute 10 percent of our net income each year programs that support the poor and vulnerable in our Humboldt Community. That money goes to a broad range of services and initiatives ranging from charity care, food insecurity grants, community resource centers and care for the homeless. We always strive to meet all state and local mandated requirements for nurse-to-patient ratios, and we’re immensely proud of our record of patient safety.”

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

UPDATE: New National Report on Suicide Rates in Jails

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 4:06 PM

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released a report on mortality in jails and state prisons. Its findings offer some perspective on the recent spike in suicide attempts at the Humboldt County jail, which saw 12 attempts in the last year, three times the amount of the previous two years.The statistics in the report do not include information for attempts, just deaths. Only one person has died as a result of suicide at the Humboldt County jail this year.

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