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health care

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

We’re at the start of another school year. And that means more than just a focus on basic academic skills. In Fresno County there’s a new push to address mental health and wellbeing. It’s part of a five year, $111 million dollar campaign that’s called “All 4 Youth” that’s bringing together the county’s office of education and the behavioral health department.

UCSF Fresno

For years, local medical and political leaders have been calling for a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley. Now the long-running UCSF Fresno graduate medical education program is getting a boost towards that goal. The university has announced that it is upgrading the Fresno program’s status to that of an official branch campus of UCSF. As Dean Michael Peterson told Valley Public Radio, the move is an evolution of the San Joaquin Valley PRIME medical education program, which had been run by UCSF, UC Davis and UC Merced.

UC Merced

There’s new research out from scientists at UC Merced that could shed new light on the roots of autoimmune diseases, and also holds promise for future cancer treatments. The study in The Journal of Immunology looks at so-called “misbehaving” killer immune cells. It builds upon research that took place in the late 1990’s but went largely overlooked since then. We spoke with UC Merced graduate student Kristen Valentine and UC Merced Professor Katrina Hoyer.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Plans to reopen a shuttered hospital in Tulare County took a big step forward last week. The board of the Tulare Local Health Care District voted to move ahead with a plan to reopen the Tulare Regional Medical Center under the operation of Adventist Health, which operates hospitals in Hanford, Selma and Reedley. TRMC has been closed since last fall when a fragile situation between the board and the prior management company reached a breaking point, and the district sought bankruptcy protection.

Coalinga Regional Medical Center website

A long-standing Fresno County hospital is closing. Coalinga Regional Medical Center announced Tuesday it will shut its doors within six weeks.

The hospital’s facilities are set to close by June 15. CEO Wayne Allen came on only three weeks ago, shortly before S&P Global Ratings put the hospital on CreditWatch due to the deterioration of its financial situation.

Allen was hired to turn the hospital’s finances around but he says he was too late. "What’s happening is the business is financially broke; insolvent," Allen says. "And we had to go into a closure mode."

Kern Medical / Kern County

The San Joaquin Valley will soon have fewer training opportunities for doctors; one of Kern Medical’s residency programs is losing its accreditation.

Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd says he doesn’t yet know why the hospital’s residency program in surgery will need to shut down.

"We’re very disappointed by this," Judd says. "Of course once we receive the findings we will do what is necessary to rectify those findings and reopen the program."

Courtesy Kaweah Delta Health Care District.

A new study from the UCSF Healthforce Center has ominous news for the valley’s health care system. According to the authors, demand for registered nurses in the San Joaquin Valley is projected to grow by 35 percent over the next 12 years. But at the same time, the region’s total number of RNs is expected to actually decline, creating a serious shortfall. Some estimates put the regional RN shortage as high as 10,000 by 2030. So what’s behind the decline?

Flickr user San Diego PersonalInjuryAttorney, CC BY-SA 2.0

Every time you want to see a doctor, decisions are made about who’s in your network, what’s approved, and how much it’ll cost. Although your health plan manages everything, each of those decisions could be outsourced to a separate company—and those behind-closed-doors actions can have big impacts. Allegations of misconduct within two of these intermediary companies are already having real impacts on patients in the Valley.

Last fall, Dr. Sanjay Srivatsa received a letter.

UCSF Fresno

UCSF Fresno has received a state grant to expand its training programs for medical residents and fellows. The university will receive $2.15 million over three years from the Office of Statewide Health and Planning thanks to the Song-Brown Program—a state law that provides grants in order to increase training for primary care providers throughout California. The funds will be used to support UCSF Fresno’s programs in Family and Community Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

When it comes to the health care safety net, there’s been a lot of uncertainty in the last few months. Republican lawmakers spent the better part of the year trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and funding has been on shaky ground for community health centers that treat low-income and uninsured patients. Now in the spotlight is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures 2 million low-income kids in California--and is set to run out of federal funding within the next month.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

As the holidays approach, you may be contemplating the toys you’ll be getting for the children in your life or donating to kids in need. Well, this month, one woman in Visalia is holding a toy drive, but for parents—sort of. She’s working to donate toys to families affected by one of the San Joaquin Valley’s most concerning health trends.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

A few weeks ago, we reported that the premature birth rate in the San Joaquin Valley is rising, and that it’s especially high in Fresno County. The numbers are concerning because premature babies are born with a higher risk of health complications like breathing difficulties, heart problems and chronic disease. Decades of work have proven preterm births are tough to prevent, but a new research initiative appears to be up for the challenge. This story begins, though, in a Fresno living room, where a mother and son enjoy some quiet time together.

This week on Valley Edition, we get reports on the surprising reason insurance premiums for many Covered California customers are dropping, and what local health care leaders are doing to address a rise in pre-term births in Fresno County. We also explore the following issues in interviews:

For years, one of the most powerful and consistent Republican criticism of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is that the monthly premiums are going up so fast that they are quickly becoming unaffordable and that the whole law was on the verge of collapse.

President Donald Trump, in part, rode a wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment all the way to the White House. While Republican plans for full legislative repeal have stalled, that has not stopped the President from taking executive action to undermine it.

A new ranking of patient safety at valley hospitals has been released, with mixed grades. The analysis from the nonprofit group Leapfrog, tracks errors, injuries, accidents, and infections at hospitals nationwide.

In Fresno County, Kaiser received an “A” grade, with Clovis Community and Saint Agnes earning "B’s." Community Regional Medical Center got a “C”. To the north, Madera Community Hospital received an "A" grade and Mercy Medical Center in Merced got a "B."

TRMC

Last week a bankruptcy court judge allowed the Tulare Local Health Care District board to part ways with HCCA, the private company that has been running the Tulare Regional Medical Center for several years. It marks an end to a relationship that had become bitter following a recall election earlier this year. It also has led to the temporary closure of the hospital, which has directed patients to nearby facilities in Porterville, Visalia and Reedley. So what's next, and when does the hospital hope to reopen?

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

The future of the troubled Tulare Regional Medical Center is in doubt, as the elected board of the public hospital voted last weekend to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. It's the latest chapter is a years-long fight for control of the hospital, which is run by a private company under contract with the district, Health Care Conglomerate Associates. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The latest Republican health care bill may have met its end earlier this week in Congress, but there’s more health care legislation awaiting a decision by the weekend. Three federal programs providing aid to the Valley are due to expire on Saturday night.

The first is the Community Health Center Fund, which provides 70 percent of funding to some health centers in underserved and disadvantaged areas. From 2011-2016, California received $1.6 billion from the fund--the most of any state.

Saint Agnes Medical Center

Amidst a shortage of physicians in the San Joaquin Valley, local opportunities for graduate medical training are expanding.

For the first time in its 88-year history, Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno is becoming a teaching hospital with the launch of an internal medicine residency program in July 2018. It will accept 16 residents the first year and grow to 40 after three years.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

As the San Joaquin Valley struggles with a shortage of primary care physicians, one group in particular is stepping in to fill in the gaps: doctors born or trained in foreign countries. And while the planned repeal of the DACA program is President Trump’s most recent immigration policy change, he’s hinted at others that could influence the flow of foreign physicians into the Valley. This installment of our series Struggling For Care explores the valley’s complicated relationship with international doctors.

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