Medical / Health

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Mass Shooting Drill at Mad River Community Hospital Tonight

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 4:06 PM

Mad River Community Hospital is having a mass shooting drill. - GOOGLE
  • Google
  • Mad River Community Hospital is having a mass shooting drill.
Mad River Community Hospital will be conducting a mass shooting drill tonight with the Humboldt State University Police Department, United Indian Health Services and Arcata Fire to test the hospital’s ability to accommodate a sudden influx of patients during an emergency.

The drill taking place from 9 to 11 p.m. will include around 25 “victims,” who will be transported to the Arcata hospital grounds by ambulance. A news release from Mad River states that the drill “will not affect normal patient care and the emergency room will continue to take in patients as usual.”

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

UPDATE: Health Officials: New HIV Cases Cause of Concern

Posted By on Tue, May 8, 2018 at 4:57 PM

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UPDATE: County health officials released additional information today about a spike in new locally acquired HIV cases that appear to be related.

Of the eight people diagnosed so far this year, five are believed to be linked. The public health investigation is ongoing and that number is expected to change. Another 13 cases that came to public health’s attention in 2018 were acquired outside of Humboldt County.

PREVIOUS: County health officials are alerting the public after finding an apparent link between two locally-acquired HIV cases identified last month as they continue to await lab results on other possible cases that may also be related.

Hava Phillips, a public health nurse in the county’s Department of Health and Human Services Communicable Disease Program, says the diagnoses not only raise the potential for ongoing transmission of the virus that causes AIDS but also the possibility that additional infections have already taken place in the community.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

State Audit Confirms Inadequacies in For-Profit Skilled Nursing

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 5:33 PM

Shlomo Rechnitz - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SACARAMENTO BEE / PAUL KITAGAKI JR.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SACARAMENTO BEE / PAUL KITAGAKI JR.
  • Shlomo Rechnitz
A report published on the California State Auditor's website this morning appears to confirm the worst suspicions of state Sen. Mike McGuire and Assemblymember Jim Wood, who in June of 2017 requested an audit of skilled nursing providers and the state agencies that monitor them.

The audit focused on for-profit company Brius, which holds a virtual monopoly on skilled nursing homes in Humboldt County and has been the subject of several Journal  news stories about alleged patient shut outs, patient neglect and battles with regional MediCal provider Partnership HealthPlan of California. In 2016, the Journal broke the story that while the company had been claiming a $5 million shortfall due to staffing costs, it was simultaneously shunting roughly that same amount into related party transactions, purchasing services and goods from companies also owned by the company's founder, Shlomo Rechnitz. A link to full coverage of this issue can be found here.
FILE
  • FILE
These related party transactions were one aspect of the state's audit. The auditor's office reviewed the books for three of the largest private operators of nursing homes in California, Brius, Plum and Longwood. In the public letter that prefaced the report, state auditor Elaine Howle reports that such transactions are "common" and "legally allowable." Related party transactions have allowed operators to continue to profit even as average incomes statewide dipped or stagnated following the financial crisis of 2008.


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Sunday, April 22, 2018

St. Joseph Health Hit with Anti-Trust Lawsuit Alleging Unfair Business Practices to Protect 10-fold Price Markeups

Posted By on Sun, Apr 22, 2018 at 10:19 AM

St. Joseph Hospital. - FILE
  • FIle
  • St. Joseph Hospital.
The company that owns Redwood Urgent Care has filed a federal lawsuit against St. Joseph Hospital, alleging pervasive and systemic violations of state and federal laws designed to protect fair business competition.

Wahidullah Medical Corp., which owns Redwood Urgent Care and its outpatient medical testing laboratory, filed the anti-trust suit earlier this month, seeking a preliminary injunction, jury trial and unspecified damages. The suit — filed by a heavyweight anti-trust lawyer — alleges that St. Joseph Hospital has illegally conspired to stifle competition for outpatient medical lab testing in the Eureka market by misleading consumers, making its electronic medical records system incompatible with that of Redwood Urgent Care and actively defaming its competition in order to maintain up to 10-fold markups on services.

St. Joseph Hospital spokesperson Christian Hill declined to discuss the lawsuit, saying the hospital is “unable to comment on active litigation.” The hospital is expected to file a reply to the complaint in federal court in the coming weeks.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Partnership Health Awards Humboldt County $1.05 Million for Affordable Housing

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 10:21 AM

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Partnership HealthPlan of California, the region's MediCal administrator, announced this morning it has awarded the county $1.05 million in grant funding for supportive housing units. The nonprofit also granted the Redwood Community Action Agency $1.26 million.

According to the press release, Partnership awarded a total of $25 million in grants this week for "housing-related projects across the MediCal managed care plan’s 14-county service area."

“Without a roof over your head and a safe place to sleep, it’s difficult to stay healthy,” Liz Gibboney, CEO of PHC, says in the press release. “We decided to address this critical health-related issue right where it starts – by funding projects that address homelessness and the lack of housing for the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”

DHHS said in the press release that it plans to combine that funding with that of "a development partner" to build at least 30 affordable apartment units for "homeless or housing-insecure adults who are eligible for PHC."

Nancy Starck of DHHS confirmed that the county would be partnering with DanCo to build the permanent supportive housing units. A location has been identified but not confirmed by DanCo.

In a phone call, Margaret Kisliuk, a behavioral health administrator with Partnership, said that she had visited Humboldt County several times in her work, and noted a "Bay Area level of need" in terms of housing. The one-time grants came from Partnership's reserves.

"We certainly know that there are quite a few homeless folks in Humboldt County, and clearly a housing need," she said. "It seemed to be more intense in terms of Humboldt County."

Kisliuk said that the funding could also be used to renovate existing units.

We have reached out to RCAA for comment. It's not immediately clear what the grant awarded RCAA will fund.

Editor's note: This piece was updated from the previous version to include information from Starck and Kisliuk.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Remembering and Honoring Herrmann Spetzler

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 12:43 PM

Allan Katz kicks off the memorial of Herrmann Spetzler. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Allan Katz kicks off the memorial of Herrmann Spetzler.
Every seat in the main auditorium of the Arcata Community Center was full. Half an hour before the memorial for Herrmann Spetzler, late CEO of Open Door Community Health, vehicles futilely circled the packed parking lot. More than 500 people attended the celebration of life for Spetzler, who died unexpectedly March 11 at the age of 70. As his friend Allan Katz (who emceed the event) said, it was what he would have wanted.

"He didn't like long farewells," said Katz, recalling how Spetzler would often leave parties and events without saying goodbye. Other speakers recalled the health care champion's love of photography, nature and his signature Birkenstock sandals paired with socks, which he wore with everything from suits to shorts. But the theme that shone through every speech was Spetzler's advocacy and his tireless dedication to expanding the reach and mission of community healthcare in rural Northern California.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

UPDATED: Open Door Director Herrmann Spetzler Has Died

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 11:28 AM

Herrmann Spetzler, CEO of Open Door Community Health Centers. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Herrmann Spetzler, CEO of Open Door Community Health Centers.
UPDATE: A press release from Open Door confirms that Spetzler died "unexpectedly and peacefully" Sunday night and that his wife, Cheyenne Spetzler, has been named interim CEO. The full press release can be found at the bottom of this post.

Previously:

Herrmann Spetzler, executive director of Open Door Community Health, died Sunday night of an unknown cause. He was 70. The news was announced this morning via an email to Open Door employees.

Steve Engle, compliance officer for Open Door's administrative branch, confirmed this morning that the organization was reeling from the loss.

"Herrmann was a very dynamic individual with a very large vision for community health," said Engle, adding that a formal statement would be forthcoming. "He was extremely passionate about making sure the community got the care it deserved."

Spetzler took the helm of Open Door in 1977, when it was a volunteer-run clinic in Arcata. Under his tenure, the organization grew to 10 clinics in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, serving an estimated one third of the region's population and providing dental, medical and mental health care. Spetzler saw the organization through several rounds of growing pains, including a challenge by lawyer Jason Singleton regarding the clinics' ADA accessibility, a decision by the state in 2009 to eliminate MediCal funding for dental care in the wake of a financial recession and then the expansion of services after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, which saw a budget windfall for the organization that allowed it to expand into more rural communities.


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Yurok Tribe Sues Drug Companies Over Opioid Epidemic

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 11:13 AM

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The Yurok Tribe has filed a federal lawsuit against 20 manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids, alleging the companies are responsible for spreading the scourge of drug use on the reservation and across the country.

“The only difference between these companies and drug cartels is the fact that legal purveyors of prescription opioids have protection from law enforcement and seemingly unlimited funds to market and distribute to the masses their highly addictive drugs,” Amy Cordalis, the Yurok Tribe’s general counsel who is also a tribal member, said in a release. “There is not a single Yurok family that has not either directly or indirectly experienced the horrors of opiate addiction.”

According to the release, the Yurok reservation is “one of only a handful of places where the U.S. opioid crisis initially took root.”

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Eureka Passes Syringe Management Ordinance

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 6:35 AM

Jeannie Breslin (left) joins protesters at a Sept. 21 2015 anti-crime rally. - PHOTO BY LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Photo by Linda Stansberry
  • Jeannie Breslin (left) joins protesters at a Sept. 21 2015 anti-crime rally.
After nearly two hours of discussion, debate and public comment, the Eureka City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night codifying best practices around syringe exchange programs within city limits. The unanimous decision was met with some grumbling from a rowdy crowd, which filled the council chambers and delivered many strong opinions during public comment.

Loose needles in public areas have become a flashpoint for public debate in recent months, with several citizen groups placing blame for the hazardous waste on needle exchange programs such as the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction. The syringe management ordinance, introduced by Eureka City Manager Greg Sparks, came out of six months of stakeholder meetings and research by city staff. Sparks reported that it was the first of its kind in California, staff having found no good examples in other counties. The ordinance calls for syringe exchange programs to report back to city staff with data on the numbers of syringes given out and referrals made, and participate in weekly cleanups. While some citizens have advocated for a one-to-one exchange of needles, Sparks said research does not support this method.

"In developing the ordinance, we came back to the California Department of Public Health," said Sparks, adding that CDPH recommends a "needs based" model of syringe exchange rather than a 1-1 exchange. The ordinance opens with language reiterating the city's commitment to harm reduction as an effective method of addressing the spread of infectious disease such as hepatitis, which is often transmitted by sharing needles.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Eureka Council to Tackle Needle Regulation

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 12:38 PM

Needles discarded in a homeless camp. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Needles discarded in a homeless camp.
The Eureka City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance Tuesday that may offer more oversight of syringe exchange programs within city limits. Syringe or needle exchange has become a hot button issue in recent months, with some residents blaming the harm reduction programs for large amounts of discarded needles on public property.  (A Journal analysis in October found that about 7,000 needles go unaccounted for each month. Read more here.)

Bill No. 950-C.S., titled the Syringe Management Ordinance, is intended to provide "a degree of local control over Syringe Exchange Programs-SEPs," according to the language on the agenda summary, which was prepared by City Manager Greg Sparks.

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