Medical / Health

Thursday, November 10, 2016

UPDATED: Brius Rescinds Cancellation of Partnership Contract, Halts Closure of Two Skilled Nursing Facilities

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 4:59 PM

A recent protest in front of Partnership Healthcare. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • A recent protest in front of Partnership Healthcare.
UPDATE: Partnership Healthcare announced yesterday in a press release that Rockport had rescinded letters terminating its contract with the MediCal administrator, meaning that patients in the facilities, or entering the facilities via the hospital, will not have to have their coverage re-negotiated.

“We are happy that a larger closure was avoided and that our fragile members in these facilities will not be forced out of their home communities.” said Liz Gibboney, CEO of Partnership. “We will continue to put our members first and work to ensure they receive high-quality care.”

The press release adds that "PHC is exploring non-institutional long-term-care options for its members, including PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), Home Health programs, and similar services."

Previously:

Brius Healthcare announced today that two of the three skilled nursing facilities slated to close — Eureka and Seaview Rehabilitation and Wellness Centers — will remain open. In a statement emailed to local news outlets, Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz said his company anticipates a continued financial loss due to staffing costs. To mitigate that loss, it "will be establishing a charity foundation in Humboldt County for the care and treatment of the elderly to directly fund these losses."

The Journal has reached out to Brius's spokesperson, Stefan Friedman, for more details on the foundation as it is not immediately clear whether Rechnitz will be directly funding it or setting up the foundation and soliciting donations from community members. We will update when there is more information.

The path to fiscal clarity for the facilities — which allege a $5 million loss due to staffing costs yet pays money back to Rechnitz in the form of lease agreements and other related party expenses — is even less clear as sources say Brius has also cancelled its agreement with Partnership Healthcare, the region's MediCal provider. The two entities have been negotiating over the reimbursement rate for the last five months, waging a bitter public relations war. Partnership has stated it is reimbursing the facilities at more than the state-mandated rate — and more than the state average — and encouraged Brius to "look internally" to address financial issues.

Robert Layne, spokesperson for Partnership, confirmed today that Brius has cancelled its contracts with Partnership for all five facilities, effective Dec. 23. MediCal patients entering the facilities from the hospital may have their entry delayed as their reimbursement is negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Rechnitz's statement again put the onus on Partnership, saying, "We won’t be a part of patients being forced to move 300 miles away simply because the system fails to appropriately pay for their healthcare."

The Journal has also received confirmation and supporting documentation from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform that Rockport Healthcare, the administrative company for Brius's Humboldt holdings, is recruiting patients and family members to bring suit against Partnership, although Layne said Partnership has not yet received notification of a lawsuit.

In a phonecall to the Journal, State Senator Mike McGuire said he appreciated “Rockport coming to the same reality” as those who fought to keep the facilities opened. But he also said the threat of closure was a manufactured crisis and “extortion.” McGuire he believed the entire situation was “grandstanding” meant to negotiate a higher rate.

“Bullying does not work in Humboldt County,” McGuire added. “We are going to continue to monitor the situation.”


Editor's Note: This blog has been updated from a previous version to clarify that patients currently in the facilities will not experience a change in their contracts. Incoming patients will have their contracts negotiated on an individual basis.

STATEMENT FROM SHLOMO RECHNITZ, BRIUS HEALTHCARE:

Today, we informed the California Department of Public Health that we are rescinding our closure plans for Seaview Rehabilitation and Wellness Center and Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, and will only move forward with our closure plans at Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center.

As a result of this request, no patients will need to be transferred out of the community. All patients at Pacific Rehabilitation and Wellness Center will be offered relocation at our other four local skilled nursing facilities.

It is important to understand how we got here, and how we have arrived at this decision.

Last year, our five skilled nursing facilities in Humboldt County began experiencing significant financial losses due to the lack of available health care workers in Humboldt County and the lack of adequate reimbursement.

To help drive recruitment, we raised salaries in November 2015 and January 2016, but our losses only multiplied. Five months ago, we approached all community stakeholders to seek solutions to the desperate problems of a staffing shortage that has negatively impacted not only us, but local hospitals and other healthcare providers throughout Humboldt County.

After months of searching for solutions and because the outlook for 2017 was more dire than 2016, we made the difficult decision to file closure plans for three of our local facilities. Despite efforts of some local officials and a local union to disparage us, we took efforts to work with everyone to ensure a safe and orderly transfer of our patients.

In the months since announcing these closures we have continued to attempt to work with others to come up with a different way out. However, it has become clear that the critical participants are not willing to do anything to solve these serious problems. After speaking at length with the patients, families and staff throughout Humboldt County, we have decided that despite the enormous financial difficulty that we will sustain as a result, there is no way we can close these facilities.

We won’t be a part of patients being forced to move 300 miles away simply because the system fails to appropriately pay for their healthcare.

In addition, as these facilities will continue to lose money, we will be establishing a charity foundation in Humboldt County for the care and treatment of the elderly to directly fund these losses. We will be working with local stakeholders to determine how we can better care for our elderly and ensure that they have the necessary care and services locally.

We appreciate the stakeholders that worked with us throughout this difficult process, and look forward to our continued work throughout Humboldt County.


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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Crab: No Guts, No Worries

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 1:37 PM

From the CDFW website. - C. JUHASZ
  • C. Juhasz
  • From the CDFW website.
You can start planning Christmas dinner — the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is opening recreational Dungeness crabbing all over California starting Saturday, Nov. 5. Mind you, the California Department of Health warns seafood lovers in Humboldt and other areas north of Marin County not to consume the guts "due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs." You remember domoic acid, that nasty toxin that more or less destroyed our last commercial crab season, which didn't open until May, and threatens consumers with nausea, vomiting and even death. So just melted butter, no "crab butter" for us. If you can't wait for commercial season to open but don't have your own boat, you might try dropping pots from the dock or by kayak.

Read the full CDFW press release below.
Recreational Dungeness Crab Season to Open Statewide Nov. 5
The recreational Dungeness crab season is scheduled to open statewide on Saturday, Nov. 5 — with a health warning in place for crabs caught north of Point Reyes (Marin County).

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued a warning to recreational anglers not to consume the viscera (internal organs) of Dungeness crab caught in coastal waters north of Point Reyes due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs caught off the northern California coast.

The health warning is effective for recreationally caught Dungeness crabs taken from state waters north of Latitude 38° 00' N. (near Point Reyes). CDPH believes that Dungeness crab meat is safe to consume, however, as a precaution, consumers are advised not to eat the viscera (also known as "butter" or "guts") of crabs. CDPH further recommends recreational anglers follow best preparation practices to ensure that they avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be sporadically found in some crab's viscera.

Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin related to a "bloom" of certain single-celled algae. Fish and shellfish are capable of accumulating elevated levels of domoic acid in their tissue, which can sicken people who eat them. Last fall and winter, domoic acid along the West Coast interrupted Dungeness and rock crab fisheries from Santa Barbara to the Oregon state line. This year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will continue to work with CDPH and the fishing community to collect crab samples from the northern California coast until the domoic acid levels have dissipated.

Consult the CDPH biotoxin information line at (800) 553-4133 or CDPH's Domoic Acid Health Information webpage for more information.

CDFW reminds crabbers of new regulations that became effective on Aug. 1, 2016. For a complete description of the regulations, please go to www.wildlife.ca.gov and click on "New Recreational Dungeness Crab Fishery Regulations" in the Announcements box.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Clash Over Care: Protesters Face Off Over Skilled Nursing Closures

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 6:27 PM

One faction of the skilled nursing protest, with Allen McCloskey holding a sign aloft. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • One faction of the skilled nursing protest, with Allen McCloskey holding a sign aloft.
Two large and loud groups of protesters filled the sidewalk in front of Partnership Healthcare Plan's regional office on Eureka's Fifth Street this afternoon. Both sides want the same thing: for the three skilled nursing homes slated to close and displace vulnerable North Coast seniors to stay open. The point of contention was why, exactly, the homes might close. 

"The residents are being used as pawns," said Chip Sharpe, who sided with the North Coast People's Alliance and others that blame the facilities' operator, Rockport Healthcare Services, and the owner of the company that manages the facilities, Brius Healthcare, for the closure. "I have a close friend who is in Fortuna Rehabilitation and Wellness. The residents are frightened and unsure what will will happen."

Sharpe joined around 12 people holding signs with slogans such as "Shame on Shlomo." Shlomo Rechnitz is a Los Angeles-based billionaire and CEO of Brius Healthcare. Annually, he pays around $4.6 million dollars in revenue from his five facilities in Humboldt County back into companies affiliated or owned by him. Members of the North Coast People's Alliance, formerly Northern Humboldt for Bernie [Sanders], maintain that Rechnitz should put some of this money back into his Humboldt facilities to address an alleged $5 million deficit Rockport has blamed on the cost of recruiting staff from out of the area.

The two sides struggled for domination of the sidewalk. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • The two sides struggled for domination of the sidewalk.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Local Veteran Rolls Through Humboldt to Raise Awareness for Suicide Prevention

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 12:28 PM

J.C. Cook on the road. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • J.C. Cook on the road.
Two veterans are riding 2,200 miles on specialized four-wheel drive mobility chairs, from the Canadian border to Mexico, then back to Fresno, to bring attention to the 22 veterans said t0 commit suicide in the United States every day. (The most recent analysis from the Dept. of Veteran's Affairs actually puts the number at 20.) John "J.C." Cook, a 2001 Fortuna High School graduate, and Sgt. Justin Bond, founder of Our Heroes' Dreams, will be rolling into Humboldt County this Friday, along with their helper dogs Ivy and Boomer.  Master Sergeant Ernest Serrato, president of the organization, is providing support to the team by driving alongside them in a truck with supplies.

"We're calling it Operation Battlefield," said Cook, who called us from Coos Bay. "I understand what a lot of the guys are going through."

Cook, who had his leg amputated below the knee after a routine ankle surgery led to a severe infection, struggled in the past with addiction and suicidal thoughts. Because he did not see active duty — he was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy — he had trouble reaching out for the help he thought other veterans "deserved" more. 

"I was a shell of a person," he said. "But then I found these other veterans."

The support of other veterans and the San Francisco Veteran's Administration, as well as his wife, led Cook to recovery. He has been clean for more than three years and now seeks to connect fellow veterans with resources. The "zoom chairs" he and Bond are using, for example, are available to veterans injured in the 
Cook and Long enroute to Humboldt County. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Cook and Long enroute to Humboldt County.
line of duty for free, thanks to a nonprofit called The Independence Fund. The model Cook uses can go up to 12 miles per hour. Although that makes for a slow and steady journey, Cook said he appreciates its offroad capabilities, which make it possible for him to go to the beach and appreciate nature.

Bond, who lost his legs after being shot through the knees in the Battle of Fallujah, has done a number of events to raise awareness and money for veterans, including once riding a segway from Monterey to Jacksonville, Florida. "Operation Battlefield" hopes to raise enough money to purchase 55 acres of land in Monterey for permanent use as a veteran's ranch. The group currently operates a "Healing Safari," where veterans in crisis can receive counseling and take part in family-oriented activities. Cook says it will be great to have a "safe place" to bring veterans who call Our Heroes' Dreams hotline.

In the meantime, Cook is looking forward to connecting with his Humboldt County roots and introducing Bond and the rest of the support team to some of his favorite places. He says he definitely plans to stop by No Brand Burger Stand and the Apple Harvest Festival. They will stay with Cook's family in Carlotta, to save money. 

Cook says the scenery has been great so far, but the best thing about the trip has been meeting people who donated time, money and support to Operation Battlefield. An American Legion group provided a motorcycle escort for the veterans from their starting point on Sept. 11. Other people honk and wave, pull over and hand the men money.

"I've met some really great Americans," Cook said. "It's really good to see. Especially with everything that’s going on in our country right now. There are good people in the world. We’re finding them."
Cook and his loyal service dog, Ivy. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Cook and his loyal service dog, Ivy.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Internet Drug Sends Eureka High Students to Hospital

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 4:24 PM

FILE
  • File
A number of Eureka High School students were hospitalized today after taking a natural hallucinogen.

Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said it’s believed a student purchased Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds over the Internet and shared them with his friends, many of whom then suffered nausea, vomiting and generally “feeling terrible.” In addition to the students who were hospitalized, some were sent home with their parents, Mills said.

City Ambulance of Eureka transported one student to the hospital, and others were treated by Humboldt Bay Fire or transported to St. Joseph Hospital by their parents.

Mills said he believes all students are expected to fully recover but couldn’t say that with certainty at this point. Eureka High School Principal Jennifer Johnson said it appears some students ingested the seeds not knowing their hallucinogenic qualities. 

Hawaiian baby woodrose is a perennial climbing vine with large heart-shaped leaves and white trumpet-like flowers. It’s large furry seeds grow in pods, and contain Lysergic Acid Amide, a naturally occurring tryptamine that gives off LSD-like psychedelic effects. According to the drug information website erowid.org, when the seed are chewed they give off a hallucinogenic trip that lasts for six to eight hours.

Webmd.com warns that ingesting the seeds is unsafe, and can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, sweating, increased heart rate and high blood pressure. People with psychiatric conditions or psychotic tendencies might also suffer more severe reactions, the site warns.

Johnson said the school's automated phone system has notified all parents of what happened, urging them to talk to their children about the dangers of ingesting unknown substances. She said about 10 students total took the drug, and said they were very cooperative with the school's investigation.

"We do know who the source of the seeds was and that student is facing disciplinary consequences," Johnson said. 

Mills, who spoke to the Journal on his way to St. Joseph Hospital, said the case remains under investigation.

“The main thing from our standpoint is we are investigating it and if we can bring charges on it, we will,” Mills said, adding that officials already believed they have identified the student who purchased the drug and brought it to school. “The problem is, and I could be wrong, but I don’t believe it is a scheduled narcotic. The question then is, what can we charge?”


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Restraining Order Blocks Budget Motel Evictions

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:23 PM

THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
The city of Eureka’s efforts to shutter the Budget Motel on Fourth Street have been put on hold.

This afternoon Bradford Floyd, a local attorney representing the Budget Motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, received a temporary restraining order to halt the city’s plans to clear the property tomorrow. On the heels of a recent code inspection that turned up 341 violations, the city served Kushwaha and his tenants on Monday with notice that it would enforce a notice to vacate the property at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

Eureka Chief Building Official Brian Gerving, who’s also serving as acting city manager while Greg Sparks is on vacation, said the city feels the property poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of its residents, first responders and the general public. Specifically, Gerving said widespread bedbug and cockroach infestations, open and unpermitted electrical wiring, rot and mold render the place unfit for habitation. Additionally, Gerving said, inspectors noted missing plumbing fixtures — like toilets and sinks — in some rooms and unrepaired fire damage in others.

This afternoon, the Journal contacted Kushwaha in the office of the Budget Motel and he declined to comment, other than a brief statement: “We got a restraining order against the city. We are not going anywhere.”

The case is set for a hearing at 8:45 a.m., at which point a judge may determine whether the city can follow through with its plans to clear each of the hotel’s 44 rooms, board them up and fence off the property.


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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Opioid Prescription Rates Falling in Humboldt

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 2:03 PM

Humboldt County is making progress in addressing its sizable pill problem. - FLICKR
  • Flickr
  • Humboldt County is making progress in addressing its sizable pill problem.
While Humboldt County still has more opioid prescriptions than people, the county reports it is making headway in battling what has become a nationwide epidemic.

The Humboldt County Department of Human Services reported this morning that the amount of opioids prescribed in the county has dropped by 23 percent since 2010, falling from 1.29 prescriptions per person to 1.14. This is obviously good news, especially for a county with some of most dire addiction problems in the state.

DHHS attributes the decline to a number of factors, including more local prescribers using a medication tracking system and the work of Rx Safe Humboldt, a community coalition focused on “reducing harms from opioids.”

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Life-Saving Librarian, Narcan Prevent Overdose Death

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 3:37 PM

The use of Narcan appears to have prevented two Humboldt County overdose deaths in the last month. - PRESS OF AC
  • Press of AC
  • The use of Narcan appears to have prevented two Humboldt County overdose deaths in the last month.
The overdose reversal drug Narcan has saved at least two lives in Humboldt County this month.

Over the weekend, Arcata police officers revived an unconscious 29-year-old man with a nasal spray dose in the department’s first use of Narcan since officers began carrying the medication that counteracts the effects of opioids.

Earlier this month, librarian Kitty Yancheff did the same.

“I never thought I’d have to use it,” said Yancheff, the public service division manager who works at the main library in Eureka. “You never expect it to happen, but you just don’t know.”


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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Medical Marijuana Tax Bill Goes Up in Smoke

Posted By on Sat, Aug 13, 2016 at 2:45 PM

The Legislature has backed away from a pair of bills that would have imposed next taxes on medical marijuana. - PHOTO BY SHANGO LOS
  • photo by Shango Los
  • The Legislature has backed away from a pair of bills that would have imposed next taxes on medical marijuana.
The second bill by a North Coast lawmaker seeking to tax medical marijuana has died quietly in the California Legislature, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat is reporting.

North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, had authored a unique bill aiming to tax the state’s booming medical marijuana market that appeared to have widespread support, passing the Assembly with a 60-12 vote and easily clearing a Senate committee a couple of months ago. But Thursday, according to the Press Democrat, the bill was shelved by the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee without comment. Making things all the bleaker for the bill’s prospects of resurfacing, Wood told the Press Democrat on Friday that he wasn’t given a reason for the committee’s decision and that he is “hugely disappointed.”

Wood’s bill would have imposed an excise tax of $4.75, $9.25 or $13.25 per ounce of produced marijuana bud depending on cultivation volume, and a $1.25 per-plant levy for immature plants. The bill was expected to raise up to $80 million annually, 90 percent of which would have been earmarked for local law enforcement and environmental cleanups.

A bill by North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire that would have imposed a 10 percent sales tax on medical marijuana products died in committee in June, as we previously reported. Opponents of both bills had voiced an ethical problem with imposing revenue generating taxes on a medicine.

The apparent death of Wood’s bill leaves no active medical marijuana tax bills in the Legislature this year. However, Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which seeks to legalize recreational use in California and is set to go before voters in November, does include some hefty tax provisions. Specifically, the measure would impose a $9.25 per ounce excise tax on all marijuana production and a 15 percent tax on all sales. In total, revenue from the proposition is projected to reach up to $1 billion annually.

For more, check out the full Press Democrat story here and prior Journal coverage here.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

UPDATED: Humboldt Dog Tests Positive for Rabies

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 4:56 PM

27e58a86d6b9d0c90432dc79eb784355_400x400.jpg
UPDATE:
The 11-month-old dog that was euthanized after contracting rabies earlier this month had undergone its first round of rabies vaccination, which starts at around 3 months old with series of subsequent boosters, and was “legally vaccinated for its age,” said Amanda Ruddy, consumer protection supervisor with the division of Environmental Health.

“Of course, with all vaccinations, immunity does build up over time,” she said.

One of the owners told the Journal that his dog interacted with about half a dozen people in the time frame of the infection at two locations: his work and home.

Ruddy said the investigation and outreach by the health officials is still ongoing.
“The parties involved have been extremely cooperative,” she said.


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