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health care

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

About five years ago, Jesus Gomez spent a month in the hospital. As he pulls out his phone to show me photos, he stops and smiles. “They’ll scare you,” he jokes.

Gomez scrolls through pictures of his head and torso covered in red splotches and thick brown scabs. “If they hadn’t treated me, I would’ve died,” he says in Spanish. “I would’ve been dead five years.”

His symptoms began small in 2013. “It started with an itch, and when I would scratch, it would break the skin and it would start to peel,” he says. Then came blisters.

Kaweah Delta Health Care District

When we talk about healthcare in this country, one of the most common complaints is the price tag—monthly prescriptions that chip away at retirement savings and emergency procedures that can cause bankruptcy.

With a new law that just went into effect this month, the federal government is trying to tackle at least some of the problem by requiring hospitals to be more transparent about their prices. But will it really keep us better informed? Here to speak about this is Anthony Wright, Executive Director of the health consumer advocacy group Health Access California.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

In our series, Part of the Job, we’ve looked at how California’s health institutions are trying to reduce the rate of violence and harassment against those who work in health care. Working in one of the highest risk areas of a hospital only adds to the challenge.

Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno’s emergency department of sees anyone who comes through their doors, and that includes patients “shopping” for opioid prescriptions.

 

Flickr User United Workers, License Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Before we look ahead to the midterm elections, we’re taking a quick look back at some health care legislation passed at the end of the legislative session in September: Specifically, a campaign known as Care4All, aimed at universal health coverage that’s more affordable and accountable. Of around two dozen Care4All bills and budget items introduced earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown ultimately signed eight into law.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

As the fifth largest economy on the globe, California is looked to in many ways as a world leader—not just in terms of agricultural production and climate change mitigation goals, but also in the field of health, where we’ve been a testing ground for new ideas in health care policy and delivery. For instance, California was an early adopter of the Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act, and health officials have launched initiatives to target specific health outcomes and risks like heart attacks, maternal deaths and vaccine exemptions.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Local hospitals in three San Joaquin Valley communities are making big plans for the future, including an expansion, a reopening, and a bankruptcy filing.

In Kern County, Adventist Health has announced plans to build a new hospital in Northwest Bakersfield. The facility will be built near the intersection of Coffee and Brimhall Road, adjacent to the development known as the Bakersfield Commons. It’s unknown when construction on the new facility might begin. Adventist Health currently operates a hospital in downtown Bakersfield on Chester Avenue.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at how those who work in health care are at increased risk of workplace violence. In the next installment of our series, Part of the Job, we see that although hospitals in the Valley have preventive measures in place, some are finding that it’s not until an incident happens that a facility knows what more to improve.  

 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California’s legislative session ends on Friday, which means it’s a marathon week in Sacramento as state lawmakers rush to pass bills and get them onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk to be signed into law—or else wait until 2019 to reintroduce their legislation and begin the process all over again.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

  It’s probably obvious that hospitals can be high stress environments, and it’s not just patients who can get agitated and upset. Sometimes it’s also co-workers. Last week, we heard about how some see tolerating violence in health care as part of the job. In the latest installment in our series Part Of The Job, we look at how health care educators have been trying to change that culture of harassment and violence before their students reach the workforce.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Over the course of three months in 2017, over two thousand incidents of workplace violence in health care were reported in California. That comes out to about an incident happening at every facility every other week, or over twenty incidents across the state a day. Some experts would say that number is probably low, because they suspect the issue is underreported, for a variety of reasons.

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."

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.

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