Posts about “Health” Category
One of the many programs Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing eliminating is Healthy Families. The $250 million program provides health insurance for kids in low-income families that make too much to qualify for Medi-Cal.
Howard Kahn is CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan, which administers the Healthy Families program in L.A. County. He says without Healthy Families, a quarter of a million kids in L.A. County alone would lose health coverage. And that, says Kahn, would mean that many families would no longer be able to get their kids basic primary care.
Howard Kahn: “They are going to end up in emergency rooms. They are going to end up in both the county and the community clinics that we’ve got throughout Los Angeles. Those folks have already been seeing an increase in use because of the high unemployment rates. So we are going to have more crowded emergency rooms. That’s no way to run a health care system.”
Kahn spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.”
During a budget hearing at the state capital today, more than 100 people testified on proposed cuts to state medical insurance for low-income Californians. Governor Schwarzenegger suggested the cuts to help close a $24 billion deficit. KPCC’s Julie Small reports that health care advocates warned California will end up paying more for the cuts in the long run.
Julie Small: One after another, health care activists urged the state’s budget conference committee to reject the governor’s proposed cuts. Herb Meyer, a retired Air Force veteran from Marin County, lost the use of his legs in a boating accident and spent his life savings on medical and support care.
The 78-year-old now depends on the state’s Medi-Cal program for coverage. From his wheelchair, Meyer told legislators that the governor’s idea to cut so-called “optional” Medi-Cal benefits would hurt recipients.
Herb Meyer: They’re going to take away their eyeglasses. They’re going to take away their podiatric care. They’re going to take away many of the things that are going to be difficult for them to get.
Where’re they going to go? They’re going to go to emergency rooms – all this type of thing. It’s going to cost the government more money than they’re going to save in doing these things.
Small: Meyer said he’s already lost some Medi-Cal drug benefits from the budget cuts the legislature made earlier this year. That cost him $95 of his monthly $2,000 retirement check.
A hefty cut to California’s Healthy Families program is one solution Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is offering to help offset the state’s projected $24 billion budget shortfall.
Jean Ross heads the California Budget Project. She told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that the proposed cut would leave close to 950,000 children in the state without medical coverage.
Jean Ross: “The governor is also proposing to scale back medical coverage for children and that would add an additional about 472,000 children to the ranks of the uninsured. So this would have a dramatic increase on the health status of California’s children.”
If the legislature approves $5 billion in cuts the governor’s proposed to state programs, programs including universities, state parks, and prisons would be in line for program and personnel reductions. The governor’s also suggested saving more than $1 billion by eliminating the CalWORKs welfare program. The governor’s expected to propose $3 billion in additional cuts next week.
A crowd of more than a thousand Southland homecare providers and their patients and supporters converged on downtown Los Angeles today. They were protesting Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts in home care services.
Organizer Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union says the governor’s May revise budget would reduce most workers’ pay from 11 or 12 dollars to 8 dollars an hour – minimum wage.
Eliseo Medina: “They’re being a penny wise and a dollar foolish. If they force all these home care clients out of their homes, where they gonna send them? To nursing homes? They are four times more expensive than home care. This is a bad decision. What the governor proposes is gonna wind up costing them more money, not less.”
Governor Schwarzenegger has said the huge budget shortfall – made worse by last Tuesday’s defeat of several budget ballot measures – is forcing him to make deep cuts in state programs.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s withdrawn his plan to balance the state budget with 5-and-a-half billion dollars of borrowed money. Instead, he’s asking state agencies to forward more ideas about where they can cut. Jason Dickerson with the Legislative Analyst’s Office told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the governor was right to reverse his course on borrowing.
Jason Dickerson: “It could well be a habit the state gets into, but the constitution of the state places fairly strict limits on debt that can be issued. And it really would be, potentially, in violation of those requirements.”
California’s working with few good fiscal options in the face of a projected $21 billion deficit.
California officials are borrowing a strategy from the financial industry – trying to convince the federal government to front some cash fast because this state is too big to fail. Jason Dickerson with the state Legislative Analyst’s Office isn’t sure that approach will spare state services from major cuts.
Jason Dickerson: “The governor’s $750 million proposal to cut Medi-Cal funding that would require approval from the federal government, that is a pretty risky proposition on which to balance the budget over the next year. We don’t know if the federal government will go along with that. But in terms of looking at selling some state assets and some state lands, rethinking how our boards and commissions work, we think that is a good idea and the legislature should look at that.”
Federal Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s already saying that California shouldn’t rely on much more financial help from Washington.
Vice President Joe Biden praised a South Los Angeles housing and health program as a standard that should be replicated nationwide. Biden visited several apartments at Esperanza, a low-income housing development near USC.
He said the program is one of the first to receive grant money under the Federal Recovery Act, because it’s ready to hit the ground running. Esperanza educates area renters about Asthma triggers and the dangers of lead paint.
Vice President Joe Biden: “We know the leading indicator of a high-risk for lead poisoning is a high level of poverty. We know that if we’re truly going to really revitalize our communities and help families that are most vulnerable, we need to invest that money now.”
Biden says Esperanza is getting $875,000 from the federal government. The program won approval last year, with high marks, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development didn’t have the money until the Recovery Act. The program’s director says she’ll use the grant to pay trained staffers who’d considered volunteering their time.
The State Senate approved a plan to ban smoking at state parks and beaches yesterday. The bill is designed to protect marine life and reduce fire danger. KPCC’s Alex Cohen has the story.
Alex Cohen: Senate Bill 4 calls for a fine of up to $100 for smoking at a state park or beach. Democratic Senator Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach said she is not trying to punish anyone – she’s just trying to make California a cleaner, safer place.
She referred to federal Environmental Protection Agency research that’s determined cigarette butts are the most frequently found marine debris item in the country. Oropeza added that ingestion of cigarettes by marine animals interferes with their ability to eat and digest food.
Cigarette butts contain more than 165 chemicals and are not biodegradeable. More than 100 local governments have already passed smoking bans for parks, beaches, and piers. Oropeza’s bill now goes to the California Assembly for review.
A jury in Los Angeles has convicted a man of participating in a scheme to profit from UCLA Medical School’s willed-body program. Details from KPCC’s Cheryl Devall.
Cheryl Devall: Prosecutors had told jurors that Ernest Nelson worked out a scheme to buy human remains from the former director of the program at UCLA that accepts bodies that donors intend for use in scientific study. Nelson owned a business that provided body parts and corpses to researchers at hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.
Authorities say the deal netted one-and-a-half million dollars over five years. The onetime UCLA employee, Henry Reid, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grand theft – he’s serving a four-year prison sentence.
In the just-concluded trial the jury convicted Nelson of conspiracy to commit grand theft, grand theft by embezzlement, and tax evasion. He also faces four years in prison.
The scandal around UCLA’s willed-body program caused the university to voluntarily suspend it five years ago. It later reopened with a new emphasis on security and transparency – now the program requires financial and criminal background checks on all potential employees.
The operators of a medical marijuana dispensary in Pomona say police have been harassing them. KPCC’s Shirley Jahad says they protested Friday in front of the Pomona police station.
Shirley Jahad: The medical marijuana dispensary had been open for about a week when volunteers said Pomona police began to show up unannounced and intimidate workers and patrons, including terminal cancer patients. Volunteer Kara Hill described one incident last week.
Kara Hill: This time they physically break down doors. They start kicking in doors. They come in they are very aggressive. They throw one volunteer down on the ground. He injures his shoulder.
A terminally ill patient is sitting in the lobby trying to fill out his paper work. The patient just coming from chemo has cancer and says please, can I just get my medicine?
Jahad: Police have arrested several dispensary volunteers. They said one of their co-workers, a 23-year-old on the dean’s list at Cal State Long Beach, is still behind bars. Volunteer Kara Hill said that’s unreasonable.
Hill: She is being held on a million dollars bail. Literally she was passing out flyers. She had no medical marijuana on her. No medication. No money. Nothing.
Jahad: A lawyer for the dispensary called the police action illegal and unwarranted.
Note: Pomona police have not returned calls seeking comment on these allegations.
Federal money usually comes with strings attached. California officials are learning just how many strings the economic stimulus package carries. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde reports.
Kitty Felde: California lawmakers, trying to save $74 million, cut home health care workers’ pay by $2 an hour. Not so fast, said the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Under federal guidelines for spending California’s $50 billion in economic stimulus money, the state can’t take the money and then cut back on services.
The feds threatened to reclaim almost $7 billion if California doesn’t restore the health care workers’ salaries. Governor Schwarzenegger has sent a letter of appeal. His Inspector General Laura Chick has spent a week in Washington clarifying more than a hundred pages of rules and regulations related to stimulus funding.
The Service Employees International Union represented the home health care workers, and alerted the Obama administration about the cuts. That union campaigned strongly for Barack Obama. When asked whether organized labor was pressuring the administration, a Health and Human Services official replied that the department simply wanted “to ensure that all states comply with the law.”
There’s been a change of leadership at a South L.A. County medical school. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more about developments at Charles Drew University.
Cheryl Devall: Drew is the private med and health sciences school that used to be affiliated with county-run Martin Luther King-Charles Drew Medical Center in Willowbrook. When that hospital closed two and a half years ago after it failed federal inspections, Susan Kelly came on board to lead the university during a difficult transition.
While Kelly emphasized Drew’s commitment to educating its mostly black and Latino students, and established a nursing school there, the economy dealt multiple blows to the institution’s finances. Its investments took a hit in the stock market, and donations dropped. In response, the school cut staff, executive salaries, and contributions to employee retirement funds.
Last month, Kelly took a leave of absence, and the school announced her resignation effective May 1st. Three administrators – operations vice president Elizabeth Garcia, academic affairs dean Ronald Edelstein, and research vice president Keith Norris – will run Charles Drew University as a team.
Orange County’s become the first county in Southern California to try a new – and faster – way to treat people suffering from strokes. KPCC’s Susan Valot says the new system will funnel stroke patients to one of six receiving centers.
Susan Valot: Just as with heart attacks, the faster doctors can diagnose and begin to treat a stroke, the less damage it’ll cause. Not all hospitals have what they need to do that. The “receiving centers” are six designated hospitals that specialize in treating acute strokes.
They include UC Irvine Medical Center, Fountain Valley Regional Medical Center, and Mission Hospital. Stroke specialists will be on hand there 24 hours a day, with all of the necessary equipment and medication to treat a stroke.
The idea is that faster treatment will help ensure that patients can survive without severe damage. The program is similar to systems already in place in New York, San Francisco, and Santa Clara.
- May 7, 2009 4:29 PM
- Categories: Health
Three Ventura County firefighters are undergoing treatment for burns they sustained yesterday in the Jesusita fire. Dr. Peter Grossman of the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks told reporters that the firefighters’ condition has been upgraded from serious to good.
Dr. Peter Grossman: “Ron Topolinski, Brian Bulger, and Robert Lopez – all sustained injuries from the fire yesterday. I’m happy to report that none of them currently have life-threatening illnesses, life-threatening injuries. But as you can all imagine, all burns are quite painful and most burns are quite serious.”
Grossman said two of the three firefighters will require surgery for their burns. The men tried to find shelter in a building after fire overtook their engine.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used a chemical compound known as Agent Orange to strip vegetation from the terrain. Doctors have linked Agent Orange to birth defects and other health problems.
An exhibit at UC Riverside’s California Museum of Photography explores the chemical’s effects on the people and environment of Vietnam. It’s called “Agent Orange – Landscape, Body, Image.” UCR history professor David Biggs is one of the organizers.
David Biggs: “Often when you look at art or photography that describes Agent Orange there tends to be an attraction to the sort of grotesque effects, and that really takes the spotlight away from the people living with these problems who have really triumphed. We don’t want to emphasize the grotesque.”
The Agent Orange exhibit includes films, pop art, and Vietnam War-era photographs. It’s on view through August at UC Riverside’s California Museum of Photography.
The nearly 700,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District has reported its first probable case of swine flu. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Principal Ed Zubiate says a student at Fairfax High School became ill during the weekend with flu-like symptoms. Medical tests indicated that the student’s probably sick with the swine flu.
After weighing the federal government’s caution against closing schools and determining that the case was mild with no other people sick on campus, district officials decided to keep Fairfax High open. That’s a relief to Principal Zubiate.
Principal Ed Zubiate: We have a prescribed number of instructional days, that’s been decided on. And then once you do things like that – I mean, schools that are closed for a week, I don’t know what the implications of that are.
Guzman-Lopez: An Orange County campus closed for a week after a swine flu case surfaced. Its teachers will have to compensate for classroom days lost so they can fulfill state instructional requirements.
This morning administrators confirmed the first probable swine flu case in the L.A. Unified School District. A student at Fairfax High School fell ill early this week and was out yesterday.
Medical tests showed the student a likely carrier of the H1N1 virus. Kimberly Uyeda, head of student medical services for the district, said L.A. Unified considered closing the campus based on several factors including:
Kimberly Uyeda: “Is there evidence that there is spread of the disease among people in the school, so we look and see if there’s flu-like illness among other people, either staff or students in the school, and we’ve noticed no increase in symptoms, or increases in illnesses or absences. So we’ve determined that closing down the school at this point would not make any difference in the spread of the disease.”
L.A. Unified deployed workers to Fairfax High to clean the school. The district’s also working with county health officials to monitor any other possible swine flu cases. Officials urge parents to keep their children at home if they’ve come down with flu-like symptoms.
People with body aches, fever, and coughs seem less fearful about catching the swine flu than they were a week ago. To see what that means for Southland emergency rooms, KPCC’s Patricia Nazario visited White Memorial Medical Center in East Los Angeles.
Patricia Nazario: About a dozen people sat in the waiting room to see a doctor. That’s about half the number of patients who waited up to six hours last week when the swine flu outbreak started.
Dr. Brian Johnston: There were a lot of people who didn’t have a lot of symptoms, but were anxious.
Nazario: Dr. Brian Johnston runs White Memorial’s emergency room. He said his staff usually sees about a 100 patients a day. So far this week, Johnston said, the count’s still up by about 10 percent.
Johnston:Pretty remarkable, in the space of 24 hours, the level of anxiety seemed to drop, and we saw fewer people.
Nazario: There’s no clear indication why swine flu anxiety seemed to wane over the weekend. Johnston still advises his patients to keep their hands clean with anti-bacterial soap. Public health officials have said that despite an apparent lull in new swine flu cases, the virus could come back with a vengeance in the fall.
- May 4, 2009 7:05 PM
- Categories: Health
Los Angeles County hospitals have posted signs around their emergency rooms advising patients with flu symptoms to please put on a mask.
White Memorial Medical Center in East L.A. has almost doubled its daily patient count since the start of the swine flu outbreak a week ago. Emergency room director Dr. Brian Johnston says the extra demand has required a lot from resources and staff.
Dr. Brian Johnston: “”We often hold patients in the emergency department ‘cause there’s no bed upstairs. It put quite a strain on us. We brought in extra people. We brought in physicians, nurses, and clerks, and lab, and extra. All up and down the line.”
Johnston says patient anxiety is starting to decline. He says his staff has processed some swabs to detect swine flu, but none have come back positive – so hospital workers haven’t prescribed any anti-viral medications.
- May 4, 2009 5:01 PM
- Categories: Health
State public health officials don’t plan widespread school closings in response to swine flu, Dr. Gil Chavez, infectious diseases deputy with the California Department of Public Health, told reporters in Sacramento.
Dr. Gil Chavez: “We want to give local officials as much discretion as we can, but certainly we will continue to revisit those recommendations as we learn more about the numbers.”
Individual schools in Orange and San Bernardino counties have closed after students became ill from the virus. In Mexico, where the government ordered all schools to close as a precaution against the strongest strain of swine flu, students are scheduled to return to class on Wednesday.
- May 4, 2009 4:19 PM
- Categories: Health
California’s recorded 69 confirmed and 121 probable swine flu cases in the state. Public health officials say 97 percent of probable cases end up as confirmed. The state’s disease control authorities are responding, says Dr. Bonnie Sorensen of the California Department of Public Health.
Dr. Bonnie Sorensen: “We are shifting our strategy, kind of transiting to less testing across the state but more focused attention on who needs to be tested.”
Sorensen says public health agencies are going to focus testing on counties with a lot of cases, and to test people with severe cases or who’ve checked into hospitals with the flu. While the strain of swine flu that’s reached California is relatively mild, Sorensen urged county officials to keep monitoring – especially if new cases surface in schools or prisons where the virus can infect large numbers of people. The state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has banned visits to inmates from relatives and volunteers as a precaution against spreading swine flu.
Public health experts say fear of the swine flu spiked demand for care at neighborhood clinics last week. Damon Taugher of Direct Relief USA, a non-profit medical supplier to clinics, says four times more patients than usual have seen clinic doctors in recent days. He says that as fears subside, his organization is restocking supplies.
Damon Taugher: “We’ve made a series of requests to our corporate donor network, including companies like Johnson & Johnson, to get the other items we hope to have early this week. Things like thermometers and gloves and gowns.”
Los Angeles County public health officials have confirmed at least three swine flu cases. Orange County has eight probable and two confirmed cases.
Riverside County reported two confirmed cases of swine flu yesterday. Public health authorities have warned that even though the flu seems to be tapering off now, it could come back with a vengeance in the fall.
An inmate with the flu has prompted correction officials in California to suspend family visits to state prisons. KPCC’s Julie Small reports.
Julie Small: Prison officials say an inmate at the Centinela State Prison in Imperial County appears to have the swine flu. That’s why they’re suspending all visits to all of California’s prisons, youth and community facilities. That means family members and any volunteers who run art and education programs in those places won’t be allowed in.
A spokesperson for the federal receiver in charge of prison medical care said although officials have only found only one suspected case of swine flu, the overcrowded conditions inside prisons increase the likelihood that the influenza would spread fast among California’s 170,000 inmates. That would also pose a threat to the 68,000 people who work in prisons.
- May 4, 2009 2:21 PM
- Categories: Health
Clinics throughout Los Angeles County are seeing more patients concerned about swine flu, even as the number of confirmed cases remains low. Direct Relief International, a medical aid organization, has been shipping masks, hand sanitizer, and gowns to clinicians around the globe.
The non-profit’s president Thomas Tighe says L.A. County clinics haven’t needed supplies. But he adds that patient panic has depleted personnel.
Thomas Tighe: ” An increased demand just to be seen. That translates into mandatory overtime for workers and costs that the private-nonprofit safety net clinics didn’t necessarily budget for.”
Tighe says Direct Relief International is trying to stockpile supplies from corporate donors – and to get ahead of the next flu outbreak.
The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the U.S. has risen to 109. Fourteen are in California – and officials say there are another 29 probable cases in the state.
The World Health Organization’s alert level is Phase 5, which is a step away from indicating a pandemic. Ralph Tripp, an influenza expert at the University of Georgia, told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that the term “pandemic” is misunderstood.
Ralph Tripp: “By definition, ‘pandemic’ really just means the spread of the virus throughout the world. It doesn’t indicate a particular disease or mortality rate. And in fact, almost all respiratory viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus, which effects the very young and the very old, are pandemic viruses. They start in a location and spread around the world each season.”
Tripp says those viruses are generally called “ubiquitous viruses” rather than pandemic. The chief of the World Health Organization said today that nothing in the past day indicates a need to raise the alert level above Phase 5.
- April 30, 2009 2:30 PM
- Categories: Health
Dr. Mark Horton with the California Department of Public Health told reporters in Sacramento that about one-quarter of the strategic national stockpile of antiviral medications and masks is being delivered to this state.
Dr. Mark Horton: “We are in turn working with all of our county jurisdictions to move those supplies forward to counties, and at the current time we are aware that 29 of our 58 counties, or 61 actual public health jurisdictions, have either received the supplies, or the supplies are on their way.”
Horton said his agency is not aware of a run on antiviral medicines at pharmacies. He recommended people contact their local health departments if their pharmacy is out of the medication.
- April 29, 2009 4:22 PM
- Categories: Health
Dr. Mark Horton with California’s Department of Public Health today echoed President Obama’s suggestion that schools that enroll students with suspected cases of swine flu temporarily shut their doors.
Dr. Mark Horton: “Our direction today, that we have sent out to all local health departments and we are making aware of all school districts, is that if a child confirmed to have swine flu, or considered a highly suspected case of swine flu, we are recommending that closure of the school be considered for at least seven days.”
Some Southland schools have already followed that advice, as a precaution. So far, the confirmed swine flu cases in the state have been mild.
- April 29, 2009 4:20 PM
- Categories: Health
The World Health Organization has raised the alert level for the fast-spreading swine flu virus from phase 4 to 5. The global health watchdog says a swine flu pandemic is imminent.
Ebony Wilson lives in Orange County with her husband and two young children. She says she’s been taking steps to protect her kids from the disease.
Ebony Wilson: “Try to keep them with hand sanitizer. At school, I tell them to wash their hands when they’re playing with the equipment and stuff like that, and watch out for people that are sneezing.”
Earlier today President Obama recommended that schools in the United States with confirmed or suspected swine flu cases should strongly consider closing for a few days. Los Angeles County public health officials still haven’t confirmed any cases of the disease, but they expect to.
- April 29, 2009 3:49 PM
- Categories: Health
The World Health Organization says a swine flu pandemic is imminent. The global health watchdog raised the alert level of the fast-spreading virus from phase four to five a short time ago.
Los Angeles County has no confirmed cases of the disease for now. But some Angelinos are starting to take precautions. Shon Wells works in the front office at Westchester High School near L.A. International Airport.
Shon Wells: “I work with kids, so I’m even more anal about washing my hands and making sure they don’t wanna hug me today and yesterday and this week and tomorrow. Not to the point where I don’t want to go outside, but I’m more mindful than I’ve ever been.”
California’s confirmed 14 cases of swine flu in San Diego, Imperial, San Bernardino, and Sacramento counties. L.A. County public health officials say they’re receiving and testing new samples every day. They believe it’s just a matter of time before they detect the swine flu.
- April 29, 2009 3:47 PM
- Categories: Health
Most college campuses have e-mail and text message alert systems. KPCC’s Nick Roman says the one at Cal State Long Beach today fired off an “Urgent Health Warning” on swine flu.
Nick Roman: The e-mail warning came from campus President F. King Alexander. It says a student in a Cal State Long Beach dorm got a “probable positive” for swine flu. The Long Beach Health Department needs two days to confirm the result. The message says the case is mild – the student has been isolated – and the roommate has moved out.
Infectious diseases can sweep quickly through a campus. That’s one reason local colleges posted swine flu info pages on their Web sites. Most are like the ones put up by USC, UC Irvine, and Occidental.
They reassure students, faculty, and staff that the campus has a pandemic plan in place. They advise anyone who’s sick to stay home. And they offer the usual tips on how to avoid the flu. UCLA even has a video from the director of the student health center with everything you need to know about swine flu.
The American School of Guadalajara in Mexico shut its doors for at least a week in response to the swine flu. Teacher Nathaniel Parson said he saw no signs of the virus there. But he left with his wife and son, anyway.
Nathaniel Parson: Well, if we stay, there’s nothing to do. If you want to go to a restaurant, you have to get takeout, because you can’t stay. And I guess they get penalized if they open the restaurant or the nightclubs.
“And even the stores, if you go in the stores, you have to wipe down the carts, and everyone has to wear a mask inside the stores. So we thought that does not sound like fun. You know, might as well come where it’s a little more – more relaxed.”
“More relaxed” means a weeklong visit with relatives in Santa Barbara. The Parsons family arrived at Los Angeles International Airport this morning.
There’s still no swine flu in Los Angeles County, but pharmacists report that many people are calling to demand antiviral drugs.
Doctors are prescribing Tamiflu to treat patients with swine flu. Los Angeles County’s health officer, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, says the county has about 700,000 courses of medication. He said he’s directing most of that supply to hospitals.
Dr. Jonathan Fielding: “The cache is really being reserved at this point for people who have severe illness, or health care workers that might be inadvertently exposed before some diagnosis was made.”
L.A. County public health officials expect neighborhood clinics and urgent care centers to rush severely ill patients to hospitals. That protocol would nearly eliminate pharmacies from the emergency care equation.
Pharmacists throughout the state say they don’t have a stockpile to meet the demand for antiviral drugs, and they can’t get clear confirmation on whether or when they’ll get more.
- April 29, 2009 2:35 PM
- Categories: Health
Forty-five daily flights to and from Mexico operate from Los Angeles International Airport. To guard against swine flu, it’s cleaning the restrooms in the international terminals twice an hour. KPCC’s Brian Watt spoke with a family just off a plane from Guadalajara, Mexico.
Brian Watt: Twenty-eight-year-old Nathaniel Parson teaches language arts at the American School of Guadalajara. He said the school took precautions against swine flu.
Nathaniel Parson: The day they heard about it, mid-day, they announced that students could go home as soon as they wanted. Students got on their cell phones, rides came within an hour.
Watt: Then the school shut down for at least a week. That gave Parson, his wife Grace, and son Solomon time to visit family in Santa Barbara. They flew to Los Angeles on Mexicana airlines.
Parson: We had to fill out a paper that asked us if we had any symptoms, flu-like symptoms, but no one took the paper.
Watt: The small paper form with a blurred “Gobierno Federal” seal asks travelers to check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ boxes next to 7 flu symptoms. At the bottom, it recommends that anybody who answers ‘yes’ to all the symptoms postpone their trip and visit a doctor.
- April 29, 2009 2:33 PM
- Categories: Health
Southland pharmacies are getting a lot of calls for Tamiflu and Relenza, but they don’t have enough of the antiviral medications to meet the demand. Los Angeles County’s health officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding says public health officials are intentionally limiting access to those drugs.
Dr. Jonathan Fielding: “What we are doing is working particularly with hospitals. It’s the severely ill case that we wanna make sure, if the physicians want to treat them with Tamiflu, that they have them. So, we’re in very close contact with the hospitals.”
Fielding says the more people who take antiviral drugs now, the more difficult it’ll be for public health officials to contain a possible flu pandemic. That’s because the influenza virus mutates pretty quickly.
L.A. County is getting about 625,000 courses of Tamiflu from the federal supply. That’ll boost the county’s stockpile to close to 700,000. Fielding said he can quadruple the number of courses of the anti-viral medication, if he needs to. Public health officials say that so far, they’ve detected no cases of swine flu in L.A.
- April 29, 2009 2:31 PM
- Categories: Health
In its yearly State of the Air report out today, the American Lung Association gave four Southland counties failing grades for high pollution. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has more.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The American Lung Association released its report on the steps of L.A. City Hall. Association officials praised Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s effort to rid the port area of polluting trucks and warned that the L.A. region continues to produce some of the worst air pollution in the country. The mayor confirmed the association’s assessment that the region’s improved a lot.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: I remember though, when you had to stay in the classroom when the pollution was so bad.
Guzman-Lopez: The report’s F grades are based on federal measurements. Last year L.A., Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties had too many days of unhealthful spikes in ozone and particle pollution.
Particle pollution’s made up of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, and chemicals. Ozone smog is the gas formed when sunlight reacts with the vapors of fuel burned in engines. The Lung Association says both pollutants contribute to the deaths of 18,000 Californians each year.
Federal Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano briefed reporters today on swine flu screening at U.S. borders. She said authorities informed the federal Centers for Disease Control about what they found.
Janet Napolitano:” As of today, Customs and Border Protection has referred a total of 49 suspected cases to the CDC or state and local officials. All the results have been negative except the eight that are still under study.”
Napolitano said border patrol agents detained suspected flu patients at land ports, and kept none of them for more than a couple of hours. She said she’s not sure where the eight people whose results are undetermined may be now.
- April 29, 2009 2:18 PM
- Categories: Health
The U.S. Marine Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms has confirmed a case of swine flu. A Marine there remains under quarantine, although his flu is apparently mild.
About 40 other people who came into close contact with the ill Marine are also confined to the base for at least five days. KPCC’s Steven Cuevas says health officials are also confirming four “probable” cases of swine flu in Riverside County.
Steven Cuevas: The patients tested positive for a strain of influenza that’s a strong indicator of swine flu. Test samples were sent to the state for confirmation.
Two of the people are hospitalized in Riverside – an 87-year-old woman who’d recently traveled to Baja California, and a 5-year-old girl. Two teenage girls – one from Indio and one from Corona – were treated as outpatients and are recovering.
Riverside County’s chief health officer, Eric Frykman, says this is a time for precaution, not panic. The county is closely monitoring school districts and other areas through a newly created flu response operations center.
Riverside County also declared a local emergency to secure federal and state resources against a possible outbreak. Public health authorities are encouraging people to avoid large crowds and public events until they know more about the extent of the flu in the region.
- April 29, 2009 2:08 PM
- Categories: Health
Immunization specialist Jeffrey Goad is president of the California Pharmacists Association. He told KPCC’s “AirTalk” that he’s begun to survey his members about the availability of anti-viral drugs for swine flu.
Jeffrey Goad: “It looks like, from across the state, most all pharmacists are seeing an inability to order the two drugs as well as any kind of definite confirmation of when they are going to be able to get it in.”
Goad said the survey went out just last night, so information’s still coming in. He added that one reason the drug supply is low is that it’s the end of the regular flu season – and that he hasn’t seen much evidence of stockpiling.
- April 29, 2009 2:05 PM
- Categories: Health
Smog in the Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Riverside region remains some of the worst in the nation, says an American Lung Association report out today.
Still, there are signs of improvement, said the association’s Dr. William Stringer. Particle pollution’s dropped 40 percent in recent years and ozone smog’s down more than 25 percent in the last decade.
Dr. William Stringer: “The good news is that we’re making progress over 5 to 10 years ago. The bad news is that because of our levels of ozone and particulates pollution we’re either first or fourth in the nation. That’s the part we don’t want to be. We don’t want to be in the pole position of pollution.”
Stringer said about 18,000 people die in California each year from smog-related illnesses. The American Lung Association praised L.A.’s mayor for his effort to rid the port of its most polluting trucks. But Stringer added that local, state, and federal officials must do more to promote public transportation – and better neighborhood planning to reduce pollution.
Cal State Long Beach is informing students by e-mail today about a probable case of swine flu at a campus dorm. KPCC’s Kevin Ferguson reports.
Kevin Ferguson: In the e-mail, Cal State Long Beach President F. King Alexander tells students that a fellow student, who lives at the Los Alamitos Residence Hall, fell ill on Sunday.
Alexander says the Long Beach Health Department told the school that test results indicated it was a “probable positive” case of swine flu, although confirmation will take a couple more days. Alexander says the student, who is not named, is isolated now and is recuperating from a mild case of the flu.
The school is notifying the student’s classmates, teachers, and other people who live in the dorm. In his e-mail, President Alexander notes that the student has not attended classes this week. He says any student who feels ill should skip class.
- April 29, 2009 11:51 AM
- Categories: Health
The U.S. Marine Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms is on guard for swine flu. A Marine there is under quarantine after contracting flu-like symptoms. KPCC’s Steven Cuevas says the Corps is also monitoring dozens of other Marines.
Steven Cuevas: More than 15,000 troops and other personnel live and work at the base. About 40 of them came into contact with the sick Marine. Now they’re restricted from eating in the mess hall and going to other parts of the sprawling desert base.
James Conway: We have one suspected but not confirmed case.
Cuevas: During a Pentagon news briefing, Marines General James Conway said the Marine apparently fell ill over the weekend.
Conway: He was been quarantined along with that of his roommate, that room has been quarantined off and he is undergoing additional tests.
Cuevas: The Marine’s roommate, who is not sick, is also on lockdown pending test results. All the Marines exposed to the virus are taking the anti-viral medicine Tamiflu.
It’s not clear how the sick Marine may have contracted the virus. He hadn’t been to Mexico lately. The general said the Marine is now up and around and “feeling pretty good.”
- April 29, 2009 11:10 AM
- Categories: Health
Two private, nonprofit community clinics called Clinica Monsenor Oscar Romero treat about 400 people every day. The locations are near downtown Los Angeles and most patients are from Mexico, or Central America. Doctor Paul Giboney says his staff has seen a lot of patient anxiety around swine flu.
Paul Giboney: “We haven’t identified any cases here in the last two days that we feel like are swine flu, although we are asking our patients who have recently traveled in the last week to Mexico to let us know.”
Health care providers are asking patients with high fevers, coughs, and body aches if they’ve traveled recently to Mexico – where the flu strain appears to be strongest.
Public health officials say the outbreak hasn’t shown up yet in L.A. County. They suspect it will. The county board of supervisors declared a public health emergency today to free up more resources in case of an outbreak.
- April 28, 2009 4:27 PM
- Categories: Health
State regulators say they’ve found dozens of varieties of jewelry that contain dangerous amounts of lead for sale at Southland stores and wholesalers. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.
Molly Peterson: Most of the items came from China. Many carry labels that declare them lead-free – even though some necklaces and earrings contained more than a hundred times the state’s limit for the metal in jewelry.
California’s banned lead in children’s jewelry for a year and a half. Kids who ingest lead by putting objects in their mouths can absorb it much faster – and can suffer brain or other impairment as a result.
The state has expanded the original ban to include adult jewelry and piercings, but the Department of Toxic Substances Control lacks the authority to demand a recall of the products. Instead, importers and stores in Vernon, Glendale, Northridge, Panorama City, and L.A. have promised to stop selling the jewelry, to dispose of it safely, and to ask their suppliers for proof that merchandise meets California standards from now on.
Public health officials haven’t yet detected the swine flu in Los Angeles County, but they say they would be surprised if it doesn’t show up. L.A. County’s heath officer Jonathan Fielding updated the board of supervisors on the outbreak this morning. He said his department is investigating two possible flu clusters at a couple of Santa Clarita Valley schools.
Jonathan Fielding: “We have a public health emergency that’s a cause for concern. We want to be on the precaution side. We want to stay ahead of this. That’s not the same as a cause for alarm, or for panic, which in fact there is not.”
The board of supervisors declared a countywide public health emergency today. Fielding said that the only way to detect swine flu is through laboratory tests – and that it takes a few days to get the results.
L.A. County officials expect to receive 675,000 courses of anti-viral medications from federal officials tomorrow. Authorities say there’s no need to distribute the drugs yet, but they’ll keep them handy, just in case.
- April 28, 2009 3:53 PM
- Categories: Health
Los Angeles County public health officials suspect two probable and two possible cases of swine flu. Authorities aren’t releasing any further details. They say no one has yet tested positive.
Those were some details of L.A. County’s health officer Jonathan Fielding’s update to the board of supervisors today. Chairman Don Knabe read part of the declaration of a public health emergency in L.A. County.
Don Knabe: “Hereby proclaiming and order by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors that a local emergency exists throughout Los Angeles County and shall be deemed to continue to exist until its termination is proclaimed by this board.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger freed up state resources to combat the virus in a similar proclamation this morning. California’s department of public health says the official statewide count of swine flu cases is up to 11.
- April 28, 2009 3:30 PM
- Categories: Health
To prepare for the possibility of a widespread swine flu outbreak in California, the governor has declared a state of emergency. That’ll allow all state agencies to direct personnel and money toward containing the virus, says Bonnie Sorenson of California’s Department of Public Health.
Bonnie Sorenson: “It also suspends the non-competitive bidding that we’re required to do under normal circumstances. We can directly go to whichever vendor has what we need and cut a contract to get things in place very quickly.”
Sorensen spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” So far, authorities have confirmed 11 swine flu cases in the state. None are in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, or Riverside counties.
The L.A. County coroner’s office is investigating two deaths of recently-hospitalized men. It’s tentatively determined that neither died from swine flu complications.
- April 28, 2009 2:32 PM
- Categories: Health
Governor Schwarzenegger says the state is taking “strong and swift action” to limit the spread of swine flu. This morning, the governor declared a state of emergency in California in response to the outbreak. He says the action will strengthen the state’s response.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: “What this basically does is it gives us some extra tools for our health authorities, in order to respond very quickly. And it also cuts through the red tape so that all state agencies will have to go and assist the Department of Public Health in everyway possible. We’re also joining the federal Centers for Disease Control in recommending that schools that have a student that has the virus – we will close the classrooms for one week.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 13 cases in California – 10 in San Diego and Imperial counties and three in Sacramento County. Schwarzenegger says all the cases have been relatively mild to moderate.
The governor says the state is also working with affected communities to assess their need for antiviral drugs and supplies. Supplies are already on the way to San Diego, Imperial, Merced, and Ventura counties.
California public health officials are working with the federal Centers for Disease Control to lay in a supply of swine flu vaccine, Bonnie Sorensen of the state Department of Public Health told reporters in Sacramento.
Bonnie Sorensen: “CDC is actually shipping 25 percent of their California portion to us today. And we are going to be receiving those actually later tonight. The stockpile that California has plus the additional stockpile that the CDC is providing is warehoused and earmarked to each individual county.”
Sorensen said she’s in contact with each of California’s 58 counties. So far San Diego – where authorities have reported five cases – has requested some of the vaccine. Sacramento plans to ship it there as soon as possible.
- April 27, 2009 4:29 PM
- Categories: Health
Travelers returning to Los Angeles from Mexico are reporting a sea of face masks all over Mexico City. Businessman John Langdon says the first he learned of the “swine flu” outbreak was when he arrived at the Mexico City airport.
John Langdon: “I had a driver picking me up – and when I got into the car with him, he handed me a bunch of sanitation wipes and said that there was an epidemic and I had to clean my hands.
“And then he told me he wasn’t feeling well, which really made it terrific. The driver said, ‘I feel like I have to go to the hospital, but they don’t want us to go to the hospital.’ And I said, ‘Can you let me out of the car?’”
Langdon says on his return trip to Los Angeles, flight attendants handed out a form asking passengers how they were feeling. But no one collected the papers at LAX when passengers cleared customs.
Governor Schwarzenegger said today that state health officials are closely monitoring the swine flu outbreak. Health officials say they’ve confirmed eight cases in California – and they’re investigating 12 other possible cases. Officials say the cases don’t appear to be directly connected to the outbreak in Mexico. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.
Frank Stoltze: The governor said state health officials are working closely with doctors, hospitals, and schools to detect any possible cases of swine flu through the state’s “Health Alert Network.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: We are monitoring this outbreak minute by minute and we are working aggressively to slow the swine flu spread in California.
Stoltze: California Department of Public Health Director Doctor Mark Horton joined Schwarzenegger at a Beverly Hills news conference. Horton said that there’s no cause for alarm, but that people can help prevent the spread of swine flu by taking precautions.
Dr. Mark Horton: Personal hygiene – hand washing is still one of the most important things we can do.
Stoltze: More advice: if you’re sick, don’t go to work or school where you can spread the disease. Officials called this an “emerging situation.” They urged people to visit the state’s public health Web site for more information.
- April 27, 2009 4:17 PM
- Categories: Health
In recent days, California’s referred suspected swine flu cases to the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Gil Chavez, of the state’s Center for Infectious Disease, told reporters that the testing picture will change soon.
Gil Chavez: “We are very, very happy that we are going to have the capacity in California to start conducting our own swine testing effective tomorrow.”
Chavez said state officials have secured the necessary technology to do the testing at the public health laboratory in Richmond, in Northern California. He pledged faster results from the in-state lab tests.
- April 27, 2009 4:06 PM
- Categories: Health
As the number of confirmed swine flu cases in Mexico rises, many Mexicans in Southern California are expressing worry about their family members back home. Antonia Castano moved to the United States about six months ago. She says her two adult sons live in Mexico City with their wives and children.
Antonia Castano (translated from Spanish): “I tell them not to eat dangerous things they shouldn’t be eating, like fast food from street vendors – tacos and stuff like that. It’s no good for you, because of all the illnesses. It scares me.”
In Mexico, 149 people have died of respiratory-related complications connected to the swine flu. In California, eight cases of the virus have surfaced, in San Diego and Imperial counties.
A student at a Claremont Catholic school was tested for the swine flu virus today after she developed flu-like symptoms. Those test results are pending. She and her mother had recently returned from a visit to Mexico.
- April 27, 2009 2:48 PM
- Categories: Health
California health officials say they’re working to slow the spread of swine flu in the state. California Department of Public Health Director Doctor Mark Horton says eight cases have been reported – seven in San Diego and Imperial counties.
Mark Horton: “We have enhanced our epidemiology – our surveillance efforts in the local areas in San Diego and Imperial County. We’ve got the health care community well engaged so that they are on the lookout for additional cases of influenza-like illness and doing appropriate testing. So we feel like we’ve done great efforts to enhance our abilities to detect this.”
The eighth case was a Sacramento County seventh grader who’s already recovered from mild symptoms of the illness. Health investigators also are checking a dozen additional probable cases in California.
- April 27, 2009 2:25 PM
- Categories: Health
Infectious disease expert Dr. Larry Baroff teaches at UCLA’s medical school and works in its hospital emergency room. He told KPCC’s “AirTalk” he’s seen no uptick of people coming into the ER with the flu.
Dr. Larry Baroff: “I worked this weekend both days and we saw essentially no patients with influenza-like illness during the time that I was there. I just spoke this morning with the people in the flu surveillance program at the state level and there has been a steady decline so far in the number of influenza-like illness cases.”
For prevention’s sake, public health officials are urging people to take precautions – including washing their hands often, and staying home from work or school if they experience flu-like symptoms.
- April 27, 2009 2:18 PM
- Categories: Health
Several hundred scientists and students marched on the UCLA campus today in support of animal experiments for medical research. Many of the protesters said they feared for their safety in recent years after several incidents of intimidation, vandalism, and firebombings that targeted UCLA scientists. Rally organizer psychiatrist David Jentsch addressed marchers. A few weeks ago, animal rights extremists firebombed his car outside his home.
David Jetsch: “We’re all in this together. Whether you participate in animal research or not, we’re all a community of scholars and we’re standing up today to say that that horrible face that comes in the night can’t come anymore.” [People cheer]
Demonstrators against animal research staged a much smaller counter-rally earlier in the day at UCLA. That group included people who oppose and others who support the use of violence to stop scientific experiments on animals.
The family of a woman who died after waiting for treatment in King Harbor Medical Center’s emergency room is entitled to a $3 million settlement from Los Angeles County. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says large numbers of Internet users watched a security camera recording of the woman’s final hour.
Cheryl Devall: A lawyer for the family of Edith Rodriguez says the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has agreed to the settlement of its lawsuit. The suit originated in an episode that cast the Willowbrook hospital in the glare of national publicity – 43-year-old Rodriguez writhed on the floor of the King Harbor emergency room for 45 minutes while medical and other personnel worked around her.
She had visited the hospital several times complaining of abdominal pain, and she died from complications from a perforated bowel. A widely-seen video of her agony hastened calls to improve the county-operated hospital that closed almost two years ago after it failed several inspections.
Rodriguez’ three children sued L.A. County claiming medical malpractice and violations of their mother’s civil rights. Their lawyer called the settlement fair. Rodriguez’ boyfriend, who accompanied her to the emergency room and called 911 from a pay phone there, received a quarter-million dollars from the county.
The office of Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has reached a settlement with College Hospital Costa Mesa over the alleged practice of dumping psychiatric patients on Skid Row. His office began investigating the practice a year ago – with case of 32-year-old Steven Davis.
The hospital dropped off Davis at the Union Rescue Mission after it determined that he was suffering from paranoid delusions. Delgadillo announced the settlement on the roof of the mission.
Rocky Delgadillo: “I think many of us have wondered why there are so many people living on Skid Row who have mental disorders. Well, our investigation indicates that in the two years prior to Mr. Davis being dumped on Skid Row, College Hospital – just College Hospital – may have dumped as many as 150 psychiatric patients on Skid Row.”
Delgadillo added that in some cases – like that of Steven Davis – the dumping left the patients homeless. College Hospital will pay more than one-and-a-half million dollars in fines and charitable contributions to agencies that care for mentally ill and homeless people.
It appears that more people may be putting off routine health care procedures because of the recession. An estimated half million people have lost their medical insurance in California since the start of the economic downturn.
Dr. John Schunhoff, interim director of L.A. County’s Department of Health Services, says emergency rooms in L.A. County and across the state are feeling the effects.
John Schunhoff: Each of our county emergency rooms have anecdotal info that people are coming in to ER because they have let their health insurance go – fired or laid off – and thus they have no primary care – and they’re coming in with conditions that become an emergency because they have no primary care.
Schunhoff spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.” The California Healthcare Foundation released a survey that found 43 percent of people younger than 50 had postponed care for a chronic health condition because of the cost.
It might not be obvious through your car window, but a health and fitness magazine ranks Los Angeles and Santa Ana among the best walking cities in the country. Really, says KPCC’s Cheryl Devall.
Cheryl Devall: Think of it this way – for most of the year the weather in these parts is better for walking than it is in much of the country. Climate is only one criterion Prevention magazine, Sperling’s Best Places, and the American Podiatric Medical Association factored in when they rated the best places for a good walk.
Safe streets, the number of parks per mile, and, believe it or not, air quality all counted too. Los Angeles – home to some great urban hiking – landed 14th on the list of the 25 best walking cities. The 18th spot went to Santa Ana – where the city and the historical society offer three-hour walking tours of cultural highlights.
The top-ranking city in the country is San Francisco – where a dozen local government agencies address issues related to walking. The entire list – and honorable mentions to the safest, most family-friendly, and best for walking commuters – is online at Prevention.com/Cities.
About 600 advocates of single payer medical insurance waved signs and cheered outside the White House regional forum on health care reform in downtown Los Angeles this morning.
Fourth-year medical student Parker Duncan spoke at the rally. At the University of California Irvine where he goes to school, Duncan said, most of his classmates want a Medi-Cal-type plan for all Americans.
Parker Duncan: “Because that’s the world we want to work in, because it allows us to treat patients, each patient, based upon their clinical presentation, not the card or cash they carry in their wallet.”
Inside California Endowment’s headquarters, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the health care policy forum. It was not open to the public. Groups from San Diego, Oakland, and Clovis participated via satellite. During his welcome, the governor emphasized several points of his health care reform plan.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: “The key thing is part of our reforms that we had is that 85 percent of the revenues that come in have to be spent on health care – on patients, and I think that’s very important.”
Schwarzenegger said his plan would also require everyone to carry medical insurance for the sake of universal access to medical care.
Single payer advocates say a bill in Congress would accomplish that – and would remove the profit margin from health care. The Obama administration has been advocating a public/private collaboration to promote medical care for everyone.
The world’s oldest woman, who lives in Los Angeles, turned 115 years old today. Gertrude Baines’ gifts included flowers, cards from little kids, a Dodger uniform, a huge cake, and letters and scrolls from politicians.
She didn’t speak with reporters during the ceremony. Dr. Stephen Coles, who runs the Supercentenarian Research Foundation, says she’s doing fine.
Dr. Stephen Coles: “Her only complaint, medically, is that she has a touch of arthritis in her left knee, so I’m expecting that we will see her many more years into the future, and that she will hold this record for a long time to come.”
Baines – an African-American born two years before the Plessy versus Ferguson Supreme Court ruling legalized Jim Crow segregation – lives in a convalescent home in the West Adams neighborhood.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would, for the first time, require the federal government to regulate tobacco products. Danny McGodrick is vice president of research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He was a principal negotiator on the bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration oversight over cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.
Danny McGodrick: “We think this is finally the year that we’re gonna end the special protection for the tobacco companies. You know, the FDA regulates virtually every other consumer product, or food or drugs, even our cosmetics, but the product that kills 400,000 Americans every year isn’t regulated by the FDA.”
McGodrick spoke with KPCC’s Larry Mantle. Lawmakers from tobacco-growing states have argued that the federal government is doing a sub-par job monitoring food and drug safety – and shouldn’t be entrusted with regulating tobacco. The legislation is still subject to U.S. Senate review.
- April 3, 2009 2:56 PM
- Categories: Health
The federal Food and Drug Administration hasn’t regulated tobacco products so far. But the U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bill that would broaden the agency’s role. Longtime anti-smoking activist Dr. Stanton Glantz told KPCC’s “AirTalk” he opposes a provision that would create a role for the tobacco industry in the regulation process.
Stanton Glantz: “To me, putting tobacco representatives on a policy-making body for the FDA would be a little bit like putting the Mafia on a policy-making body on organized crime for the Justice Department.”
Glantz heads the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at UC San Francisco. The bill that would give the federal government regulatory power over tobacco for the first time still has to undergo scrutiny in the U.S. Senate.
Disappearing jobs mean vanishing benefits for families. Among them: medical insurance. KPCC’s Debra Baer tells us a couple of new studies tally the toll.
Debra Baer: The first is from UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education. It found that since the recession began a year ago November, about a half a million Californians have lost their health coverage. Also, that the spike corresponds with the big rise in unemployment during the recession, from about 5-and-a-half to 10-and-a-half percent now.
The other study by Families USA shows that more than one-third of California’s non-seniors were uninsured at some point during the last two years – more than 12 million people – and that most of them are in working families.
Families USA Director Ron Pollack calls it “worse than an epidemic” – and a reflection of what’s happening to people around the country. Almost everyone in the U.S. has a relative, neighbor, or friend who was or is uninsured, he says, and that’s why lawmakers need to make health care reform a priority.
The federal Food and Drug Administration hasn’t issued a recall. But it is warning people to avoid eating California pistachios until scientists figure out the source of salmonella contamination in the nuts.
Ryan Jacobsen of the Farm Bureau in Fresno County, where most pistachios are grown, told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the government is suggesting caution instead of an outright ban.
Ryan Jacobsen: “FDA at this point has not really said not to eat pistachios, but they are taking the precautionary measures to make sure that they can get this issue resolved as quickly as possible.”
The bacterial contamination surfaced earlier this week. Salmonella can cause serious or even fatal infections in very young or elderly people and those with weak immune systems. Some food processors have issued voluntary recalls of their products that contain pistachios.
California hasn’t been able to convince a federal judge to stop an $8 billion plan to overhaul prison medical care. Now the city of Chino might take a shot at it. KPCC’s Steven Cuevas has that.
Steven Cuevas: Three years ago, a federal judge put California prison medical care into a receivership. Clark Kelso has been the receiver in charge for the past year.
He’s put together a sweeping plan to build new prison hospitals in California, including a 2,100 bed facility at CIM – the Chino Institution for Men. The proposed CIM hospital would provide care for convalescent inmates and for mentally-ill prisoners.
China Mayor Dennis Yates: The fire district makes over 1,000 calls a year out to that facility. We even had a call out there – an inmate’s gums were bleeding. The CIM, they call 911!
Cuevas: Chino Mayor Dennis Yates says he’s all for prison medical care reform, in part because the lack of care now at the prison in Chino puts a strain on his city. But Yates isn’t keen on the receiver’s plan.
Yates: I’m not really against the convalescent, medical part of the proposal. It was the mental patients.
And I even had many face-to-face meetings with Mr. Kelso, and he wants to bring in another 2,100 prisoners to further tax our safety resources when they haven’t addressed the mess the CIM is in now!
Cuevas: Chino might sue to stop the receiver from building a prison hospital at CIM. The city of Camarillo has already gone to court to stop plans for a new prison hospital there.
The city of Chino might join the legal fight over prison medical care in California. The state wants to stop an $8 billion overhaul of prison medical care. The plan comes from Clark Kelso, the federally-appointed receiver in charge of prison medical care. It calls for a new prison hospital at the California Institution for Men in Chino.
The hospital would treat mentally-ill inmates – and Chino mayor Dennis Yates says he doesn’t want that in his city.
Dennis Yates: “I’m not really against the convalescent, medical part of the proposal. It was the mental patients. And I even had several face to face meetings with Mr. Kelso.
“Our safety resources are being strained and he wants to bring in another 2,100 prisoners to further tax our safety resources when they haven’t addressed the mess the CIM is in. Now they wanna exacerbate the problem!”
Chino might sue to keep the hospital out. The city of Camarillo has already filed lawsuit to block the receiver from building a prison hospital there.
A federal judge in San Francisco has refused the governor’s bid to get rid of the court-appointed head of prison medical care in California. KPCC’s Nick Roman has more.
Nick Roman: Attorney General Jerry Brown made the case that the receiver wasn’t needed anymore. He told federal judge Thelton Henderson that medical care in California prisons has improved – and that the state should be in charge of running it again.
That argument fell flat. Judge Henderson put prison medical care in the hands of a receiver nearly three years ago – back when an inmate a day was dying from malpractice or neglect. The judge says he’s still “far from confident” that state officials have “the will, capacity, or leadership” to do the job.
That means receiver Clark Kelso stays. Kelso angered the governor and state lawmakers when he outlined an $8 billion plan to revamp medical care in the state prison system. He’s also asked that the governor be held in contempt of court for refusing to make a $250 million down payment on that plan. Attorney General Jerry Brown says he’ll appeal the judge’s decision to keep Clark Kelso in place.
This week, hundreds of people have visited Cal State Northridge’s annual conference on technology for disabled people. In 300 workshops and 140 exhibition booths, participants have discussed and test-driven the latest devices designed to make everyday living more accessible.
Sandy Plotin is with Northridge’s Center on Disability. This year, she says the conference focused on the nation’s 79 million baby boomers – a people who don’t want to lose personal freedoms and the comforts of home as they age.
Sandy Plotin: “It’s about be included and being independent and so, if you have a ‘smart home’ and you have smart technology, then you can continue to use the technology and the everyday living aides you use as you lose cognitive abilities – as you lose physical (dis)abilities, but you’ll be able to remain at home and still have all this technology that will allow you to be independent.”
Next year, the conference is moving to San Diego – Plotin says that city is more accessible to people with disabilities. This year’s conference at the L.A. Airport Marriott ends tomorrow afternoon at 1.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown is accusing several medical laboratories of ripping off California’s Medi-Cal program. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario has more on the alleged scheme.
Patricia Nazario: The attorney general says it works like this: labs offer some doctors and hospitals deep service discounts for patients with private insurance in exchange for more Medi-Cal patients. Then those labs bill Sacramento as much as six times more for the same services – blood tests, Hepatitis C and HIV screenings.
Brown filed a lawsuit against seven medical labs, including Quest Diagnostics. He says he wants to change what’s become standard practice in the industry…
Attorney General Jerry Brown: … and the relationship between the laboratory and how they bill and how the state to its medical program pays. This is big opportunity going forward to fix the problem.”
Nazario: Brown says fraud has been a pervasive problem for 10 to 15 years. He says his office hopes to win back hundreds of millions of dollars for the state in court.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown sounded like a potential candidate for governor when he spoke with reporters this morning.
The primary reason for the news conference was to accuse medical laboratories of running a fraud and kickback scheme that’s cheated hundreds of millions of dollars out of California’s Medi-Cal program. But the former Democratic governor broadened his criticism beyond that alleged malfeasance.
Jerry Brown: “And to me, it’s an example of the kind of waste that’s in state government. It’s not just in the Medi-Cal system. It’s in the prison system and a lot of other areas.”
Brown went on to say that as California faces successive budget deficits, it’s important to trim government waste. The attorney general’s suing seven medical labs connected to the scheme, including Laboratory Corporation of America and Quest Diagnostics. He claims that they and others have been defrauding the state for at least a decade.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown accuses medical laboratories of running a fraud and kickback scheme that’s swindled hundreds of millions of dollars out of California’s Medi-Cal program.
The alleged abuses came to light when medical lab owner Chris Riedel tried to do business with doctors and hospitals, but couldn’t match his competitors’ prices. The Northern California businessman told reporters he hired an attorney and began his own investigation.
Chris Riedel: “What we found is that these laboratories were charging deeply discounted prices to their private-pay clients and overcharging the Medi-Cal program to make up for the losses on the discounts.”
That investigation’s result is the basis of this lawsuit. The attorney general filed his case in San Mateo Superior Court against seven labs, including Quest Diagnostic.
Brown, a potential candidate for governor, said he wants to change what he called the labs’ questionable and pervasive practices, and to reimburse California hundreds of millions of dollars.
A former hospital executive pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in a scheme that used homeless patients to bilk the Medicaid and Medi-Cal systems out of millions of dollars. KPCC’s Brian Watt reports.
Brian Watt: A former senior vice president at City of Angels Medical Center, Dante Nicholson, admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to recruiters who found homeless people on Skid Row and referred them to City of Angels for unnecessary treatments. The hospital then billed Medicare and Medi-Cal for in-patient services.
Los Angeles and federal prosecutors exposed the fraud scheme last August. They said City of Angels and two other hospitals employed a man named Estill Mitts, who ran a Skid Row processing center that provided homeless “patients” with bogus diagnoses and paid them 20 or 30 dollars for a visit to one of the hospitals.
Mitts pleaded guilty about a month later, and a few months after that, the former chief executive of City of Angels did too. They’ll be sentenced later this year. Dante Nicholson, the former senior vice president, faces up to 10 years in federal prison. He’s agreed to pay more than $4 million in restitution to Medicare and Medi-Cal.
The plan to reopen King/Harbor Medical Center as a full service hospital won approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today.
The county’s chief executive officer, Bill Fujioka, outlined the initiative during the supervisors meeting. He said his office has flagged the project as one of the county’s highest priorities.
Bill Fujioka: “I feel that this project meets all the criteria and in fact could be a showcase for the county and for the federal government for federal stimulus dollars.”
If that money doesn’t arrive, Fujioka said, he would look to the county’s coffers to complete the near $400 million construction project.
Supervisors say the new Martin Luther King Hospital will be seismically safe. The planned facility would include 120 beds, an emergency room, and a pharmacy. It’s scheduled to reopen in about three years.
A jury has awarded $6 million to a doctor at Loma Linda University Medical Center for a botched back surgery that he claims ruined his health. Details from KPCC’s Debra Baer.
Debra Baer: Dr. Mark Macknet and his wife won the award in their medical negligence lawsuit against the hospital where he works as an anesthesiologist. Macknet claimed the surgeons who performed his back surgery more than four years ago used un-sterilized equipment that caused an infection.
His lawyer says that botched surgery required five more to fix it, and that the doctor will need to take pain medication for the rest of his life. Macknet also claims he’ll have to retire earlier than he’d planned.
A hospital spokeswoman says the jury reached the wrong verdict and the medical center is exploring its options, including an appeal.
The man a federal judge appointed to oversee prison medical care reform in California fired three of his top aides today. KPCC’s Nick Roman says this happened days before a court hearing in which state officials plan to ask the judge to get rid of the receiver’s office.
Nick Roman: Receiver Clark Kelso was appointed a year ago to supervise prison medical care fixes, in part because the former receiver went nose-to-nose with state officials too often. Some observers expected Kelso, who’d worked in state government, would be easier to work with.
Then he told the state about his $8 billion plan to upgrade prison medical care. Ever since, the governor’s office has tried to scuttle the receiver’s office. A court hearing on that comes up next week.
Kelso says there’s no link between its timing and his decision to fire three top aides. But he does say he made that decision to help his office work more “collaboratively with the state.” The three aides sent out their own statement. They blamed their departure on “irreconcilable differences” with Kelso. They say the receiver is going in a “new direction.”
An attorney for inmates says he hopes the dismissals don’t mean the push for better medical care in prisons is about to stall.
University officials at South Los Angeles’ Charles Drew School of Medicine, across the street from the Martin Luther King/Harbor Urgent Care Center, are looking forward to its restoration as a full-service hospital. L.A. County officials proposed a timeline for that this week.
University president Susan Kelly says it’ll take several years before the new facility can begin to train medical residents again.
Susan Kelly: “But it could still take medical students rotating through there and nurses and physician assistants. We certainly hope that from the moment it’s opened, that it can be a rotating site for medical students.”
Before L.A. County closed the hospital a year and a half ago, it doubled as a teaching facility for the Charles Drew medical school.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is proposing a partnership with the University of California and the state. If all the parties can work out the details, King Hospital could reopen in three years with 120 licensed beds.
South Los Angeles health care advocates firmly back plans to reopen Martin Luther King Hospital as a full-service medical facility. Right now, it operates as an urgent care clinic.
The Community Health Council’s Lark Galloway-Gilliam says the revived hospital would reduce emergency room wait times throughout L.A. County.
Lark Galloway-Gilliam: “One of the misnomers about Martin Luther King Hospital is that it was a problem for South Los Angeles and it was far from that. The closure of that hospital has had a ripple affect across hospitals throughout the L.A. basin.”
Since the county closed the hospital a year and a half ago, public health experts say seriously ill or injured patients have waited 12 hours or more on average to see doctors at surrounding hospitals.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is proposing a partnership with the University of California and the state. If it works out, King Hospital could reopen in three years with 120 licensed beds.
The Orange County counsel is studying the legal implications now that county supervisors have terminated a contract with Planned Parenthood. Earlier this week supervisors voted to cancel the organization’s contract to offer health and sex education.
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach says he opposed it, in part, because he didn’t want to spend county money with an organization that offers abortions. Moorlach also told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that he sees better uses for the money.
Supervisor John Moorlach: “Larry, at this time in our economy as it is, I would find that the funding should go to the community clinics that are helping those in dire need with their medical issues because they have been laid off and don’t have medical insurance. I see that as a much higher priority at this time.”
Supervisors approved the contract last year. It directed money toward a coalition of clinics. Moorlach says he didn’t realize at the time that Planned Parenthood was part of the coalition.
None of the money directly paid for abortions. The president of Planned Parenthood’s Orange County chapter says the money in question went toward programs that he believes help to prevent abortions.
UC Irvine’s medical school is focusing new attention on older adults. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall explains why.
Cheryl Devall: UC Irvine has received a $2 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation so it can incorporate more info about aging into its medical training. Over four years, the university plans to incorporate geriatrics education into fields of study from psychiatry to emergency medicine to oncology.
The main idea is to improve communication between doctors and older patients. The director of UCI’s Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse and Neglect points out that most doctors don’t know how to talk – or listen – to elderly patients about their health conditions.
Some of the grant will also adjust UCI Medical Center’s electronic medical records system, so it can warn doctors about possible drug interactions. That’s especially important for older patients, who often take lots of medications.
California’s population is graying. By next year, one in every five people here is expected to be over the age of 60.
Los Angeles County and the University of California have tentatively agreed to re-open Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital in three years. The county still has to locate a day-to-day operator for the Willowbrook facility.
Robert Ross, who heads the California Endowment, said he’s optimistic that officials will find the right operator for the job. He told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that the partnership with the county, the UC, and the governor’s office is a step in the right direction to improving L.A.’s health care system.
Robert Ross: “This is really quite – not just for the re-opening of Martin Luther King – it is really quite a sea change that we are seeing in the county leadership exhibiting a welcoming door and a portal to perhaps new ways of doing business to improve our health care delivery system here in Los Angeles.”
Ross added that it’ll be a challenge because the facility’s long operated under difficult bureaucratic and political constraints. L.A. County closed the full-service hospital more than a year and a half ago after it failed a series of federal inspections. The facility severed its teaching relationship with Charles Drew University, and it functions now as an urgent care clinic.
- March 12, 2009 12:50 PM
- Categories: Health
Los Angeles County officials hope to reopen Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital in three years. L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced yesterday that the county had reached a tentative agreement with the University of California that paves the way for the reopening of the hospital.
Ridley-Thomas told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that he hopes the tentative deal will attract a contractor that would manage the hospital’s day-to-day operations. He said the county’s had trouble with that.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: “There was no real structure in place – now we have a well-articulated plan with the county, with the University of California, so it’s a very, very – that is to say, an entirely different proposition. And I think you will find the highest and best out there seeking to be partners with us in this effort.”
The proposal calls for the county and the University of California to run the hospital in a public-private partnership. The county would pay all the costs for the new facility.
The board of supervisors and the UC board of regents would still have to approve the deal.
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche has agreed to buy California-based Genentech for nearly $47 billion. KPCC’s Steve Julian reports.
Steve Julian: Roche will pay $95 per share for the 44 percent of Genentech that Roche doesn’t already own. Its initial bid of $89 per share was rejected by Genentech’s board last July, but the board called on shareholders to accept Roche’s latest offer.
Negotiations took a while because both companies are waiting for study results on the effectiveness of Genentech’s Avastin. The drug is already Genentech’s best selling product and is approved for various types of breast, lung, and colon cancers.
Some analysts say a positive study could increase the value of Genentech’s shares. Roche said the combined company would be the seventh-largest U.S. pharmaceutical and would generate about $17 billion in annual revenues. It’ll be based in California.
The Orange County supervisors this week will take up an audit of a $36 million program that provides medical care in jails. KPCC’s Susan Valot says the audit makes a bunch of recommendations.
Susan Valot: The audit suggests the Health Care Agency’s Correctional Medical Services office has mismanaged medical care in Orange County jails. To fill jobs, managers sometimes hired relatives. They also hired workers who were already on staff to second jobs as contractors. Record keeping was poor, and that problem persisted for years.
The audit also found the jail medical staff had lots of nursing supervisors, but not enough nurses working under them. And it says the way medications are dispensed to inmates is inefficient and lacks oversight. The audit says the Health Care Agency should set up a leadership team to make changes quickly, and it should work with a local medical school to create a physician residency program in the jails.
Auditors say the two dozen changes they’ve recommended could save several million dollars every year, although the Health Care Agency says they wouldn’t save that much.
President Obama plans, on Monday, to lift federal funding restrictions on stem cell research. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports Southern California biologists are anxiously awaiting the move.
Frank Stoltze: Doctor Jerome Zack is with UCLA’s Broad Stem Cell Research Center. He applauded President Obama’s expected announcement lifting funding restrictions on stem cell research, and told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that UCLA could really use the money.
Jerome Zack: For brain type research, spinal cord injury. Others, including myself, are looking into how these cells can turn into blood cells where we could treat diseases like HIV or hemophilia, or some other diseases of the blood system. Others are looking at how these stem cells might be used to repair defects to the heart. So, there’s many diseases that can be looked at and much work being done here at UCLA.
Stoltze: For the last seven years, the Bush Administration refused to fund human embryo stem cell research, agreeing with conservative religious groups who believe using human embryos is immoral.
Biologists in Southern California say they’re looking forward to Monday’s announcement by President Obama that he’ll lift funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research. Jerome Zack is with the Broad Stem Cell Research Center at UCLA.
Jerome Zack: “Well, it’s actually very exciting because the availability of federal funding is what can move research forward much, much quicker. So the fact that this money would now be available for research on additional stem cell lines would really help galvanize things.”
Zack spoke to KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” Scientists believe stem cells obtained from early human embryos are capable of becoming any type of tissue in the body, and researching them could lead to insights into many diseases. Many conservative religious groups oppose federal funding of research involving human embryo cells.They believe destroying human embryos is immoral.
During a day-long summit today, President Barack Obama urged comprehensive health care reform by the end of this year.
Anthony Wright, executive director of the nonprofit Health Access California, says he’s eager to see that happen. Wright told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that most of the 46 million uninsured people in the United States aren’t happy with the present medical system.
Anthony Wright: “I think most people want coverage, most people want to be able to go to get the care that they need, and most people don’t want to be at risk of financial ruin when they do so. The issue is, is it available, is it affordable, is it administratively simple? Whether it’s getting it at work, or getting it through a public program, or buying it as an individual, there are reforms we can make to make coverage more available, more affordable, more automatic.”
In remarks to the White House meeting, the president told policymakers, consumer advocates, physicians, and business representatives that he hopes a transparent and inclusive process will produce a bipartisan consensus on how to insure everyone.
A day-long White House conference on health care reform today involved more than 150 members of Congress, doctors, and representatives from organized labor, business, insurance companies, and consumer organizations.
Richard Scott, a former hospital executive who heads Conservatives for Patients Rights, said he hopes the Obama Administration will steer clear of the single-payer national health care model found in Canada and Britain.
Richard Scott: “They do a very good job, probably, for basic care and for emergency care. Where they really struggle, every country that has a nationalized program really struggles, is on expensive treatments, because what happens is as you give more and more free care, it gets used up, the dollars get used up, and in a way to control cost, they ultimately have to ration.”
Scott told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the free market will drive down costs; that’s one reason does not believe in government-run health care.
For years, California and more than a dozen other states have battled the federal government over the ability to regulate auto emissions. Tomorrow in Washington DC, the federal Environmental Protection Agency will convene a public hearing on the matter. KPCC’s Julia Mitric offers this preview.
Julia Mitric: California, the country’s largest vehicle market, has changed its laws to tighten standards for tailpipe emissions. But the EPA blocked that move during the Bush Administration.
At President Obama’s request, the environmental agency will reconsider its earlier decision. Auto industry officials don’t want California to adopt stricter emissions rules that would force expensive design changes.
California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols challenges the industry’s argument.
Mary Nichols: This is not calling for them to use any new exotic technologies that aren’t out there today. In fact, based on the information they’ve filed, they’ve demonstrated that they are meeting these standards right now – for 2008, 2009, 2010.
Mitric: Nichols says now that 13 other states also want to adopt California’s tailpipe standards, a change in the rules could affect up to half the potential car buyers in the nation. She expects the EPA to make a final decision by June.
State regulators have hit 10 California hospitals with fines for medical errors reported over the past year. The violations cited by the California Department of Public Health range from mistakes in food handling to surgical errors. Each hospital will pay a $25,000 fine.
Kathleen Billingsley is the deputy director of the department’s Center for Health Care Quality. She says a fine shouldn’t stain a hospital’s reputation.
Kathleen Billingsley: “As consumers, we have to be aware of the fact that there are medical errors that take place in hospitals. And I think that one of the important things as a consumer, for me, would be to realize that if I went to one of these particular facilities, yes indeed they had a medical error.
“But I would feel very confident that the hospital had addressed the issue. I think that’s one thing that’s very important.”
Among the 10 hospitals that were fined were three in Orange County – Anaheim General, Fountain Valley Regional, and Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. A new state law in effect has doubled hospital fines. A mistake that happens this year will cost a hospital at least $50,000.
- March 3, 2009 3:42 PM
- Categories: Health
When it comes to self-awareness about health matters, American men trail women. A new report called “Out of Touch: American Men and the Health Care System” says that a quarter of respondents to its survey didn’t make any regular physician visits in the previous year, and one-third said they don’t have a regular doctor. The study’s lead author, Dr. David Sandman, said culture plays a big role in men’s approach to their well-being.
Dr. David Sandman: “Men consistently told us that they take better care of their automobiles than they do their own bodies. And a big part of that was their own attitudes and the sort of, you know, classic macho ideas.
“Men are taught from a very young age when we’re all boys out on the playing fields, ‘we should be tough, we should be strong, we shouldn’t cry, and we shouldn’t ask for help.’”
Sandman told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that he’s guilty of some of those same behaviors. Many men, he said, ignore medical problems for much too long.
- February 27, 2009 3:01 PM
- Categories: Health
Everybody’s got to go there, but many of us don’t want to think about it. That’s one reason the New York Times’ health columnist has written “Jane Brody’s Guide to the Great Beyond.”
Brody told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that although the circumstances of each person’s death may vary, age or illness can prompt similar thoughts in most people.
Jane Brody: “They know themselves that they’re closer to death, and yet they’re not able to say what is really bothering, what they really want to leave behind as a legacy.
“What they want to say to family members from whom they might have been a little estranged or perhaps committed some error of omission or commission that they want to correct before they leave this planet.”
Brody calls her book a practical primer on how we can prepare – medically, legally, and emotionally – for the inevitable.
Some high-profile DJs and hip-hop artists are planning a good time tonight for a good cause. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario has more on the Hollywood party and shoe drive that’ll benefit Soles4Souls.
Patricia Nazario: Los Angeles organizers have asked party goers to bring a new or gently worn pair of shoes to the door of the event at Element Hollywood. The venue is a couple of blocks east of the Kodak Theater.
It’s one of L.A.’s hottest 18-and-over clubs. The DJ will probably spin hip hop, classic soul, and funk. Everyone on the celebrity roster is donating time to the charitable event.
Soles4Souls is a global non-profit. The mission statement on its Web site is simple – the organization wants to affect as many lives as possible with the gift of shoes. The site says Soles4Souls is working in over 45 states and 61 countries where local agencies have said there’s a great need.
You don’t have to get your groove on to donate your kicks. Go online to Soles4Souls.org and type in your zip code to find a drop-off location in your ‘hood.
In a time of budget cuts, some UC Irvine medical and nursing students are providing a silver lining. KPCC’s Susan Valot says they’re opening a free health clinic this week.
Susan Valot: The new clinic is at the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope. That’s at the old Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. It’ll be run out of the village’s Hurtt Family Health Clinic.
The students will work under UCI faculty physicians to provide free services from 8 in the morning until noon every Saturday. Those services include preventive care, lab testing, and medication for people with low incomes who don’t qualify for government programs.
The grand opening’s this Wednesday. The UC Irvine Outreach Clinic’s being paid for with donations and by the university’s School of Medicine. The campus hopes to expand the hours – and branch out to other locations.
Uninsured and under-insured patients in Los Angeles County could receive seamless medical care if a $1 million grant works as visionaries intended. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario describes how it might work.
Patricia Nazario: The money is intended to help about two dozen neighborhood clinics create a Web-based electronic medical records system. It would allow doctors to gain easy access to patients’ personal information – health history, previous medical procedures, and prescribed medications – no matter where a patient goes for care.
A coalition of health care associations, public agencies, foundations, universities, consumer groups, and researchers called Health-e-LA received the grant from private medical insurers. PacificCare Health Systems and United Health Group were required to make the $50 million charitable investment when they merged four years ago.
The grant aims to improve health care delivery for blacks and Hispanics who live in underserved areas of L.A. The California Department of Managed Heath Care is monitoring the transition to electronic records. It’s the only public HMO watchdog agency in the country.
- February 18, 2009 5:46 PM
- Categories: Health
Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra hopes the new federal economic stimulus plan will help Southland hospitals and clinics improve the region’s health care infrastructure. He spoke at a news conference today at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario was there.
Patricia Nazario: The Los Angeles congressman says the stimulus plan provides direct dollars for Medicare programs. That means about $11 billion to California’s state-paid insurance for low and modest income families.
Becerra says that money will go a long way toward helping working-class people with chronic asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure manage those medical conditions.
Xavier Becerra: We want you to be able to work. We want you to also be healthy as you continue to work. One of the major components of this legislation is dollars to the states to help them make sure that they can continue to provide good health care to their citizens.
Nazario: Becerra says the trick will be making sure that lawmakers in Sacramento don’t direct that money toward closing California’s $42 billion budget gap.
The federal stimulus package also isolates about $20 billion to help community health clinics establish a national electronic medical records system.
President Obama’s economic stimulus plan carves out special funding for neighborhood health clinics. Congressman Xavier Becerra praised the move as vital for uninsured and unemployed people, especially in South Los Angeles. He said many of them suffer from medical conditions similar to those doctors see in rural areas where people don’t live near hospitals or clinics.
Congressman Xavier Becerra: “Here, our issue is not so much that we don’t have a hospital or a health facility within driving distance, it’s that they’re inaccessible to too many people, because people don’t have the money.”
Becerra and about a dozen health care advocates and providers discussed Obama’s stimulus plan today at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
The plan also includes federal money to help clinics establish a nationwide system that would store and disseminate electronic medical records.
- February 18, 2009 2:56 PM
- Categories: Health
Students at a South Los Angeles medical school will be able to ask officials there about the school’s finances and future tomorrow afternoon. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario says the president of Charles Drew University wants one-on-one time with the students.
Patricia Nazario: University president Dr. Susan Kelly started hearing about students’ concerns soon after she announced salary and job cuts almost two weeks ago.
She promises that student amenities and services will not factor into her cost-cutting equation. Kelly says she wants more of the institution’s resources to go toward students.
Dr. Susan Kelly: Because they have great needs at the moment. There’s not as much part-time work out there. We’ve put in a place a new scholarship program. We also will be distributing more of our own scholarship funds to students in needs, because these are hard time for everybody.
Nazario: The medical university focuses on training urban health care practitioners. Its closest teaching hospital used to be the L.A. County run King-Drew Medical Center. Charles Drew lost millions of dollars when L.A. County supervisors closed the hospital a year and half ago.
The global financial crisis is causing foundations and donors to scale back donations to the school. President Susan Kelly hopes that cutting executive salaries, travel, and overtime costs will help reduce annual expenses by $10 million.
It’s not often you hear about a business turning down money, especially now. But that’s what a local Fox TV affiliate did when an AIDS advocacy group tried to place a 30-second spot promoting condom use on Sunday’s episode of “The Family Guy.”
Michael Weinstein with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation says Fox-11 turned away his media buyer because its parent network doesn’t allow condom advertising during prime time.
Michael Weinstein: “We wanted to point out the most glaring example of hypocrisy. They won’t run a condom ad, but they will have very offensive content that demeans women, and that really sends the wrong messages to young people. The right message is, ‘if you’re going to be sexual, use a condom.’”
“The Family Guy” is a popular animated cartoon series. The watchdog group Parents Television Council gives it a Red rating for its sexual themes and language.
LINK: The Family Guy
A survey by the California Association of Public Hospitals finds the economic downturn is sending more people to public hospitals. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more.
Frank Stoltze: The survey of 19 public hospitals throughout the state found the number of patients up four percent in October of 2008, compared to October the year before. It found that public hospitals have also seen a 10 percent increase in the number of uninsured patients, and a 19 percent increase in the number of uninsured patients who visited emergency rooms.
The president of the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems says that as more people lose their jobs, they also lose their medical insurance or the means to pay for it. The closing of several public and private hospitals in Southern California compounds the problem.
The survey included County-USC, Olive View, and Harbor UCLA Medical Centers, all in Los Angeles County.
A special federal court ruled today that vaccines do not cause autism. More than 5,000 families had filed claims seeking compensation for their children’s autism, on the grounds that it was caused by vaccinations for measles or other diseases.
NPR science correspondent John Hamilton has covered this issue for many years. He told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the government presented a much stronger case.
John Hamilton: “The arguments put forth by the government were very persuasive – they involved large numbers of people in very highly controlled scientific experiments and epidemiological studies, of which there have been many.
“And, on the other hand, the plaintiffs often were individual pediatrician, who said ‘well in my clinical judgment I think the vaccine could have caused this,’ and so it did not seem like a close contest.”
One of the judges on the special court said the families seeking compensation were “the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical understanding” of autism. The families’ lawyers said they may appeal today’s ruling.
A special federal court today dealt a major blow to those who claim that routine childhood vaccinations cause autism. The U.S. Court of Claims ruled against three families seeking compensation for their children’s autism.
One of the “special masters” sitting on the court called the families’ evidence “weak, contradictory, and unpersuasive.” NPR Science Correspondent John Hamilton says researchers have come to the same conclusion for years.
John Hamilton: “It is pretty uniform. Every time they have done a study that looked at populations where you compare kids who got vaccines with kids who didn’t both in this country and in other countries, you find the same thing, that there is no difference in the rate of autism among the kids who got vaccinated and the kids who didn’t. And that makes a pretty convincing case that the vaccines are not causing autism.”
Hamilton spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” The ruling is unlikely to persuade those who are convinced of a link between vaccinations and autism. Lawyers for the families say they may appeal.
As Sacramento lawmakers iron out the details of an agreement to close California’s $42 billion budget gap, few details have surfaced about cuts in state health care programs. Anthony Wright heads the nonprofit Health Access California. He told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that the state needs to maintain health care spending.
Anthony Wright: “What we’re concerned about is this spending limit that would arbitrarily cap our ability to meet health care and other needs into the future, especially for health care.”
Wright added that because the cost of medical care keeps rising and the population is getting older, it’s important for lawmakers to ensure that Californians can rely on the state for the health care they need.
The Los Angeles City Attorney has reached a settlement with Health Net over accusations that the insurance company wrongfully terminated the policies of people who’d filed expensive medical claims. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more.
Frank Stoltze: State regulators already have reached settlements with Los Angeles-based Health Net. Jeff Isaacs of the city attorney’s office argues that L.A.’s settlement is better, starting with its requirement that Health Net pay people whose policies it terminated.
Jeff Isaacs: Six-point-three million that will be distributed to approximately 800 or so rescission victims. And it will be distributed automatically so they don’t have to do anything. And the average amount of the distribution will be close to $8,000 per victim.
Stoltze: The state settlements include no such provision. Isaacs says the city’s deal also makes it easier to obtain reimbursement for medical costs incurred after people lost their coverage, although it caps the total amount at $3 million. Health Net also has agreed to pay $2 million in civil penalties.
The state insurance commissioner also has announced a settlement with Anthem Blue Cross that includes reinstating the policies of 2300 people.
In recent years Los Angeles, two state regulators, and policy holders have sued various health insurance companies over their alleged practice of dumping people who make expensive claims.
The state’s largest for-profit health provider has agreed to reinstate medical insurance policies for 2300 people in California. State regulators had accused Anthem Blue Cross of wrongfully terminating their policies. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.
Frank Stoltze: State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said Anthem Blue Cross has agreed to reinstate policies, and to reimburse any medical costs people incurred after the insurer terminated them, at an estimated cost of $14 million.
Commissioner Steve Poizner: This is a very major important settlement here. I pushed these companies extremely hard – lots of arm twisting to get them to really help these 2300 people who are really in a desperate situation.
Stoltze: Anthem Blue Cross will also pay a $1 million fine to the state.
Jerry Flannigan of Consumer Watchdog called the fine an insult to Californians. He told the Los Angeles Times that it pales in comparison to what the company probably saved by cancelling the policies of people facing illnesses.
Poizner said that in the last five years, Anthem used innocent mistakes on applications to claim people had failed to disclose pre-existing health problems… and cancel their policies. The company’s agreed to simplify applications, and to refine medical pre-screening. That could result in more rejected applications.
Regulators have reached similar agreements with Blue Shield and Health Net, and they’re reviewing market practices by Kaiser and Aetna.
After six months of negotiations, eight L.A. Unified labor unions that represent more than 100,000 active and retired employees announced today a significant three-year agreement on health and welfare benefits. United Teachers Los Angeles president AJ Duffy spoke with reporters about the deal.
AJ Duffy: “This is a good agreement. This will allow the current level of benefits to be continued for active employees, and will allow the district to maintain it’s time-honored agreements with retirees who’ve given a lifetime of service.”
The deal guarantees that for the rest of this year, active and retired L.A. Unified employees will keep their current benefits and won’t have to pay health care premiums.
In the following two years, a school district committee that consists almost entirely of union members will have more power to negotiate benefits with providers. It’ll cost L.A. Unified more than $900 million to provide these benefits this year.
The teachers union is negotiating separately with the school district on salary increases. UTLA leaders are moving forward with a strike authorization vote next month.
Charles Drew University in South Los Angeles plans to lower its expenses by cutting jobs, reducing some salaries, and limiting staff travel.
The teaching hospital nearest the campus – L.A. County-run King-Drew Medical Center – closed a year and a half ago. The president of the medical school, Dr. Susan Kelly, says she hopes to lay off no more than three or four dozen people.
Dr. Susan Kelly: “Some jobs are redundant. We don’t need them anymore, because we don’t do that work anymore. Others, we need fewer of them and others, we need to adapt to the fact that revenues have declined. Some people need to be part time until we can restore the funding to that area.”
Kelly says donations to the private, non-profit medical school are drying up.
She says financial aid for its 325 students is not in jeopardy. But Kelly might stop construction of the university’s nursing school building, if Sacramento doesn’t make good on a $10 million grant toward the project. That’s a real possibility amid California’s $42 billion budget crisis.
In addition to the hospital it runs with Los Angeles County, the University of Southern California is affiliated with a few private hospitals. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says USC plans to buy two of those facilities.
Cheryl Devall: All the University of Southern California hospitals help train the next generation of doctors. Hospital management company Tenet Healthcare operated two of the smaller ones – USC University Hospital and the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Both accept only private or physician-referred patients.
A couple of years ago, the university went to court to end its relationship with Tenet. It claimed the company wasn’t investing enough in the facilities. Tenet countersued. USC’s acquisition of the two hospitals settles the legal dispute. University officials say the $275 million deal will foster more coordination and control of USC’s medical teaching, research, and practice.
That could, ultimately, affect operations at the biggest of the USC hospitals, the one it runs with L.A. County. Fifty-thousand patients check into County-USC Medical Center each year. Another three-quarters of a million get outpatient treatment there.
A gossip Web page has posted a video of an interview with the mother of octuplet mom Nadya Suleman. KPCC’s Nick Roman says the mother – Angela Suleman – is critical of her unmarried daughter’s decision to have eight more children.
Nick Roman: The interview video is on the gossip Web page RadarOnline.com. It’s only two minutes long – and it’s heavily edited. In it, Angela Suleman says what her daughter Nadya has done is “unconscionable.”
She says she loves the six “wonderful, beautiful” children that already live in her three-bedroom home. She says she doesn’t know how her daughter will cope – and she says she hopes 33-year-old Nadya will find other living accommodations for “all her children.”
In the written story that accompanies the video, Angela Suleman says she and her husband begged one doctor not to implant any more embryos in her daughter.
The story includes four photos that show the inside of the Suleman house now – with just six kids living there. Clothes are stuffed into closets and piled on the floor. The publicist for Nadya Suleman says his client hasn’t been in the house for two months – and shouldn’t be responsible for its condition.
- February 9, 2009 5:11 PM
- Categories: Health
The state medical board is investigating the doctor who helped a woman conceive octuplets born late last month. In her first interviews since the births, Nadya Suleman told NBC that an in vitro fertilization clinic in Beverly Hills helped her become pregnant with all 14 of her children.
Richard Paulson, who heads the non-profit fertility practice at USC, cautioned against a rush to judgment regarding the doctors involved.
Richard Paulson: “What patients tell you in the privacy of the patient-doctor relationship may be different from what they say to the public and what they say when the cameras are on and they’re getting this kind of national attention, so I continue to hold out hope that there is some reasonable explanation for how this all came down – and this will all unfold in some reasonable way, and we’re all going to say, ‘Oh, now I get it.’”
Paulson spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.” The 33-year-old single mother at the center of the multiple-births story has come in for intense criticism. In the televised interviews she calmly defended what she called her unconventional choices.
- February 9, 2009 2:01 PM
- Categories: Health
The mother who recently gave birth to octuplets has identified the fertility clinic that treated her. Nadya Suleman told NBC’s Today Show that West Coast IVF Clinic in Beverly Hills helped her conceive all 14 of her children.
The Medical Board of California is investigating the doctor who assisted the most recent procedure.
Richard Paulson is director of USC Fertility, a non-profit practice at USC. He spoke with KPCC’s Larry Mantle about the focus of the investigation.
Richard Paulson: “The question is, was the standard of care breached in this case, and the standard of care would then pertain to both the number of embryos that were transferred, the quality of those embryos, the overall prognosis of the patient, and I think even to some extent, potentially, the psychological issues in this case.”
The board did not identify the doctor it’s investigating, but KTLA-TV aired a video recorded a couple of years ago that shows a doctor named Michael Kamrava treating Suleman and discussing the implantation process.
Suleman’s mother has told an online magazine that the fertility specialist who helped her daughter conceive octuplets was not the one who aided her previous pregnancies.
- February 9, 2009 1:38 PM
- Categories: Health
When classes start up Monday at a couple of Orange County community colleges, something will be missing: smoke. KPCC’s Susan Valot says two campuses are joining the ranks of the “smoke-free.”
Susan Valot: If you smoke, you’ll now be pushed to the outskirts at Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College. They’ve declared themselves “smoke-free” institutions, starting this semester.
That means no tobacco in buildings, on sidewalks, or on the college mall. The ban includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes… even chewing tobacco. Smokers will have to head to the parking lots around the perimeters of the campuses if they want to light up. Initially, there’ll just be signs and polite reminders to let smokers and tobacco chewers know.
The number of college campuses that have banned or limited smoking has grown over the past few years. Some campuses have really strict policies. For example, smoking’s not allowed anywhere on campus at Fullerton College and Santa Monica College… not even the parking lots.
The mother of the octuplets born in Los Angeles this week has chosen to give her first interview to NBC’s Today show. In an excerpt released today, Nadya Suleman revealed that she had used in vitro fertilization for all six of the kids she had before the octuplets.
She said she used the same fertility clinic for all of her kids, and that her doctor had fully explained the risks to her each time. Suleman said she had six embryos implanted every time she had kids, and she figured her last procedure would produce her seventh child – not numbers seven through 14.
Nadya Suleman: “For me, I feel as though I’ve been under the microscope because I’ve chosen this unconventional life. I didn’t intend on it being unconventional, it just turned out to be. All I wanted was children. I wanted to be a mom; that’s all I ever wanted in my life. I love my children.”
Suleman said she never considered aborting some of the embryos when she found out that she was pregnant with eight more children. She said a friend is the biological father of all 14 kids.
The 33-year-old Suleman is an unemployed single mom – she’s planning on getting a Master’s degree in counseling. The Today Show will air the full interview on Monday.
- February 6, 2009 3:53 PM
- Categories: Health
We’re finally getting to hear from the mother of those octuplets born in Los Angeles last week. Nadya Suleman spoke with NBC’s Today Show. NBC released an excerpt today – the full interview airs on Monday.
In the interview, Suleman defended her decision to pursue fertility treatments, even though she was already raising six kids as an unemployed single mom. She said she’ll be able to give a lot to her brood of 14.
Nadya Suleman: “I’m providing myself to my children. I’m loving them unconditionally, accepting them unconditionally, everything I do. I’ll stop my life for them, and be present with them, and hold them, and be with them. And how many parents do that? I’m sure there are many that do, but many don’t.”
Suleman said that she had six embryos implanted, and two turned out to be twins. She said she never considered aborting some of the embryos when she learned that they all had taken.
Suleman also said she used in vitro fertilization for each of her first six children, and that a friend is the biological father of all 14. Documents obtained by news organizations reveal that Suleman had three miscarriages over seven years before she had her first child.
- February 6, 2009 3:44 PM
- Categories: Health
Nadya Suleman, the mother who gave birth to octuplets last week, is finally speaking in public. She gave an interview to NBC’s Today show. NBC released an excerpt today; the full interview airs on Monday.
Many have criticized the 33-year-old Suleman for pursuing fertility treatments, since she was an unemployed single mom with six kids. She insisted that she will be able to care for all 14 children after she finishes getting her Master’s degree in counseling.
Nadya Suleman: “I know I’ll be able to afford them when I’m done with my schooling. If I were just sitting down, watching TV, and not being as determined as I am to succeed and provide a better future for my children, I believe that would be considered to a certain degree selfish.”
NBC said Suleman explained that a friend is the biological father of all 14 kids. She said that she had six embryos implanted for all six of the children she had before the octuplets. She said she used the same fertility clinic throughout, although she did not name it in the Today show excerpt. Documents obtained by news organizations revealed that Suleman had three miscarriages over seven years before she had her first child.
- February 6, 2009 3:31 PM
- Categories: Health
This week’s federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in West Los Angeles have generated new debate over the extent to which federal drug laws supersede California law that permits doctor-prescribed pot use. John Eastman, dean of Chapman University’s law school, said that as far as the feds are concerned, it’s all illegal.
John Eastman: “The impact of the medical marijuana business in California extends beyond its borders. You can’t distinguish marijuana that’s moved in interstate commerce from that which has not. And so therefore it’s within the federal government’s power. The federal law prevails or trumps the state law.”
Eastman spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.” Although the new president said on the campaign trail that he supports the idea of regulated medical marijuana, federal policy has not changed in the two-and-a-half weeks since Barack Obama took office.
California’s Healthy Families program is in the clear for the next four-and-a-half years. President Barack Obama has signed bipartisan legislation that stabilizes federal funding for that program and for similar, low-cost health insurance plans for children across the country.
About 70,000 uninsured kids and teenagers in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties stand to benefit from the new law. Richard Brown, who teaches public health at UCLA, says it’ll allow families who earn a little above the federal poverty level to qualify for health, dental, and vision care coverage.
Richard Brown: “The poverty level for a family of four is around $19,000 a year, today. So, this would enable us to raise it to three times that level. When you think about the cost of housing in California, the cost of transportation, that is not a lot of money to, then, go out and buy health insurance.”
Brown co-wrote a new study (released Wednesday) on uninsured children and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. It dissected areas of the Inland Empire by senate, assembly, and congressional districts, and estimated the numbers of uninsured children based on income in those areas.
LINK: UCLA Study
Federal regulators postponed rules that would have forced companies to check children’s products for harmful chemicals, including lead. KPCC’s Molly Peterson has more.
Molly Peterson: Starting next week, the makers of kid’s clothes and toys were supposed to guarantee that their products are lead-free. Now the manufacturers have another year.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission is calling the deferral a clarification. It’s the latest of many. When Congress passed the ban last year, it also passed along to the Commission the lobbying it had been getting from all sides.
Outcry from thrift stores has prompted regulators to exempt them from testing every article of clothing for lead. Environmentalists successfully pushed to keep the ban and testing in place for children’s cribs, jewelry, and some toys that could break. Small businesses complaining the ban is cumbersome are seeking exemptions from having to comply with it.
All that’s adding up. Congressional leaders, including Representative Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, are calling for clearer communication so businesses and consumers will know what’s in the ban, what’s out, and what’s still in doubt.
A new study out of UC Irvine could someday help doctors pinpoint women likely to suffer from postpartum depression. KPCC’s Susan Valot explains.
Susan Valot: UC Irvine researchers studied 100 women during their pregnancies and after delivery. Sixteen developed postpartum depression symptoms. A dozen of those women had shown higher levels of a hormone produced by the placenta about 25 weeks into pregnancy.
The hormone is one of the body’s ways of dealing with stress, such as the stress of giving birth. But other factors can trigger production in some women. Too much of the hormone means a woman is more likely to suffer depression after giving birth.
Researchers say the discovery could help doctors identify and treat women for postpartum depression long before they show symptoms.
Federal investigators today arrested a hospital executive who once was in charge of L.A.’s City of Angeles Medical Center. KPCC’s Nick Roman says it’s the latest move in a long investigation into hospital billing.
Nick Roman: The executive – Robert Bourseau - has been in trouble with the feds before. Five years ago, they sued him and his business partner over Medicare bills at a psychiatric hospital in San Diego. But the fraud allegations he faces in connection with City of Angels Medical Center are a lot more serious.
The feds say recruiters scouted homeless people who qualify for Medicare or Medi-Cal. They paid them up to $30 to visit an “assessment center” that allegedly cooked up phony diagnoses - and then sent them to City of Angels for treatments they didn’t need. The bills went to the government.
Bourseau’s business partner pleaded guilty last month to his part in the scheme. Seven years ago, an “L.A. Business Journal” article looked at how Bourseau and his partners had turned City of Angels Medical Center into a success. It said the hospital showed “what works, and what doesn’t, in urban health care.” Put the emphasis on the “what doesn’t” part - and the line is still true.
California public health authorities have expanded the recall of peanut butter cookies and dough sold in school fundraisers. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says 25 Southland schools may have sold products contaminated with the salmonella bacteria.
Cheryl Devall: The source of the peanut butter is a processing plant in Georgia that federal regulators say kept producing even after inspections turned up signs of contamination. Peanut products from that facility have sickened more than 500 people in 43 states.
Those products don’t include jars of peanut butter in stores. They do include the peanut butter in Dough-to-Go and Jane Dough cookie batter - two companies that distribute to schools and other fundraising organizations. The dough in question sold between last August and January 16 of this year.
The list of schools that sold the products includes 11 in Riverside County, five in Los Angeles County, four schools in Orange County, and two in San Bernardino County.
A full list of the schools involved - and the potentially contaminated product codes - is available on the California Department of Public Health Web site. So far, the state has not traced any illnesses to these products - but the recall is in effect because salmonella can cause serious infections.
- January 28, 2009 3:36 PM
- Categories: Health
A group of California emergency room doctors is suing the state. They argue that California has failed to adequately fund an emergency room system that’s been in decline for decades.
Dr. Irv Edwards is a plaintiff in the class action lawsuit. He directs emergency services at Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City.
Irv Edwards: “The emergency departments are loosely called ‘the safety net.’ And we’ve watching this simply tatter and tear to the point that we felt we needed to sound the battle cry that citizens and residents of the counties of California may not be able to access emergency care when they need it the most.”
Edwards spoke with KPCC’s Larry Mantle. The ER doctors claim that, because the state doesn’t reimburse them enough for treating Medi-Cal patients, they often have to subsidize treatments. The suit also claims that cardiologists and other specialists are not willing to volunteer their services at emergency rooms because of the low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. The state hasn’t yet commented on the suit.
- January 28, 2009 1:29 PM
- Categories: Health
State Attorney General Jerry Brown is calling for an end to federal oversight of the state’s prison health care system. Brown described federally-appointed prison receiver Clark Kelso’s $8 billion proposal for new, improved prisons as boondoggle the state can’t afford.
Jerry Brown: “And what the receiver’s become is a parallel government, operating virtually in secret, not accountable, not subject to public scrutiny. And the result of that is this wild spending – that far exceeds what the constitution requires and far exceeds what California is capable of.”
During a state capitol press conference today, Brown conceded that Kelso has helped to improve the quality of medical care for inmates in recent years. But he insists it’s time for the state to reassert its responsibility for prison health care. Brown has filed a motion in federal court to terminate the federal receivership.
The state is filing a motion to terminate the federally-appointed receiver in charge of improving health care in California prisons. Attorney General Jerry Brown says the state will also ask a federal judge to terminate the $8 billion plan that receiver Clark Kelso has proposed to build more prison medical facilities.
Jerry Brown: “We maintain now it’s time to return the management of our prisons to the people who are authorized by law to do that. What’s happened in the interim, like any good idea it’s gone to excess, and what the receiver’s become is a parallel government, operating virtually in secret, not accountable, not subject to public scrutiny.”
Brown accuses Kelso of engaging in wild spending that far exceeds what the constitution requires. State officials also insist that the health care system has improved and is no longer in need of federal oversight.
Kelso told the Los Angeles Times that the state’s impending move was “outrageous” and would lead to more unnecessary deaths and suffering among inmates.
The parents of healthy octuplets born last night in Bellflower are adjusting to a daunting new reality. KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” asked Courtnee Stevenson, mother of quintuplets born almost three years ago in western Washington, to describe what the new parents can expect.
Courtnee Stevenson: “This is a tough life, and it’s tough on a marriage, and it’s tough on a soul and the spirit. And every day it’s hard, and I have my ups and my downs. And it’s just trying to find that equal balance to where you feel as a person that you’re being appreciated, and that’s hard when you have this many kids.”
Stevenson’s advice for the new mother is to not feel bad about taking handouts from people who want to help, because she’ll need them. She also suggested that the Southland parents connect with other multiple-birth couples online for support and information. When their five babies arrived, Stevenson and her husband were already the parents of a 3-year-old daughter.
- January 27, 2009 4:16 PM
- Categories: Health
Ready or not, the lives of a Southland couple have changed with the birth of eight healthy babies. Courtnee Stevenson, the mother of quintuplets who are almost three years old, shared some insights about what the new parents are in for with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
Courtnee Stevenson: “The hospital kind of set us up with a really good way to do things. We put together a chart and we had a checklist of who had bottles, bowel movements, potty diapers, and who’s had a bath, and we weighed them every night to make sure they were gaining weight properly.”
Stevenson said several volunteers helped her and her husband with their five newborns. The neonatology staff at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center told reporters that the octuplets there are in good shape even though they’re nine weeks premature.
- January 27, 2009 4:02 PM
- Categories: Health
The medical team that attended the births of a rare set of octuplets in Bellflower yesterday is expressing relief that the babies appear healthy and are breathing with minimal help. Dr. Mandahir Gupta discussed their condition with reporters at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center. He noted that the normal human gestation time is 40 weeks.
Dr. Mandahir Gupta: “We are pretty confident about taking care of babies at 30 weeks. Only thing was we had to plan out for the numbers, so our team was… we had some dry runs, as we told you yesterday and it went very very smoothly. So even though we got one extra baby we were able to handle that baby without any problems or any hitch at all.”
Gupta said the parents - whom the hospital hasn’t identified yet - had been expecting only seven children. Forty-six physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and surgical technicians assisted with the delivery.
- January 27, 2009 2:58 PM
- Categories: Health
Doctors say eight babies born to a woman in Bellflower yesterday will likely remain in incubators for six to eight weeks. They are the world’s second live-born octuplets. Dr. Mandhir Gupta led a team of doctors who delivered the six boys and two girls.
Mandhir Gupta: “I was right there, you know – we had taken care of what we thought was the last baby, then Dr. Henry says, ‘Oh, there is one more.’ And it was at first a little bit shocking for maybe one or two seconds, but then it was more of an excitement that we need to manage that one baby, and we managed that baby, actually, very very well.”
Karen Maples: “He thought it was a bad joke. Tell the truth.”
Harold Henry: “Absolutely.” (laughs)
Doctors Karen Maples and Harold Henry helped deliver the babies. Doctors did not identify the mother and did not say whether or not she used fertility drugs - which often help women produce more than one baby.
- January 27, 2009 12:46 PM
- Categories: Health
Doctors at Kaiser Permanente in Bellflower say all eight babies born to a woman yesterday are doing well. They are the world’s second live-born set of octuplets. Doctors Harold Henry and Mandhir Gupta helped deliver the six boys and two girls.
Harold Hall: “The delivery process went very smoothly. We practiced several dry runs, and the actual delivery process only took about five minutes to deliver all eight babies.”
Mandhir Gupta: “It was absolutely amazing for my team to take care of all eight babies at time of birth. The team did a wonderful job, a really, really wonderful job. And the babies are all doing very well. And we resuscitated them at birth and they are all doing good.”
The babies ranged in weight from 1 pound, 8 ounces to 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Doctors did not release the name of the mother, nor say whether she took fertility drugs. Such drugs often help women produce more than one baby.
- January 27, 2009 12:44 PM
- Categories: Health
A California biotech firm has announced it will perform the world’s first study of a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells. The Geron Corporation received federal approval this week for the clinical trials. This summer, the company plans to begin the trials on a group of spinal cord injury patients.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine helped pay for the research that led to the new treatment. Its president, Dr. Alan Trounson, spoke on KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
Dr. Alan Trounson: “We should see this as a beginning and a very important beginning, because these are safety trials that the Geron company are doing, and I think this is a very important mark in the history of this new medicine. So a beginning, and I think we can expect, you know, many more trials to come forward.”
UC Irvine scientists developed the stem cell therapy and used it successfully on paralyzed rats. The Geron Corporation, based in Menlo Park, says it has selected up to seven medical centers around the country to participate in the human clinical trials.
There’s a very short list of Southland schools that sold peanut butter cookie dough potentially contaminated with salmonella: 93rd Street Elementary in L.A., Fremont Elementary in Alhambra, and Barstow Intermediate in San Bernardino. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario spoke with the distributor who supplied the plastic tubs of dough to the schools for fundraising.
Patricia Nazario: Sweet Success Fundraising is a family-owned company in Ontario that started three months ago. Its president, George Reynoso, says business has been great so far. But after this…
George Reynoso: It’s probably gonna take a pretty good hit.
Nazario: Reynoso describes his company as an innocent victim. It bought the peanut butter cookie dough from a Garden Grove company called Key Lime West. That company produced the cookie dough with peanut butter paste it purchased from Peanut Corporation of America in Georgia – that’s where public health officials believe the salmonella contamination possibly happened.
Reynoso: We have pulled off the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough off of our line and we will not offer it again to the public until we know that it is safe.
Nazario: Reynoso says his company ordered 180 tubs of the bacteria-laden batch and distributed 170 of them. Sweet Success has 10 left in its warehouse. Reynoso says he’ll keep them around in case L.A. County health officials want a closer look.
Note: The federal Food and Drug Administration has recalled more than 125 products containing peanut butter from the Georgia processing company. The salmonella bacteria can cause serious infections, especially in young and elderly people.
- January 21, 2009 5:13 PM
- Categories: Health
Los Angeles County health officials have narrowed down the schools that sold peanut butter cookie dough potentially contaminated with salmonella.
They are 93rd Street Elementary in L.A., Fremont Elementary in Alhambra, and Barstow Intermediate in San Bernardino.
Sweet Success Fundraising in Ontario is the only Southland company that’s admitted it may have distributed the bacteria-laden product. Its owner, George Reynoso, says it acted for safety’s sake.
George Reynoso: “What the other companies are doing, I have no control of. But we wanna be responsible enough, so that people can trust us, and they know that if something ever comes up and there’s any problem with our product, we’re not gonna hide, we’re not gonna run away. We’re not gonna do anything but come forward and let them know.”
Public health officials are asking people not to use frozen peanut butter cookie dough sold in plastic tubs. About a dozen distribution companies in the Southland supply similar products to student fundraisers – schools, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, marching bands, cheerleading, and sports organizations.
- January 21, 2009 3:32 PM
- Categories: Health
The medical branch of a retirement facility that’s served performing artists for 60 years is closing by the end of this year. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more on today’s announcement by the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
Cheryl Devall: The high cost of health care has caught up with the medical direct-care services the Motion Picture and Television Fund established in 1948. A statement from its operators says the Woodland Hills long-term medical care facility and acute-care hospital run an operating deficit of about $10 million a year.
At that rate, the organization’s board says it would run out of reserve money within five years. So the board plans to get out of the direct long-term care business and to concentrate resources on the fund’s six outpatient health centers and other services.
The changes will not affect the operation of the fund’s retirement and assisted-living homes in Woodland Hills. But they will eliminate about 290 jobs in the medical facilities.
The organization’s board said that in recent years, the acute-care hospital has rarely cared for more than 10 patients at a time. The fund plans to transfer any remaining patients to nearby hospitals later this year.
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for four years. President George W. Bush had vetoed similar legislation twice. After today’s vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California took the president to task for that.
Nancy Pelosi: “President Bush said that we could not afford this legislation – that we could not afford to insure American’s children. Forty days in Iraq equals over 10 million children in America insured for one year. We certainly can afford to do that. We look forward to bringing this legislation to President Obama’s desk as one of the first bills that he will sign.”
The bill passed 289 to 139. It will pay the $32 billion cost of extending the insurance program by boosting federal cigarette taxes to one dollar a pack.
As the death toll in Gaza rises, international charities are working to establish a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of relief supplies. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario says one of the organizations preparing to help Palestinians is based in Southern California.
Patricia Nazario: Operation USA is preparing at least 15 tons of medical supplies – gauze, syringes, and bandages – for shipment within the next couple of weeks.
The organization’s founder, Richard Walden, says Gaza needs immediate help because it lacks a sophisticated first-aid infrastructure.
Richard Walden: “Twenty years ago, it was a piece of desert, that was made into a large refugee camp, that became a territory. It doesn’t have all the things that a city or a province would have in another country, where you’d have long-standing people who’ve lived there.”
Nazario: Walden says Culver City based Operation USA has conducted worldwide disaster relief since he started the organization 30 years ago.
More information about its partner organizations and the pending relief effort in Gaza is online at OPUSA.org.
A Southland non-profit that specializes in disaster relief is joining several international charities to donate first-aid medical supplies to Gaza.
Culver City-based Operation USA is preparing at least 15 tons of gauze, syringes, and bandages for shipment within the next couple of weeks. Its founder, Richard Walden, says the organization needs financial contributions to buy more supplies. He expects some resistance because people on both sides of the conflict harbor very strong reactions.
Richard Walden: “But on the other hand, a lot of people see it for what it is. It’s a humanitarian crisis rather than an ethnic or religious war. We’re not looking at the merits of either side’s positions. We’re looking at the fact that thousands of people have been injured.”
Operation USA is partnering with the International Red Cross, World Vision, Save the Children, and other groups to ship emergency supplies to Gaza.
LINK: Operation USA
The City of Los Angeles is looking to limit second-hand smoke exposure near restaurants. Councilman Greig Smith’s proposed ordinance would ban smoking at eateries with outdoor seating areas. He told KPCC’s “AirTalk” who would be subject to fines.
Councilman Greig Smith: “The person that is committing the violation is the person that we would cite, if we cite anybody. Unless the restaurant is notified by people, ‘Hey, there’s people out there smoking, please tell them to stop,’ and they say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ Then we would make also the establishment liable.”
Smith said the law would apply within 10 feet of any establishment that serves food, except bars with outdoor seating and other adults-only venues. The L.A. City Council could approve the ban by this summer.
The Los Angeles City Council’s considering whether to expand L.A.’s smoking ban to outdoor dining areas. It would prohibit smoking within 10 feet of outdoor establishments that serve food.
A similar law in the city of Calabasas has logged fewer than 20 violations in two years, said Calabasas City Councilman Barry Groverman. He explained some of the medical reasons for a smoking ban to KPCC’s “AirTalk.”
Councilman Barry Groverman: “Cigarettes are – first of all they’re filtered, and second they’re very hot. When you breathe off of a cigarette, it’s very, very hot and it causes a reaction in the lung that causes you to cough, so cigarette smokers tend to smoke shallow. When you’re outside, that heat effect is gone, it’s cooler, room temperature, and it gets very deep into the tissue of the lung; and the lung surgeons can actually identify the distinction.”
Calabasas was the first Southland municipality to enact outdoor smoking restrictions. If the L.A. City Council approves it, a ban with exceptions for bars and other adult-only venues could be in place by summer.
For many people, the New Year is a time for resolutions and new possibilities. Some people, though, can feel low, lonely, and stuck over past failures. That’s why it’s especially important at this time of year to connect with one another, Robert Mendelsohn of the Southern California Counseling Center told KPCC’s “AirTalk.”
Robert Mendelsohn: “Our message really is to people who are experiencing this kind of stress to reach out. If you see signs that someone in your family, or someone that you love, is increasing substance use, or is beginning to isolate, or is beginning to feel really down, we just encourage everyone to really – either us, or some other resource, or family and friends. Just relationship connection, looking for the resources around you to support each other.”
Mendelsohn is clinical director of the counseling center. His organization runs a toll-free, 24-hour suicide prevention hotline – 877-7-CRISIS.
- January 1, 2009 1:30 PM
- Categories: Health
If you’re planning to join the hundreds of thousands of spectators enjoying the 120th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and you’re a smoker, you won’t be able to light up that cigarette outdoors.
Three months ago the Pasadena City Council approved a new ordinance that for the first time will prohibit smoking along the parade route. Takashi Wada with the Pasadena Health Department says this smoking ban takes effect tomorrow.
Takashi Wada: “People are just going to get a warning. And they’re going to be asked to either put out their cigarette or move back away from the immediate parade route. If somebody doesn’t comply, or they’re a repeat offender, we do have the option of issuing a citation, and that would be $100 for the first offense.”
Pasadena’s new ordinance also bars smoking within 20 feet of commercial buildings, on outdoor restaurant patios, at bus stops, even in line at automatic teller machines.
Temperatures are expected to drop to 30 degrees tomorrow night in Pasadena. Tournament of Roses officials expect half-a-million parade spectators to camp out along the Rose Parade route. The American Red Cross is warning those watchers about the potential for hypothermia.
Todd Blecha with the Red Cross says dozens of volunteers will be available through the night to provide first-aid services - but he adds it’ll be a good idea for everyone to bring along plenty of blankets.
Todd Blecha: “Stay warm. Also bring fruit and water to drink. They want to be able to make sure that they are drinking water, as well as have a good meal. It’s just going to help them keep warm. And bring enough clothing. Expect the cold – you can always take off a blanket.”
Thirteen Red Cross stations staffed with 150 volunteers will be available along the parade route on New Year’s Day.
This is sometimes the only time of year that some of us see our aging relatives. So elder care experts say it’s a good time to make sure everything’s going okay for them. KPCC’s Susan Valot reports.
Susan Valot: Sure, it may seem like grandma’s hanging in there and doing well on her own. But show up around the holidays and you might notice she has a stack of unpaid bills, has trouble remembering things, or isn’t keeping up the house. Maybe her driving’s a lot worse than you realize, but you don’t find out until you get into the car with her.
UC Irvine’s Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse and Neglect says the holidays are a good time to gauge how an older friend or relative is really doing. The center says it’s also the time to look for signs of abuse. It’s estimated that about three quarters of elder abuse cases are caused at the hands of family members. For every one elder abuse case, experts say 14 go unreported.
Cuts and bruises are obvious signs of abuse. But it can be as subtle as the caretaker withholding necessary medication or not caring for bed sores. That’s when you might have to call in a doctor or other professional to take a closer look.
- December 26, 2008 6:41 PM
- Categories: Health
The public disclosure of apparent maintenance lapses at the San Onofre nuclear power plant has prompted attention from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Commission spokesman Victor Dricks spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
Victor Dricks: “The plant is being operated safely. None of these equipment problems rose to the level that would jeopardize plant safety or pose any risk to the public, but we are concerned about what we see here as a pattern of underlying themes, and it’s something that we have directed their attention to and are very closely monitoring.”
Dricks’ agency is increasing its inspections at the Southern California Edison facility south of San Clemente. Crews there discovered in March that a battery used to power safety systems had been disconnected for four years.
The state’s public health agency must meet a deadline for offering medical insurance to Californians with the virus that causes AIDS. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more on the order from Los Angeles Superior Court.
Cheryl Devall: This order reinforces the court’s finding earlier this month that California hasn’t moved quickly enough to extend Medi-Cal coverage to non-disabled people with HIV.
The insurance program for the poorest Californians had only covered people with full-blown AIDS, despite a six-year-old state law that broadened Medi-Cal to those who’d tested positive for the virus that causes the immune system deficiency.
In its most recent ruling, the court has ordered the state Department of Health Care Services to take specific steps toward offering that coverage, including outreach that will encourage eligible people to enroll in Medi-Cal, and to report back to the court on its progress within 120 days.
While AIDS activists maintain that expanding coverage to HIV-positive people will save treatment costs by catching the disease in its early stages, the court’s order takes place amid California’s fiscal emergency, during which most state agencies will have to cut budgets and services.
There are all kinds of special conferences and summits these days about the economic crisis. There’s another one tomorrow at Cal State San Bernardino. But this one’s different. KPCC’s Steven Cuevas says it’s all about the impact the bad economy is having on our mental health.
Steven Cuevas: Record unemployment, empty food banks, home foreclosures, bankrupt businesses… who doesn’t have a little worry and a lot of stress?
You might want to hear what mental health and financial experts have to say about coping with the recession stress. The idea came about last October, after a San Fernando Valley man killed five family members and himself over apparent financial worries.
Cal State San Bernardino’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is hosting the free one-day summit. Anyone can attend. Several experts on the economy and mental health will be there, as well as a panel of public health and social service providers. The aim is to explore ways that all of us can fend off a mental health crisis to match our economic crisis.
The free conference starts at 8:30 in the morning at Cal State San Bernardino. RSVPs are requested.
Oil giant Exxon Mobil will pay $6 million in penalties to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports that some of the air pollution happened at Exxon’s Torrance plant.
Molly Peterson: The six million is a national total that covers violations of a settlement Exxon made with the EPA for refineries in California, Louisiana, and Texas.
Three years ago, Exxon agreed to do a better job controlling sulfur pollution from its smokestacks. The company also agreed to shell out $13.5 million dollars under the original terms of the settlement.
Exxon has paid almost $8 million in penalties, plus nearly $7 million more for environmental projects in neighborhoods near its refineries.
Most of the present violations are for failing to monitor and control sulfur in some fuel gas streams. Sulfur dioxide can cause respiratory problems in surrounding communities. Exxon Mobil says it’s properly monitoring and controlling sulfur at its refineries in Torrance and other places.
The new head of L.A.’s public schools says that because of the state’s budget mess, he expects that he’ll have to make $200 to $400 million in mid-year cuts to the LAUSD budget.
Incoming Superintendent Ramon Cortines told KPCC’s “AirTalk” that he’s already working on where to find the cuts, and that one area he’s looking into is the district’s union contracts.
Ramon Cortines: “We are negotiating with all of our unions on health care, and together the unions and the district understand the perilous financial future both here and in the state, and are trying to hammer out a program that protects all of our present employees and looks at new employees that come on board.”
Cortines was senior deputy superintendent until the school board bought out the contract of outgoing Superintendent David Brewer last week.
The cigarette industry is bracing itself for a wave of new lawsuits after Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on so-called “light” cigarettes. The Court ruled that cigarette makers could be sued for allegedly deceptive advertising.
Dr. Stanton Glantz teaches medicine at UC San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control. He told KPCC that the industry manipulated tests with smoking machines by punching tiny holes in the “light” cigarettes.
Dr. Stanton Glantz: “So that when the machines sucked air through the cigarette it would get diluted with room air, and so the amount of tar and nicotine that was delivered to the machines was reduced, knowing full well that when actual human smokers put the cigarettes in their mouths, they covered up these microscopic holes with their lips, and so got much higher actual doses of tar and nicotine.”
A lawyer for Altria, which owns Phillip Morris, issued a statement saying the company believes it will be able to successfully defend itself against the anticipated lawsuits.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is making strides to correct its Department of Heath Services. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario has more on today’s move to foster more accountability in the long-troubled agency.
Patricia Nazario: Supervisors put the word out to independent contractors that they’ve agreed to hire a watchdog. The board directed L.A. County’s chief executive to start accepting proposals as soon as possible.
The job will be anything but a cakewalk. The person who takes it will be responsible for analyzing the public health department and recommending ways to improve it.
L.A. operates the second-largest publicly funded health care system in the nation, with an annual budget that exceeds $3 billion. It includes three general hospitals and a network of clinics that treat about 700,000 patients a year. Most of them are uninsured. The system’s biggest problem is the problem-plagued King-Harbor medical facility in Willowbrook.
County Supervisor Gloria Molina said she intends the watchdog to promote responsible, transparent management within the health department, and to start delivering straight answers about the future of King-Harbor.
- December 16, 2008 4:09 PM
- Categories: Health
The former head of City of Angels Medical Center pleaded guilty today to his part in a scheme that used L.A.’s Skid Row homeless to defraud Medicare and Medi-Cal. More from KPCC’s Debra Baer.
Debra Baer: Dr. Rudra Sabaratnam pleaded guilty in federal court to two felony counts of paying half-a-million dollars in illegal kickbacks for patient referrals. Prosecutors say he and a co-defendant, who also admitted guilt, recruited homeless people on Medicare and Medi-Cal for hospitalization, even though they weren’t sick. They then billed the government health programs for unnecessary medical care.
Sabaratnam agreed to pay more than $4 million in restitution to Medicare and Medi-Cal. The 64-year-old Brentwood physician faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in June.
The new president pro tem of the state Senate spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk” today. Sacramento Democrat Darrell Steinberg said that besides dealing with the gaping budget deficit, he has other policy goals.
Senator Darrell Steinberg: “First of all, I think we need to get children’s health care done in California within the first 120 days. Secondly, renewable energy. This is of course an issue which is not only crucial to meeting our climate change goals in California but it’s also, I think, the new economy.”
Steinberg said he also wants to increase water availability. He hopes to get a water infrastructure bond on the ballot in 2010.
California is expected today to adopt what would be the country’s most comprehensive rule to get the dirtiest trucks and buses off the road, starting in 2010. KPCC’s Steve Julian says trucking firms are vehemently opposed.
Steve Julian: California has the dirtiest air in the nation, so the goal is to get rid of the vehicles that cause that pollution.
But the California Trucking Association maintains that, in a recession, it’s unfair to force them to replace their vehicles, or outfit them with pollution filters or new engines. The cost to businesses, school districts, and transit agencies statewide is estimated at $5.5 billion.
Air regulators, however, say the cost would be spread over 16 years. They add that the cost is dwarfed by the tens of billions in health benefits to people who incur asthma and suffer heart attacks from breathing dirty air. The State Air Resources Board says the requirements would prevent 9400 premature deaths over 20 years.
South Los Angeles public health professionals and advocates are using a Health Equity Scorecard to measure the resources in their area against those on L.A.’s Westside. The non-profit Community Health Councils released the yearlong study today and hosted a panel about it.
L.A. County USC Medical Center nurse Robin Ellis attended the meeting at Holman United Methodist Church. She says the report describes what she sees every day.
Robin Ellis: “I went to visit a friend in Glendale Memorial the other night. There were two people in the emergency room there. At work the previous day, I’m working in the psychiatric emergency room. In the waiting room, in the ER, we have 200-plus.”
Ellis says the difference is that patients at County USC’s waiting room didn’t have medical insurance. County USC and Glendale Memorial Hospitals are about 10 minutes apart.
A discussion of health disparities between South L.A. and the city’s Westside animated a panel this morning that included Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
His plan to close the gap focuses on the reopening of Martin Luther King Medical Center as a full-service hospital. Ridley-Thomas said his goal includes a public-private partnership.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: “It will drive the quality of health care, the extent of the technology that’ll be in place, as well as the innovation that’ll do things that could very easily be cutting edge.”
About 100 people attended the talk at Holman United Methodist Church. Ridley-Thomas cautioned them against expecting a quick fix. He said they should expect incremental changes over the next few years.
President-elect Obama wants to reform the health care system, and his choice for secretary of Health and Human Services will lead that effort. Former Senator Tom Daschle says fixing health care is the nation’s greatest domestic challenge.
Gerald Kominski teaches health policy at UCLA. He says that Daschle’s positions on health care reform are mostly consistent with Obama’s, but the two differ on the issue of mandates.
Gerald Kominski: “The president-elect would prefer to have mandates for insurance only on children. Whereas Senator Daschle and Senator Clinton have both proposed mandates for the entire population - not just for children. But this is, I think, a minor philosophical difference that can probably be hashed out in the political process.”
Kominski spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.”
State air regulators meeting in Sacramento today will be talking about cutting global warming and cutting air pollution from diesel trucks. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.
Molly Peterson: The California Air Resources Board released a study this week that said that the longer truck drivers are behind the wheel, the greater their risk of lung cancer.
Air regulators say tightening rules about how much diesel trucks can spew would save the state billions of dollars in health care costs, not to mention thousands of lives.
The proposed rule would install particle traps on trucks’ exhaust pipes in the first years, then phase in tougher controls over 15 years. But truckers say they’re feeling financial pain over this proposal. Even small retrofits can cost upwards of $10,000 a pop, and clean trucks, the kind the state will eventually require, cost up to $200,000.
Air regulators say California needs to control pollution from diesel engines so it can meet federal air standards and protect federal highway money. But lobbyists for the trucking industry are vowing to fill the air board’s air time with plenty of public comments against the proposed rules.
Birthday parties at restaurants with enclosed play equipment can expose kids to a smorgasbord of infections, says a parenting Web site that hired a microbiologist to run tests at three popular party spots in the L.A. area.
Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician who’s also a medical advisor to the site Mom Logic, told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that babies and infants aren’t as immune to viruses and bacteria as older children are.
Dr. Cara Natterson: “There are cautions to be taken when you bring a little baby into those environments; that just because they’re friendly for an older child doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a place where a young infant should be playing, because there’s a bigger risk to a smaller baby with some of these bacteria.”
Natterson said prevention’s the best policy, so it’s a good idea to keep a sick child home from play-and-pizza parties.
LINK: Momlogic.com article
- December 9, 2008 6:15 PM
- Categories: Health
Almost every kid’s idea of a good time - pizza and hamburger places with enclosed play areas - can become almost any parent’s nightmare. A Web site called Mom Logic hired a microbiologist to check out three of these spots in the Los Angeles area.
The tests turned up three varieties of infectious bacteria. But Dr. Peter Katona, an infectious disease specialist at UCLA Medical School, said the same bugs are common in classrooms at playgrounds.
Dr. Peter Katona: “To actually culture these things without really any standardization at all of what you’re doing, I think actually is more harmful than it’s helpful, because it frightens people into saying, ‘Oh my god, I shouldn’t be taking my children to these places.’ And I’m not sure that you can make that assertion based on this evidence.”
Still, to protect kids from stomach flu, colds, and other illnesses, it’s a good idea to have them wash their hands frequently - especially before they handle pizza or birthday cake – Katona and other doctors told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
- December 9, 2008 5:07 PM
- Categories: Health
A UCLA doctor who’s also an expert on health care reform says there’s only one way to get more value from medical care: change what you value. KPCC’s Nick Roman explains.
Nick Roman: A neurologist like Dr. Marc Nuwer should know how to get into your head – and he does in a couple of new medical journal articles. He says we have the most expensive medical care in the world because we want it.
Americans prize choice. We resist limiting care. If doctors can treat very ill patients aggressively to the last, they should. Nuwer says that’s why our health care costs so much. But he says a third of its costs are tied up in paperwork. And 10 percent goes for “defensive medicine” – tests with little value except to show the doctor tried everything in case there’s a lawsuit.
Doctors don’t think enough about the cost of tests or prescriptions. And Nuwer says we spend a lot of money to treat the very sick at the very end of their lives. As for a solution: UCLA’s Dr. Marc Nuwer says we should think about what we value in medical care – and pay more attention to the cost of what we value. His articles are in the journal “Neurology.”
The state of California hasn’t acted quickly enough to extend Medi-Cal coverage to poor people with HIV, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled this week.
A state law passed six years ago was designed to allow people with the virus that causes AIDS – not only those with full-blown AIDS – to qualify for coverage.
During a teleconference today, Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles, criticized a state agency for not acting within the spirit of the law.
Michael Weinstein: “I give, you know, the Department of Health Care Services dealings with AIDS an ‘F.’ There are other places in the country where much better efforts are being made to combat AIDS. Since California is a progressive state and has been the bellwether in many other areas, you know, this is extremely disappointing.”
Weinstein’s organization maintains that people who’ve tested positive for HIV, but who aren’t sick enough to qualify for Medi-Cal, have to pay for their own medical treatment. The state health care agency has not issued a formal response to the court’s ruling.
UCLA researchers have released a report about the effects of air pollution on pregnant women and infants. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.
Molly Peterson: The school’s Institute for the Environment gives Southern California air pollution a C in its quarterly report card. But the grade’s hardly the point. The researchers’ aim is to focus attention on what air pollution can do to biological development between conception, birth, and the early years of life.
Los Angeles births account for a quarter of all new babies in California each year - about 150,000 people. Adverse health risks the researchers detail for these and other children include low birth weight, and brain, respiratory, and digestive problems.
The report points out that state and federal regulations don’t take these studies into account. They’re still fairly new – most epidemiological and other research that links air pollution to children’s health risks has happened in the last 10 years, some of it at UCLA.
The scientists emphasize that they still don’t know a lot about which compounds in the air pose the greatest threat, or exactly how pollution affects biological health. As you might expect, the report concludes that more research is needed.
Before President Bush leaves office he plans to enact a “right of conscience” rule for doctors and other health care providers. It would allow medical workers whose facilities receive federal money to refuse to perform abortions or dispense contraception if they choose.
Anita Nelson is an obstetrics and gynecology professor at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine. She told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that the rule is broadly - and badly-written.
Anita Nelson: “Anybody who believes that something works against his own personal beliefs does not have to offer it to the patient, even if the belief is based on misinformation. There is no protection for the patient.”
Dr. David Stevens, chief executive of the Christian Medical Association, defended health care workers’ right to act on their personal moral beliefs.
Dr. David Stevens: “We need to understand that this is a basic constitutional issue. We, in the First Amendment, say the free exercise of religion is a fundamental human right and therefore you should not compel someone to violate their deeply held religious belief unless it’s an emergency situation or somebody’s life is in peril.”
Once he assumes office, President-elect Barack Obama could overturn the rule through a lengthy process. Congress also can adopt a resolution to reject it.
An employee of the UCLA Medical Center pleaded guilty today to obtaining a celebrity patient’s private data. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says some of that information made its way into a tabloid newspaper.
It’s a felony violation of federal law to traffic in identifiable medical records for personal profit. In her guilty plea, Lawanda Jackson, an administrative specialist at UCLA Medical Center, admitted that she received at least $4600 from the National Enquirer. The publication made the checks out to her husband.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, Jackson had said she was “being nosy,” not intending to sell patient information, when she looked at the files. She now faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a quarter-million dollar fine.
In recent years, UCLA has had to contend with several confidentiality breaches after high-profile patients, including singer Britney Spears and actress Farrah Fawcett, checked into its medical center.
The university has conducted internal investigations and has disciplined dozens of employees, including doctors, for looking at the medical information of celebrity patients who were not under their care.
As baby boomers retire, Los Angeles County’s senior population is growing.
The 2000 Census indicated that one-and-a-half million people older than 60 called the Golden State home. L.A. County’s senior services director, Cynthia Banks, expects that’ll double in the next 22 years.
Cynthia Banks: “The economic downturn tells us now that we know that we know that many of our baby boomers and our current seniors are gonna need our services even more than they currently do. So, we need to make sure that we have a structure in place to provide those services in a way that is seamless.”
In preparation, L.A. County is holding a series of neighborhood meetings to hear seniors’ suggestions on what needs improvement.
Banks says her department’s fielding all recommendations on how to streamline the county’s 40 departments that offer 100 different services for seniors.
- November 25, 2008 3:16 PM
- Categories: Health
L.A. Congressman Henry Waxman plans on using his newly won committee chairmanship to help shape President-elect Obama’s stimulus package. Waxman will chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
He says his committee will play a role because he wants to help states that are having trouble funding health programs, such as Medi-Cal in California.
Henry Waxman: “What we are going to try to do in the stimulus package is provide more direct money to the states so they can fund those health care costs for the people that are eligible rather than simply eliminate them from being able to get access to the services through the Medicaid system.”
Waxman spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
Public health officials are warning heroin users about a potentially deadly strain of botulism that’s infected at least two people. One more case is being investigated. All are from the Long Beach-South Bay area.
They were infected with “wound botulism” after injecting black tar heroin under the skin – as opposed to intravenously. Los Angeles County Public Health Director, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, says the cases point to contamination in the heroin supply.
Dr. Jonathan Fielding: “By putting this alert out we’re hoping that some of those who use heroin are going to be alert to this, and perhaps look for a different type of supply chain, realizing there could be some real problems with what they have been using or may be preparing to use.”
Heroin is usually cut with honey or dirt, which can carry the toxin-producing bacteria. Symptoms include shortness of breath, blurred vision, slurred speech, and – if not treated – paralysis and death. The county has notified local emergency rooms and ordered anti-toxins from the Centers for Disease Control to treat patients.
- November 24, 2008 12:47 PM
- Categories: Health
Social service providers in San Bernardino County have set ambitious goals for actions they hope can end chronic homelessness in the region. KPCC’s Inland Empire reporter Steven Cuevas has the story.
Steven Cuevas: Agency officials unveiled their 10-year strategy at the county’s second annual Homeless Summit. The plan aims to find permanent housing for the county’s roughly 7,000 chronically homeless adults.
Younger homeless people aren’t faring much better. San Bernardino County’s superintendent of schools says almost 13,000 students are either homeless or close to it.
The new strategy relies a lot on the kind of prevention the home mortgage crisis has pushed into the headlines: promoting landlord-tenant mediation, helping people with bad credit, and creating better access to affordable health care.
Social service providers say they also need to do a better job identifying homeless people, assessing their needs, and finding the help they need. San Bernardino and Riverside Counties are gearing up for an aggressive homeless survey in January aimed at doing just that.
Diabetes is affecting more obese children and Los Angeles County health care providers are trying to figure out what to do about it. USC’s Medical School held a panel discussion on the issue this morning. CNN’s Larry King moderated and KPCC’s Patricia Nazario brought back this report.
Patricia Nazario: The prognosis is grim. L.A. Public Health numbers show one in five adults is obese. Panelists say that often means their kids’ll will be too.
Larry King: With all the technological advancements we’ve made in so many areas…
Nazario: That’s CNN’s Larry King.
King: Couldn’t we make a hot fudge Sunday healthy? [audience laughs]
Howard Kahn: There is a way to do it, which is to have it twice a year.
Nazario: That’s panelist Howard Kahn who oversees four neighborhood clinics called L.A. Care Health Plan. Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen Puliafito offers other interventions that can make a difference where kids spend most of their time - at school.
Dean Carmen Puliafito: You can put gym back in school, change food kids get at school, and you can have ubiquitous nutritional information. Everybody needs to know what’s going on.
Nazario: The panelists said 60 percent of children who develop Type II Diabetes are overweight or obese. They’re also at risk for other ailments, including heart disease.
Larry King established a cardiac foundation that funds organ transplants for the underprivileged. Prevention is the key to saving kids from that fate say experts and it starts with better access to good health care.
- November 14, 2008 4:10 PM
- Categories: Health
Los Angeles County health care providers are struggling to address a growing epidemic: childhood and adult obesity.
L.A. Public Health numbers show one in five adults is overweight.
Howard Kahn with L.A. Care Health Plan was part of a USC panel discussion on the issue this morning.
Howard Kahn: “Changing behavior is incredibly difficult and obesity is very complex. Part of what we have to get away from is that everybody should look like Barbie and Ken. Because, in fact, you don’t have to to be healthy.”
Kahn’s network of neighborhood clinics serves nearly a million uninsured and underinsured residents of L.A. County.
CNN’s Larry King moderated the panel. His Cardiac Foundation funds cardiac procedures for low-income patients.
- November 14, 2008 3:28 PM
- Categories: Health
The building expansion project at Providence-Holy Cross Medical Center in the San Fernando Valley is hitting some roadblocks, because hospital officials began it without completing a full environmental impact report.
Hospital executive Kerry Carmody says no area hospital has ever met that standard. He says Providence-Holy Cross has already filed other environmental reports about its construction plans.
Kerry Carmody: “To then ask, after its been approved by planning commission, for us to go back and do something more when the city never asked us to do that to begin with, we think is singling us out, and it’s totally unfair.”
The hospital’s 136-bed expansion project secured approval from Los Angeles city officials last year. But an L.A. superior court judge declared the process flawed and ordered the work to stop.
Hospital officials say that producing the report would delay the 120,000 square foot expansion by almost two years, and would cost millions of dollars.
- November 11, 2008 1:53 PM
- Categories: Health
Authorities arrested more than two-dozen handymen posing as contractors in a Los Angeles-area sting. They face charges for working without a license. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario has the details.
Patricia Nazario: Investigators staged the undercover operation in Atwater Village. They requested home-improvement bids from unlicensed handymen who they suspected were passing themselves off as the real deal.
California State License Board spokeswoman Melanie Bedwell says consumers can easily avoid falling in with fly-by-night contractors. When in doubt, she says, go to the state’s consumer affairs website and plug in the contractor’s license number or name.
Melanie Bedwell: … and they can see if that person is in good standing. If there are any complaints against them.
Nazario: Or, if they have a license at all. Bedwell says a legitimate contractor should always carry a pocket license that looks like a credit card. Consumers should always ask for references and get at least three bids from competing contractors.
Bedwell: There’s no reason why people can’t say, “Hey, ya know, can I have some references? And, I’m gonna get three bids and compare them.”
Nazario: Also, she counsels, be stingy with your money. By state law, contractors can only ask for deposits of 10 percent – or no more than $1,000 – on any job.
In an elaborate scam, thieves are targeting senior citizens with realistic-looking fake checks that appear to be from Los Angeles County. L.A. Consumer Affairs Director Pastor Herrera says the thieves would convince their unsuspecting targets to deposit the checks to cover customs fees so they could claim a prize from a Canadian lottery.
Pastor Herrera: “Telling them that in order to get the winnings of $50,000, they had to pay fees of approximately $2,200. But they had to wire this money to this individual in British Columbia.”
Herrera says at least six people in different parts of California lost that $2,200. Investigators urge people to think twice before they respond to any sweepstakes, magazine sale, or free gift offers that appear in their mailboxes.
The rivals for a rare open seat on Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors both support the idea of reopening Martin Luther King Medical Center. But State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks differ about how to make that happen. Ridley-Thomas told KPCC’s “AirTalk” that the facility should not operate strictly as a public hospital.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: “On the matter of health care, specifically as it relates to the Martin Luther King Medical Center, I believe a public/private partnership is the order of the day.”
Although Parks agreed that South L.A. County needs a reopened hospital – complete with a trauma center – he proposed a different operating model.
Bernard Parks: “We need to, as I’ve already done, work with the governor’s office and the board to bring the UC system in for immediate credibility, and to be part of the clinical and the issue of dealing with the education.”
The hospital – once affiliated with Drew University of Medicine – closed a year and a half ago after it failed several inspections. Now it operates as an urgent care facility. Its future is a key issue in the campaign for L.A. County’s second district seat that represents Compton, Watts, and surrounding areas.
Federal judge intends to pursue holding governor, state controller in contempt over prison health care
At a hearing in San Francisco today a federal judge made it clear he intends to pursue holding the governor and state controller in contempt. That’s for failing to comply with a court order to say when and how the state will pay $250 million to improve prison medical care. KPCC’s Julie Small was in the courtroom.
Julie Small: U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson had ordered California officials to present a plan to pay millions to the federal receiver in charge of fixing the state’s broken prison medical system. But late last week, Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a court brief challenging the court’s order.
The judge didn’t appear to buy any of Brown’s arguments. Henderson said he’d consider whether to hold the governor and state controller in contempt.
The judge has presided over the case for 7 years. He also appointed the federal receiver to do what the state has failed to do: prevent inmate deaths from treatable conditions, including asthma and tuberculosis. From the bench, Henderson told attorneys for the state, “we cannot afford any more delays.”
There’s another court showdown this morning over a plan to improve medical care in the state’s prisons. Federal receiver Clark Kelso has requested an initial $250 million from the state so he could build prison hospitals – and a federal judge had ordered the state to come up with a plan for turning over the money.
But on Friday attorney General Jerry Brown said the state would not pay. Kelso’s chief of staff John Hagar said Brown’s response surprised him.
John Hagar: “This is truly an extraordinary filing and I think it demonstrates why the receiver had to move forward and seek to hold the state, the governor, and the controller in contempt.”
Brown argues that Kelso hasn’t provided enough details about his plan. The attorney general also contends there’s no evidence the state needs the projects.
Kelso has asked the judge to hold Governor Schwarzenegger and state controller John Chiang in contempt of court if the state doesn’t turn over the money. This morning the judge is deciding the next step in the contempt proceedings.
Riverside County is looking for a thousand volunteers for its homeless count in January. They’re needed to ensure a complete count – even from the most remote desert enclaves. Riverside County’s homeless programs manager Ron Stewart says the street census helps the county get the money it needs for homeless services.
Ron Stewart: “So that we have good coverage around the county to make sure people are being served. So by having all the continuum of care and the local jurisdictions reporting back Congress, through this count, it then helps to establish the policy that then guides the federal appropriation that goes to the U.S. Department of Housing to help with homelessness.”
Riverside County’s Ron Stewart says he believes the economic crisis has pushed people onto the street. He says shelters are nearly full. Homeless counts will be conducted across the Southland in January.
The dozen statewide initiatives on next month’s ballot include one that would authorize close to $1 billion in bonds for the expansion and renovation of children’s hospitals. Diana Dooley, president of the California Children’s Hospital Association, told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that Proposition 3 would help these facilities meet the needs of children with the most serious and life-threatening diseases.
Diana Dooley: “These hospitals treat a very disproportionate share of the children that are supported by Medicaid. And as we all know from the collapse of the health care reform effort last year, the state doesn’t give its fair share for the care of these kids.”
Opponents to Prop 3 say the time isn’t right for California to add more bond debt.
Proposition 4 would require doctors to notify a parent or another adult family member before they perform an abortion on an underage girl. It’s gaining traction with adults in the San Fernando Valley. Sixty-four year old Ruth Polk’s already mailed in her absentee ballot.
Ruth Polk: “I voted for let the parents know, because if something happens to your daughter and they’re laying up on a table, you wanna know. So, I wanna be out there with them.”
Some students at San Fernando High School oppose the measure on privacy grounds. Eighteen-year-old Frank, who declined to give his last name, says none of his girlfriends have ever had an abortion. But he thinks he could handle the responsibility without his parents.
Frank: “It’s all in the process of growing up. You live and you learn. Everything’s gonna happen. You’re gonna learn everything sooner or later, so might as well let them be aware of everything now. Let them learn about sex. Let them learn about the kind of diseases they can get and everything.”
Prop 4 organizers call the measure “Sarah’s Law.” It’s named after a 15-year-old girl who had an abortion in Texas and died from related complications. The Parental Notification Bill is one of a dozen propositions Californians will vote on November 4th.
The man who used to run the willed body program at UCLA pleaded guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court today to charges he’d profited from donated cadaver parts. More on the story from KPCC’s Cheryl Devall.
Cheryl Devall: Prosecutors had charged that former program director Henry Reid had sold hundreds of specimens to a dealer who supplied body parts to pharmaceutical, research, and medical supply companies. Those sales allegedly took place during five years and ended in 2004.
That’s also when authorities arrested Reid and the dealer, and UCLA suspended its willed body program for a year. At the time, campus officials apologized to donors’ families and pledged to correct problems with the once-prestigious program. Henry Reid pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grand theft.
The plea includes a special allegation that he damaged or destroyed more than $1 million worth of school property by trafficking in the cadavers and body parts. Reid will have to repay at least some of the money to the University of California, and he faces more than four years in state prison when a judge sentences him in January.
Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health is treating some fire evacuees for symptoms of depression: agitated feelings, anxiousness, or crying. Program director Karen Gean says mental health workers move quickly to treat trauma before those early signs turn into deeper problems.
Karen Gean: “We provide them at least six sessions where they can come in. We help problem-solve. Who can they call? Do they have family? Do they have friends? What is the way the community can offer them support?”
L.A. County is extending counseling services to evacuated adults and children in San Fernando Valley. Firefighters are allowing some families to return to their homes near the Marek fire’s perimeter. That one is almost completely under control, while the Sesnon fire near Porter Ranch is about 20 percent contained. The American Red Cross says about 50 evacuees remain in its shelters.
The American Lung Association’s Terry Roberts says that smoke and particles from the wildfires are polluting the air. She advises everyone to close windows at home and in the car, and to consider wearing a mask outdoors if you’re near the fires.
Terry Roberts: “If you’re going to wear a mask, they do have specific masks that will protect you for particulate matter. They’re M-95 or P-100 masks, and they need to be fitted properly. They don’t protect you from everything, but for particulate matter, it will help protect you. But some people think that just any masks will work, but they will not.”
Roberts says children and older adults are especially at risk of illness if they breathe smoky air.
The fires prompted smoke warnings from Terry Roberts of the American Lung Association.
Terry Roberts: “It’s advised that you should have your air conditioning running at home and close off the outdoor so you’re not venting in from outside, and keep your windows closed. And also in your car, close the outdoor air and just recycle the air from the inside to protect yourself.”
Roberts told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that children and elderly people are especially at risk when there’s smoke in the air. She suggested that if you want to exercise, do it indoors for the next few days.
The fires have forced hundreds of people to evacuate. Mike Summers is the owner of Ameri-Care Ambulance Service. He spoke with KPCC’s Frank Stoltze outside the San Fernando Post Acute Hospital, an assisted care facility on Foothill Boulevard near the Marek Fire.
Mike Summers: We have two full strike teams and we have another one arriving for a third full strike team, which is 15 ambulances and three supervisors. We’re on standby for this area to do any evacuations from the fire that are needed.
Frank Stoltze: What’s the most difficult thing in moving elderly patients like this?
Summers: Confusion for the patient, is what I’ve found. You need to make sure that you keep the compassion. These patients have, in some cases, been in the same place for years. Some of them hardly see the sun. And now all of a sudden they are being moved to a new facility. It’s very, very confusing for them. It’s very hard on them mentally.
Stoltze: As a precaution, authorities also evacuated about 15 patients with respiratory problems from UCLA-Olive View Medical Center today.
In anticipation of the encroaching wildfire, UCLA-Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar began today to transfer some of its most vulnerable patients. Karla Niño, a hospital administrator, spoke with KPCC.
Karla Niño: “Right now we are in our disaster preparedness mode. We are not evacuating patients. We are taking precautionary action, basically. We have transferred the medically fragile intubated patients. They are going to our sister hospitals at LAC, USC, and Harbor UCLA Medical Center.”
Niño said she expects the fire to reach the facility around 3 this afternoon. The hospital stopped admitting new patients this morning.
Doctors from Irvine Regional Hospital this week plan to go to the Irvine City Council to try to prevent the hospital from closing. KPCC’s Susan Valot says it comes after Tenet Healthcare announced last week it’ll close the hospital.
Susan Valot: Irvine Regional Hospital was decades in the making before it finally opened in 1990. It now has 176 private rooms, plus an emergency room. But Tenet Healthcare says it’ll close Irvine Regional in January.
Earlier this year, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach said it would take over the lease. But Hoag said it’ll first spend a year or two renovating the Irvine facility. In the meantime, Tenet says it’ll reassign doctors and staff to its other hospitals.
But Irvine Regional doctor Robert Freed, who’s worked there since it opened, says he and other doctors will go to the Irvine City Council Tuesday to see what they can do to keep the hospital open.
Freed says closing it would have a “life-threatening” affect on local health care. He hopes an “outpouring of community support” might help keep the Irvine facility open.
- October 10, 2008 1:21 PM
- Categories: Health
Southern California’s number one trauma hospital is pushing back its moving date. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario explains the latest holdup at Los Angeles County USC Hospital.
Patricia Nazario: About a month ago, officials at L.A. County-USC Medical Center announced its big move to a new facility would happen next week. They said dozens of volunteers, including first responders and members of the U.S. Air Force, had signed up to help. Now they’re postponing the delicate procedure to November 7th. Hospital officials say scheduling conflicts forced state inspectors to call for the delay.
Regional health care providers have long been concerned over the move. They say there’s a bed shortage at the new billion dollar facility, which has 224 fewer acute-care beds than the current county facility. Hospital officials say one way they plan to address that is by referring less critically ill patients to outpatient clinics.
About 200 students at USC have now received treatment for a nasty stomach virus. Late Friday, the campus health facility started seeing dozens of students complaining of nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. Dr. Larry Neinstein runs the University Park Health Center.
Dr. Larry Neinstein: “The main prevention is very good handwashing, and keeping students who are sick away from students who are not sick, and vice versa. Public Health has not advised us to have any kind of a quarantine on campus, or really at this time restrict any of our activities.”
Neinstein says the virus isn’t life threatening and takes a day or two to shake off. Campus officials are telling students who aren’t feeling well, or who’ve had contact with other sick students, to stay away from class for now. USC is also handing out free hand-sanitizing gels and wipes to students and faculty.
KPCC has obtained audio of one of Metrolink’s top executives speaking at a U.S. Senate briefing. The hearing took place shortly after the deadly commuter train collision in Chatsworth last month. Reading from a prepared statement, Metrolink Chairman Ron Roberts said it will take time and money to ensure passenger safety, and that it won’t magically happen after the National Transportation Safety Board releases its conclusions about the crash.
Ron Roberts: “As chairman of Metrolink, I want to extend my sincerest regret for this situation. However, the collision is not just what the NTSB determines to be the cause, it’s about our nation’s lack of investment in passenger investment as a whole.”
Roberts told lawmakers that public-private investments could improve rail safety in several ways, including building dual tracks in the Southland’s high-freight areas. He added that about 15 percent more passengers than last year are riding Metrolink, and that the system expects steady increases in ridership.
Nurses at one of the region’s biggest private hospitals have worked out a tentative contract with management. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more about the labor picture at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
Cheryl Devall: The proposed three-year contract includes higher wages, along with increased nurse-to-patient ratios at the hospital. The agreement would affect about 1800 registered nurses.
A statement from their union, the California Nurses Association, said the tentative contract would ensure that new technology at the hospital would supplement, not supplant, nurses’ professional judgment in determining what’s best for patients.
The contract includes average salary increases of 18 percent over three years. A hospital statement read in part: “We are hopeful our nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center will ratify this new contract so that we might move forward together and provide the best healthcare available.”
Long Beach Memorial has had a history of tension with its union nurses. Six years ago, following stalled contract talks, they walked out on strike twice over pension benefits, salaries for more experienced nurses, and staffing ratios.
The present nursing staff plans to vote on whether to ratify the contract next week.
About 150,000 people in Los Angeles County have Alzheimer’s disease. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez says a new report predicts that number may double within 20 years.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The reason is that a lot of people are approaching retirement age, when Alzheimer’s is more likely to hit. The L.A. County Public Health Department contributed to the study. Its director Jonathan Fielding says the county doesn’t have enough facilities to handle so many more Alzheimer’s patients.
Jonathan Fielding: We have to figure out how best to keep people at home. We need to find daycare centers. We need to find a bunch of alternatives and we need to think of that now.
Guzman-Lopez: The Alzheimer’s Association produced an accompanying study. It reviews the average weekly workload for a relative who cares for an Alzheimer’s patient. Debra Cherry is with the association.
Debra Cherry: The amount of care they’re giving is profound. With about, over a third of them, 36 percent providing over 20 hours of care.
Guzman-Lopez: Cherry says that family caregivers need financial and emotional support. Monica Calderon handled her late mother’s care for a decade with her father’s help. Then they decided to place her mother in residential long-term care.
Monica Calderon: I went through their entire savings in the five years of caring for her in a private facility.
Guzman-Lopez: The Alzheimer’s Association plans to release a statewide study in January.
- October 1, 2008 3:54 PM
- Categories: Health
Proposition 5 on next month’s ballot asks California votes whether to set aside almost $500 million for drug treatment programs targeted to nonviolent offenders. Its supporters say the measure would address addiction, one of the main reasons so many people are behind bars. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley shared with KPCC’s Patt Morrison his opinion that Prop 5 is one of the most dangerous propositions to ever make it to the ballot.
Steve Cooley: “It will effectively decriminalize virtually all the felons on the books except for those who statutorily defined as serious or violent.”
That, along with Prop 5’s mandate of shorter parole for certain felons, could jeopardize public safety, Cooley said.
Proposition 5 on next month’s statewide ballot would direct $460 million to improve and expand treatment programs for nonviolent drug offenders. Margaret Dooley-Sammuli helps run the Southern California Drug Policy Alliance Network. She told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that the measure’s opponents fear it will release too many criminals from incarceration.
Margaret Dooley-Sammuli: “But it also puts rehabilitation behind bars, where 85 percent of people have substance abuse problems but aren’t receiving treatment. And that way we’ll break the cycle of addiction and crime, and save taxpayers a lot of money in the process.”
Dooley-Sammuli and other supporters of the measure say it’ll also ease chronic crowding in the state’s prisons and jails. Critics of the ballot question, including Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, contend that it’ll cause chaos in the parole system.
The number of people with Alzheimer’s stands to almost double in Los Angeles County during the next 20 years, says a report county health officials released today. County health director Michael Fielding said that’s because the population is getting older. He said L.A. County needs to open more care facilities and to marshal support for people taking care of relatives with the disease.
Michael Fielding: “It’s a huge toll, both in terms of time, in terms of emotion, when you see your loved one starting to become isolated and you don’t have the level of communication, of support that you had before. You really feel you’re losing part of yourself.”
The disease attacks the brain and causes major memory loss, sometimes over a period of 10 to 15 years. There’s no cure. But Fielding said he’s optimistic that researchers are making progress toward creating an Alzheimer’s vaccine.
- October 1, 2008 1:44 PM
- Categories: Health
A new California law requires chain restaurants to list calories, fat and salt content, and other nutritional facts on their menus. It’s the first time any state has mandated that kind of disclosure. Fast food and casual dining restaurants resisted the idea at first. Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association, told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that some eateries will balk for awhile.
Jot Condie: “You can’t please all the people all the time, and I suspect a couple of restaurants within our ranks that don’t want to do this for a number of reasons; mostly probably the cost of reprinting of menus or menu boards, or the cost of getting the analysis done.”
Condie’s organization had opposed local menu information laws in favor of a statewide measure. Backers of the new law say it’ll help people choose healthier options when they eat away from home. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the restaurant rules into law today.
California’s the first state in the country that requires chain restaurants to list nutritional information on their menus. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the measure into law today. State Senator Alex Padilla sponsored the bill. He told KPCC’s Patt Morrison he doesn’t believe the requirement will burden the restaurant business.
Alex Padilla: “What this bill does is not tell restaurants what they can and cannot offer, and it doesn’t tell consumers what we can or cannot order. It’s simply providing the information we need if we choose to use it to make healthier eating choices when we’re eating out.”
The San Fernando Valley Democrat said he backed the bill to address rising rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The restaurant industry had opposed local efforts to include calorie, fat, and salt content on menus, but it eventually supported the statewide measure.
Governor Schwarzenegger today signed into law two bills aimed at Californians’ waistline. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has the skinny.
Frank Stoltze: Based on department of health statistics, the governor says one in three California children is overweight or at risk of obesity. Second only to tobacco, he says, obesity is the leading cause of preventable deaths for adults. Schwarzenegger says Californians have gained 360 million pounds in the last decade.
He says that’s why he signed State Senator Alex Padilla’s bill that requires restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to provide nutritional information about their menus. They’ve got to include the number of calories and grams of saturated fat. Padilla says the law will help people make more informed choices.
The governor also signed a bill that requires vending machines on state property to offer healthier snack choices. It says that at least 35 percent of the food and at least one-third of the beverages they carry must meet government nutritional guidelines within three years.
A new scientific study out of Sweden indicates a heightened risk of brain cancer for children and teens who use cell phones. The report follows years of mixed results from similar studies on animals and human cells. Myra Rosenfeld, a neuro-oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, told KPCC’s AirTalk that while she doubts the conclusiveness of the latest study, it’s prudent to limit young peoples’ exposure to the phones.
Myra Rosenfeld:“It’s not unreasonable to use caution because there could be health risks that we don’t know about. I don’t think that they are cancer. But not knowing, it is a relatively new technology, it’s not unreasonable to use some simple precautions when using a cell phone.”
She said those precautions include using a hands-free earpiece to distance the phone’s antenna from the user’s head.
A new study on the safety of cell phone use is giving parents cause for worry. The Swedish report indicated that children and teens who use cell phones are five times more likely than other kids to develop brain cancer. David Carpenter teaches environmental health sciences at the State University of New York. He told KPCC’s AirTalk that a child’s development factors into the potential for risk.
David Carpenter: “There’s very strong evidence that the electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone does penetrate a child’s brain.”
Some neuroscientists dispute the validity of the Swedish study. They claim that prolonged exposure to cell phones is no more harmful than proximity to televisions or microwave ovens.
It’s been five years in the making. In just a few more weeks, the new Los Angeles County USC Medical Center is scheduled to open. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario joined other reporters for a behind-the-scenes tour today.
Patricia Nazario: Three buildings make up the facility: The Inpatient Tower, the Clinic Tower, and Diagnostics and Treatment.
The 600-bed medical center includes a psychiatric ward for patients with medical conditions, a dedicated floor for jail inmates, and an emergency room with a state-of-the-art resuscitation wing.
Dr. Ed Newton: There’s a certain spirit that we have in the old building.
Nazario: Dr. Ed Newton, who supervises student physicians working at the county hospital’s ER, says he hopes that cooperative spirit will infuse the new facility. For years, he says, County-USC has run smoothly because caregivers, clerks, and janitors work together.
Newton: We all get along so well for such a big enterprise, and I hope that transfers down here successfully.
Nazario: The new hospital’s emergency room is about three times the size of the one in the old building. Hospital officials plan to refer less critically ill patients to a network of outpatient clinics for primary care services.
- September 22, 2008 6:40 PM
- Categories: Health
One of the hot-button measures on this year’s statewide ballot is Proposition 4. It would require a waiting period and parental notification before doctors could perform abortions on girls younger than 18. Grace Delaney with the “Yes on 4” campaign told KPCC that parents and guardians have the right to know if their daughters are getting abortions.
Grace Delaney: “To give permission to things that seem innocuous compared to the seriousness of a chemical or surgical abortion, we just feel that it’s common that they should be aware that their minor daughter is scheduled to go in for this procedure that has long-term ramifications.”
Planned Parenthood spokesman Vince Hall from the “No on 4” campaign characterized the ballot measure as extreme.
Vince Hall: “Proposition 4 says not only can you not talk to your parent, but now you cannot seek medical care either. And that puts these teens in real danger, because they might go over the border, they might travel to a different state, they might try to self-induce abortion, or even contemplate suicide.”
California voters have twice defeated earlier parental notification measures – most recently, three years ago.
The new Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center is just a few weeks away from its scheduled opening. Hospital officials plan to relocate inpatients on October 17th and 18th. The facility’s “go to” guy Pete Delgado says there’s still a lot of work to do before the move.
Pete Delgado: “People are in and out making sure the equipment is working, making sure that our major systems are working. They’re kicking the tires, looking under the hood, making sure that it’s ready to take out for our patients. That it’s safe and ready.”
Relocating the most critically ill patients is a delicate process. Dozens of volunteers, including first responders and members of the U.S. Air Force, have signed up to help. The facility’s outpatient clinic opened last week.
In response to Friday’s Metrolink crash, hospitals, the American Red Cross, and other organizations have hosted blood donation drives. KPCC’s Brian Watt stopped by one Thursday at Los Angeles Police headquarters downtown.
Brian Watt: After the train crash, the Red Cross shipped 400 pints of blood to Southland hospitals. The non-profit had collected that blood days if not weeks before. The organization’s Cliff Numark expected more than 1,000 people to roll up their sleeves in response to the latest call for donors.
Cliff Numark: We hope that we can sustain this level of giving every day throughout the year because that’s what it takes to have a five- to seven-day supply of blood on hand to be prepared when the next disaster strikes.
Watt: Like many of the people who showed up at Parker Center, Camille Dudley of Alta Dena is a veteran donor. She’s made it a habit for 10 years.
Camille Dudley: I just hope that others will also come in and donate blood. Not just when we have a tragedy, but just on a regular basis, because there’s always a need.
Watt: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other city officials also stopped in to make their donations.
In response to Friday’s Metrolink train crash, the American Red Cross and the Los Angeles Mayor’s crisis response team held a blood drive yesterday at the LAPD’s downtown headquarters. There and across the region, coordinated blood drives aimed to collect 1,000 pints of blood. Dozens of donors ensured a healthy response. Donor recruiter Cliff Numark says the Red Cross and Southland hospitals could really use it.
Cliff Numark:” The patients who were injured in that train crash were benefited by folks who had donated blood days if not weeks before. We need to have an ongoing supply of blood to prepare for the next disaster, as well as the daily disasters, such as organ transplants, car accident victims, gunshot victims, cancer patients.”
Numark says the Red Cross sent 400 pints of blood to area hospitals after the crash. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was among the city officials who rolled up their sleeves to give blood.
A new study finds that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and other plastics carries a high risk of heart and liver disease. KPCC’s Molly Peterson says this research on people confirms earlier tests on animals.
Molly Peterson: A group of British doctors looked at a chemical called BPA. Sunglasses, plastic bottles, and DVD’s contain BPA; it’s widespread in people, too. The federal Centers for Disease Control report that 93 percent of Americans have some amount of it in their blood.
Most earlier studies had focused on rodents; this is the first large-scale study of how humans respond to higher levels of the chemical. People who had the highest levels of BPA in their blood were twice as likely to risk heart and liver disease as people who had just a little, the study found.
The research is published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s timed to coincide with a federal Food and Drug Administration hearing about BPA. Federal regulators stand by their position that present rules about BPA levels that don’t ban the chemical are good enough to protect consumers.
The state of California is settling with insurance company HealthNet over its practice of canceling policies after customers got sick. KPCC’s Brian Watt reports.
Brian Watt: You fill out the application, the company signs you up, and you start paying medical insurance premiums. Then you get sick or hurt and go after treatment. When you file the claims, the company cancels your policy, all the way back to the date you started paying for it.
California’s Department of Insurance says that happened to nearly 1,000 HealthNet customers in four years. State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner condemned what he called a “use it and lose it” situation.
Steve Poizner: We will not permit the illegal and the improper cancellations of people’s health insurance. And I’m gonna use this HealthNet settlement as a model to roll out new regulations that will apply to all health insurance companies in California.
Watt: Poizner thanked HealthNet for recognizing its mistakes and agreeing to change its ways. The company will reinstate the cancelled policies, without collecting past premiums. It’s also on the hook for up to $14 million worth of medical bill reimbursements, and 3-and-a-half-million dollars in fines.
Charles Drew University, the medical school that used to be affiliated with the shuttered King-Drew Medical Center, will own and operate a state of the art urgent care clinic in South Los Angeles. California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez praised the university for opening what he called a much-needed medical facility in the heart of South Los Angeles.
Fabian Nunez: “I have no problem getting treated here myself. This is about as good of an urgent care center that you’re gonna find anywhere in the state of California.”
Nunez joined other lawmakers and university leaders at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning. The urgent care clinic will begin treating patients Monday morning. Drew University board members say they spent $1 million of the school’s endowment to launch the medical facility. Doctors there expect to treat about 15,000 patients a year.
Nearly one thousand HealthNet customers who lost their medical insurance after they sought treatment can get it back, and get their medical bills paid. California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced a settlement with the insurer today. Poizner said he’s investigating other medical insurance companies over the business practice he calls “use it and lose it.”
Steve Poizner: “You apply for health insurance. The health insurance company processes your application, grants you health insurance. Then you start paying premiums over a multiyear period. And then when you get sick or injured and go into a doctor or hospital and start receiving medical attention, claims get filed. And then the company actually cancels your insurance.”
The settlement with HealthNet puts the company on the hook for up to $14 million in medical bills and 3-and-a-half million dollars in fines.
California’s Board of Education today adopted new guidelines for physical education in public schools. It sets P.E. standards that students will have to meet in every grade, and KPCC’s Nick Roman says they’ll start meeting them in kindergarten.
Nick Roman: You have to start that early if you want kids to be physically fit… and to get the benefits that come with that. Kids in better shape are better in school, and they’re just plain healthier, too. So the new P.E. standards say that in kindergarten, kids have to learn how to move their bodies: Hopping, skipping, moving to a beat, even why it’s important to stretch your muscles.
First graders should learn how to throw and kick a ball, and how to balance. Second graders should be able to jump rope, climb, and play fair.
By the time senior year in high school rolls around, students will have to show some level of skill in some sort of lifelong physical pursuit, like running, cycling, swimming, or dancing. And they’ll have to demonstrate that they’re physically fit.
It all sounds great… as long as the schools hire good P.E. teachers and give them the facilities they need for physical training.
Operators of some Orange County health clinics are worried they could get the raw end of the deal if state lawmakers make budget cuts. Eighteen licensed facilities comprise the Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics.
It says those clinics have lost more than $5 million in state payments because legislators can’t decide on a budget. Ed Gerber of the Lestonnac Free Clinic in Orange says the shortfall of money from the state collides with the sluggish real estate market.
Ed Gerber: “We’ve gotten in the last six months about 40 loan officers, real estate agents and loan processors that have applied here at the clinic to receive healthcare because they have no where else to go. If they show their W-2 forms or they show their tax returns, it appears that last year they made over $100,000. But so far this year, they’ve made nothing. And they have nowhere that they can go to receive health care.”
Gerber says his clinic’s already used $200,000 from its reserves. That’s equal to one-quarter of its annual budget.
The Los Angeles City Council has ordered up an ordinance that would require restaurant chains to provide calorie information about their menu items. But KPCC’s Nick Roman says there’s a good chance the ordinance won’t be necessary.
Nick Roman: The bigger fast-food chains began posting nutritional details inside restaurants years ago. The L.A. ordinance would require them to put that same info on menus and menu boards. That way, you’d know for sure how many hundreds of calories that giant cheeseburger packs.
You could still order it, but at least you’d know. L.A. City’s menu ordinance is a twin to one in the works in L.A. County. But it’s possible neither will ever take effect, and their supporters say that’s fine. Here’s why: there’s a bill on the governor’s desk that’ll require calorie counts on menus and menu boards statewide.
It’ll take effect in three years and it’ll apply to chains with at least 20 outlets. That would set a single standard for nutritional info across California, and it would preempt local menu ordinances. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year, but the California Restaurant Association backs this one, so it figures he’ll sign it.
For the seventh time this year, a Los Angeles County infant has landed unharmed at a “safe surrender” location. Details on the story from KPCC’s Cheryl Devall.
Cheryl Devall: The baby boy’s mother left him at a hospital in Valencia, where medical staff say he’s in good health. L.A. County has placed him in protective custody until Children and Family Services finds an adoptive family for him.
The county’s “safe surrender” program allows adults to deposit newborns at designated places, like hospitals and fire stations, without facing penalties, if the child shows no signs of abuse. County authorities intended the program to reduce the number of abandoned babies.
In seven years, the program has accepted 69 infants. The mother of this week’s surrendered child says she found out about “safe surrender” by reading a brochure. To learn more about the program, go online to babysafela.org.
L.A. County supervisors plan to put the troubled Department of Health Services under a microscope. KPCC’s Nick Roman says they want to assign an overseer to stop a series of bureaucratic foul-ups at Health Services.
Nick Roman: Supervisor Gloria Molina called for a “watchdog” to counter what she calls the “lousy management” at Health Services. She says the department’s bosses are “frightened of telling us the truth.” The move follows reports that more than half the employees who worked at the now-closed King-Harbor Hospital failed to pass tests for on-the-job competency.
At least 10 percent of King-Harbor’s ex-employees had criminal records, and two-thirds of those workers, about 100 in all, stayed on the county payroll after the hospital closed. Personnel managers at Health Services decided those workers had “no job nexus”… nothing to disqualify them from county jobs.
Supervisor Molina wondered how an ex-con could work at a hospital, with fragile patients, expensive equipment, and lots of drugs, and not have a “job nexus.” She and her colleagues want a report back next week that sketches out how a Health Services “watchdog” office will work.
A 48-year-old Rialto man is the state’s third West Nile fatality this year, and the first in San Bernardino County. County health officials did not identify him, except to say he apparently suffered from pre-existing medical conditions that made the virus worse. It’s not known where he contracted the virus.
It’s generally transmitted by mosquito bites. Jack Raney is a West Nile survivor from Riverside County. He now leads a support group for other survivors. He says the severity of this year’s West Nile Virus season should come as no surprise.
Jack Raney: “We knew this was gonna happen, and I don’t like to sound like the boy who cried wolf, but with the rains, the foreclosures, it was inevitable. And I wish it would be represented in the media how dangerous it is, can and will be.”
Most people who get West Nile Virus won’t get sick, or they may only have flu-like symptoms. Health officials want you to wear long sleeves and long pants at night, use insect repellent, and dump or drain standing water. It doesn’t take much for mosquitoes to breed. Vector control officials across the state are warning that this could be the most severe West Nile Virus season in four years.
- September 5, 2008 5:13 PM
- Categories: Health
Hospital and clinic staff whose livelihoods depend on Medi-Cal, the public medical insurance program for the poorest Californians, rallied in Sacramento today. They say their facilities are in danger of closing if lawmakers don’t pass a budget soon.
Charles Guenther, chief executive of a rural northeastern California health care provider, accused the legislature of criminal negligence. He said that without a state budget, his company will begin closing facilities in two to three weeks.
Charles Guenther: “We are the largest employer in the region. And if the hospital closes, more and more people will walk away from their mortgages and create an utter depression for decades to come.”
Guenther said the state owes the company more than $1 million in back payments. His company’s chief financial officer used his credit card to pay last month’s electric bill. The state budget is more than two months late.
Philanthropists, lawmakers, and doctors broke ground today on the first stem cell research center in the state. The facility at USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles is the first of 12 to be built in California. Carmen Puliafito is dean of the university’s Keck School of Medicine.
Carmen Puliafito: “The reason that stem cell research is so exciting to us in the medical field is that certain diseases, such as cardiac failure, Parkinson’s Disease, macular degeneration, provide unique opportunities where we can use stem cells to regenerate some of the body’s parts that may be broken or worn out.”
Voters approved the creation of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine four years ago. The initiative authorized $3 billion to set up stem cell research centers throughout the state.
A second person has died from West Nile Virus in Orange County this year. KPCC’s Susan Valot says county health officials made the announcement today.
Susan Valot: A 64-year-old Garden Grove man was hospitalized and then died earlier this month. Testing confirmed he died of West Nile Virus. He’s the second person to die of West Nile this year in California. Both of those West Nile deaths were in Orange County and both victims have been over the age of 60.
So far, 36 people in Orange County have come down with the disease this year. That’s the highest number in four years. Vector Control officials blame, in part, abandoned swimming pools at vacant or soon-to-be-foreclosed homes.
County health officials point out that lots of people spend time outdoors over the long Labor Day weekend… and that many neglect to use mosquito repellent. They suggest slapping on the repellent and staying indoors at dusk and dawn, when the mosquitoes that carry West Nile are most active.
An Orange County woman has become the first person to die of West Nile Virus in California this year. KPCC’s Susan Valot reports.
Susan Valot: The 72-year-old woman from Buena Park died earlier this month after being hospitalized with the mosquito-borne disease. She’s the first person in Orange County to die of West Nile Virus in four years. So far this year, more than 100 cases of West Nile have been reported statewide. More than a quarter of those cases have been in Orange County. Deanne Thompson is with the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Deanne Thompson: This is not a disease that only affects people over age 50. A lot of the reported cases this year are in individuals under age 50. And that’s the important thing. Everyone needs to take precautions against mosquito bites.
Valot: That means dumping standing water in your yard, keeping window screens repaired and wearing mosquito repellent – particularly at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are especially blood-thirsty. Officials say this year’s West Nile season is more active than normal, possibly because of stagnant swimming pools at properties in foreclosure – or about to be.
- August 26, 2008 9:32 AM
- Categories: Health
A company that operates more than a dozen nursing homes in Los Angeles and Orange counties will pay millions of dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit. KPCC’s Susan Valot says past and present clients of the Orange County-based company accused it of skimping on staffing and training.
Susan Valot: A man who used to live at the Anaheim Healthcare Center initially filed the lawsuit against Brea-based Sun Mar. It operates that facility. The man claimed he developed pressure sores while he was there because of understaffing.
Several other people joined the suit. It alleges that Sun Mar promised elderly clients and their families quality care, but purposely kept budgets so tight that the nursing homes couldn’t provide enough staff or training. The lawsuit claims that the California Department of Health cited the homes dozens of times for various deficiencies.
Sun Mar says it agreed to settle the suit for $2 million so it can keep its attention focused on the people who live in its nursing homes. The company says it doesn’t admit any liability. One stipulation of the lawsuit is that any unclaimed money goes back to Sun Mar, to be used only to improve staffing levels at its nursing homes.
Here’s a big surprise: a new study says hospital emergency rooms in California are more crowded today than ever. You probably figured that out yourself – but did you think about how to fix the problem? KPCC’s Nick Roman says the Public Policy Institute of California did.
Nick Roman: A decade ago, a typical hospital emergency room in California would get about 24,000 visits a year. It’s now up to 30,000. The Public Policy Institute says, to thin out the crowd, look at patients with “non-urgent conditions.” Emergency rooms are for serious stuff.
Treat the coughs, colds, sprained ankles, or earaches at urgent care clinics or a doctor’s office. Think about this: children account for about a quarter of all ER visits. Mom or dad take ‘em there – but usually not for critical care. The peak time for kids at the ER is between 7 o’clock and 8 o’clock at night… a couple of hours after most doctors have closed their offices.
What if those docs stayed open later, or staggered their hours? How about more urgent care centers? Or maybe “fast track” systems at ER’s that’ll treat the minor stuff, and free emergency medical staff to tackle the big stuff? The Public Policy Institute suggests those ideas are all worth a try.
- August 20, 2008 4:31 PM
- Categories: Health
Medi-Cal patients are the heaviest users of emergency rooms in California, followed by Medicare patients, says a study out today. Shannon McConville is a researcher with the organization that released the report, the Public Policy Institute of California. She says many of the Medi-Cal patients who visit emergency rooms may have nowhere else to go for care.
Shannon McConville: “Some other studies looked at the providers and provider participation in the Medi-Cal program, and found that only just over half of physicians in California participate in Medi-Cal. So I do think that might be some piece of that puzzle of why they are using the ER.”
Doctors have complained that the state doesn’t reimburse them enough for treating Medi-Cal patients. The state recently enacted a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal reimbursements, but yesterday a federal judge temporary halted the cut.
The city of L.A.’s spay and neuter program is spinning its wheels. That’s what the city controller’s office says in the results of an audit it released today. KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski has details.
Brooke Binkowski: The city council passed the ordinance in February; it goes into effect this October. Under the new law, owners must spay or neuter their cats and dogs older than four months. City Controller Laura Chick says the animal services department hasn’t done enough planning or public outreach. Without that, she says, the ordinance lacks teeth.
Laura Chick: It’s all about lowering the unwanted pet population, and achieving a no-kill policy and practice in the city of L.A. It’s the right thing to do, it’s the humane thing to do, it’s about public health, but the public doesn’t know. And it’s time that we get the ordinance together with effective implementation, otherwise we’ve got sound-bite solutions and feel-good legislation.
Binkowski: Animal Services chief Ed Boks says Chick’s absolutely right.
Ed Boks: The Department is very committed to spay-neuter, we embrace the ordinance that the City Council enacted. The fact of the matter is, is, that no budget came with that.
Binkowski: Boks says his department will rely heavily on pro bono and volunteer services to get the word out about the spay-neuter program.
California’s Department of Public Health has slapped hospitals in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties with fines for medical mistakes. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says each violation carries a $25,000 penalty.
Cheryl Devall: The list state regulators turned out reads like a litany of medical mishaps you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Santa Ana’s Coastal Communities Hospital over-medicated a patient, who later died.
Anaheim General Hospital failed to ensure that the refrigerator in its pharmacy was keeping drugs cold enough. Surgeons at Fountain Valley Regional left a sponge in a patient; at Newport Beach’s Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, the stray item was a surgical instrument.
A patient died after falling out of an improperly fastened wheelchair at Los Alamitos Medical Center.Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance inaccurately labeled tissue specimens. That led to unnecessary surgery for one patient and delayed another’s treatment.
L.A. County USC Medical Center didn’t assign enough nurses to a patient on suicide watch. The state named 18 hospitals, including San Gorgonio and Kaiser hospitals in Riverside and Loma Linda University Medical Center in San Bernardino. The hospitals have the right to appeal within 10 days.
- August 18, 2008 4:13 PM
- Categories: Health
The state Supreme Court today ruled that doctors cannot, based on their religious beliefs, withhold medical care to gays and lesbians. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the story.
Frank Stoltze: The justices ruled in the case of 36-year-old Guadalupe Benitez of Oceanside. Two Christian fertility doctors agreed to treat her with fertility drugs, but they told her that their religious beliefs prevented them from artificially inseminating Benitez because she’s a lesbian.
In a unanimous ruling, the justices said the doctors can claim neither a free speech right nor a religious exemption from a California law that prohibits businesses from arbitrarily discriminating against clients. The law was originally designed to prevent discrimination based on race, but it’s been expanded to include age and sexual orientation.
Attorney General Jerry Brown backed Benitez. So did the California Medical Association, but only after heavy lobbying from gay rights groups. Capitol Resource Family Impact, a Sacramento-based lobbying group, called the ruling “another shocking decision favoring the radical homosexual movement.”
The alleged scheme to bilk Medicare and Medi-CAL using homeless people is back on the federal court docket Monday. KPCC’s Brian Watt says a hospital executive accused of paying illegal kickbacks in the scheme is scheduled for arraignment.
Brian Watt: A federal indictment names Dr. Rudra Sabaratnam as an owner of City of Angels Medical Center in Los Angeles. It alleges that Sabaratnam paid thousands of dollars a month for referrals of homeless people from Skid Row to fill beds in his hospital. Assistant U.S. Attorney Vince Farhat says the hospital made lots of money while the homeless “patients” received 20 to 30 bucks and a maybe a few days off the street.
Vince Farhat: “They would be admitted under various diagnosis codes, including chronic chest pain and things like that. And they would be kept at the hospital, and then Medicare would be billed for services rendered during their stay. Many of the services were not medically necessary.”
Watt: Last week, Estill Mitts pleaded not guilty in the same case. He’s the man the indictment claims received the illegal kickbacks for recruiting the homeless people and moving them through an assessment center on Skid Row. In a larger case, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has also taken action against Mitts, Sabaratnam, City of Angels, and two other Southland hospitals.
An executive accused of paying kickbacks for homeless “patients” to fill beds in his hospital is scheduled for arraignment Monday in federal court.
An indictment alleges that Dr. Rudra Sabaratnam signed checks amounting to thousands of dollars a month to Estill Mitts. Mitts recruited homeless “patients” on Downtown L.A.’s Skid Row, then referred them to the City of Angels Medical Center. Assistant U.S. Attorney Vince Farhat said the hospital could bill Medicare or Medi-Cal and make lots of money.
Vince Farhat: “The vast majority of the homeless people that were recruited didn’t need the services that Medical and Medicare were billed for. So it’s not just a conspiracy to pay and receive illegal kickbacks, It’s also a conspiracy to defraud the health care program.”
Last week, Estill Mitts pleaded not guilty to charges he’d received the kickbacks.
In a larger case, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has also sued Mitts, Sabaratnam, City of Angels, and two other Southland hospitals… and the ambulance company that allegedly transported the homeless people from Skid Row to the hospitals and back.
Proposed rules for the Inglewood oil field drew about 300 people to a public hearing in Baldwin Hills last night. L.A. County planners are considering new restrictions aimed at monitoring and limiting the health and environmental effects of oil drilling on the site. But some oil field neighbors, like Culver Crest’s Ron Ostrin, want the county to conduct that review more slowly.
Ron Ostrin (at hearing): “What you are doing now is the regulation that’s going to be in effect and affect the public’s health, safety, welfare, the economy, and the quality of life for the next 100 years. So take your gosh darn time doing it! Do it right or it’s going to be a do over.”
A company called Plains Exploration holds leases in the oil field. Its employees said they’re convinced the Baldwin Hills operations are safe. And landowners who get royalties for leasing oil rights to Plains Exploration said they’re satisfied with the current schedule for environmental review.
L.A. County planners are scheduled to vote on the proposed rules next month, and county supervisors will take up the issue in October.
A baby boy in South Pasadena is the sixth infant this year recovered in Los Angeles County’s Safe Surrender program. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says the handover happened yesterday.
Cheryl Devall: Someone left the newborn at a fire station, where personnel took him to a local hospital. He’s reportedly doing fine.
After the baby leaves the hospital, he’ll be in protective custody until L.A. County’s children and family services places him with a family for adoption.
The county allows adults to surrender infants no more than three days old to hospitals, law enforcement, and fire stations. There’s no punishment for the caretakers, provided the child shows no signs of abuse. Since Safe Surrender began seven years ago, parents or other adults have entrusted 68 babies to the program.
Many Latinos rely on TV and radio advertising and news reports, instead of on doctors, for their health information, a new study indicates. The report from the Pew Hispanic Center says 83 percent of survey respondents said they got their health information from television and other media sources. UCLA family medicine professor Dr. Glen Lopez says that reliance can leave people vulnerable to advertising claims of “miracle cures.”
Dr. Glen Lopez: “I am of course concerned that those who are receiving health information from the media, that it be from an objective source. And I think we have to distinguish between health information coming from advertisements or info-commercials versus those coming from the newscasts.”
About 64 percent of the people who responded to the survey said they changed the way they thought about diet and exercise because of something they saw on TV.
- August 13, 2008 4:35 PM
- Categories: Health
State Controller Chiang says California should be able to recover cost of prison health care upgrades
The man charged with improving state prison health care is dragging Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Controller John Chiang into court. Court-appointed receiver Clark Kelso is demanding $8 billion to construct new medical facilities for inmates. Chiang told KPCC’s Patt Morrison the state should be able to cover the cost.
John Chiang: “We don’t have strenuous objections. I just need to make sure I follow the laws provided in the California constitution. So I either need a budget authorization or I need a court order. Clark and I aren’t at strong ends. I just need the legal authority to do what he is requesting.”
Kelso is threatening to ask the judge to hold Schwarzenegger and Chiang in contempt of court for failing to release the money.
Federal receiver asks federal court to order California to fund $8 billion prison health care upgrades
The man in charge of medical care at state prisons is asking a federal court to order California to pay up. Federal receiver Clark Kelso says the state has refused to fund his $8 billion construction project to bring prison care up to constitutional standards.
Kelso filed a motion asking the court to hold Governor Schwarzenegger and Controller John Chiang in contempt. Kelso needs the money to build seven new facilities with a total of 10,000 medical beds.
Clark Kelso: “The timing of this, though, is dictated by the fact that I’m running out of money, and I actually have hundreds of planners working now on the seven long-term care facilities, and I simply no longer can wait.”
Kelso says he needs $3 billion this fiscal year. That would add to the state’s $15 billion deficit. Kelso pushed for lawmakers to approve a plan to borrow the money, but Senate Republicans rejected that idea.
Court-appointed receiver Clark Kelso has demanded that the state turn over billions of dollars so he can build new medical units in state prisons. State lawmakers have twice defeated a bill to pay for construction, so Kelso’s asking a federal judge to order the state to turn over the money. Republican legislators have argued that they’ve already approved a prison plan. Kelso told KPCC’s AirTalk that plan doesn’t go far enough.
Clark Kelso: “It simply doesn’t do the job. It would build a lot more prison beds, but building prison beds by itself doesn’t help with health care. So they’ve got it exactly backwards.”
Kelso is demanding $8 billion over the next five years. At the same time, the state is trying to figure out how to close a $15 billion deficit. Governor Schwarzenegger’s office says the governor will keep working with Kelso and lawmakers to try and pay for improvements to prison medical care.
The federal receiver in charge of prison healthcare in California wants the governor hauled into court. He wants the $8 billion he needs to build new prison hospitals as ordered by a federal judge – and he says the state government is standing in his way. KPCC’s Julie Small reports.
Julie Small: Federal receiver Clark Kelso filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to hold the governor and the state controller in contempt of court for failing to fund his prison medical plan. Kelso asked the judge to fine the state government $2 million for every day it fails to pay up.
Clark Kelso: We have fully explored and exhausted every avenue for securing this funding in a manner that least affects California’s budget and immediate cash needs. But the state’s leaders have failed to act.
Small: If it seems like bad timing, it is – for the state. Lawmakers can’t agree on how to close a $15 billion budget deficit. California might have to borrow billions to pay its bills. Kelso, who was appointed by a federal judge to fix prison medical care in California, says he can’t wait any longer. He says he’ll run out of money by October. The court is expected to hear Kelso’s motion in September. It’s possible that the budget will be in place by then.
The man in charge of fixing health care in California prisons wants the state to pay him $8 billion over the next five years. Clark Kelso asked a judge this morning to order the state to turn over the money. Kelso says he needs it to build new medical units. State lawmakers have turned that request down twice. Kelso told KPCC’s AirTalk he thinks the judge will view his request favorably.
Clark Kelso: “The judge previously has approved our turn-around plan of action. And one of the major components of the plan of action is precisely the construction programs that I’m seeking funding for today.”
Lawmakers have argued that they’ve already approved a plan to fix California prisons. Kelso said that plan doesn’t go far enough. Kelso also asked the judge to hold Governor Schwarzenegger and state controller John Chiang in contempt of court if they don’t allocate the money soon. Kelso said he’ll keep working with both state officials to try and resolve the matter out of court.
Coming soon to a chain restaurant menu near you: calorie counts, and more. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says Los Angeles County supervisors today approved drafting an ordinance that would require eateries to serve up nutritional information along with the shakes and fries.
Cheryl Devall: The point, ordinance sponsors say, is to let customers know how much fat and salt they’re getting so they can make informed choices at the fast-food counter. The nutrition facts would show up right next to the prices on chain restaurant menus in unincorporated areas of L.A. County.
Public health staff will draft the ordinance and present it to the supervisors for review within the next 30 days. A spokesman for industry lobby the California Restaurant Association says the organization likes the idea of full disclosure, but it would prefer a single, uniform standard for the entire state.
Los Angeles’ experience with hydrogenated trans fats may offer a preview of coming attractions for the menu labeling requirement. Last year, the county supervisors approved restrictions on the use of trans fats in restaurants and institutional food service. The state of California adopted a similar trans fat ban last month.
If you’ve ever wondered just how many calories are in that burger and fries, you might find out soon if you live in Los Angeles County. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors wants to make nutritional information labeling mandatory for fast food restaurants.
County public health director Jon Fielding says some restaurant chains have resisted because they fear they’ll lose customers.
Jon Fielding: “They’re still going to eat at fast food restaurants. But they’ll make some different choices. And I hope over time that will also lead to some different offerings. In the past, fast food restaurants, a lot of them had, they said, “Well you know, the salads don’t sell,” or the veggie burgers or whatever, but if you don’t have the caloric information up, you know, people don’t understand some of the trade-offs they’re making.”
Dr. Fielding contends that most people in L.A. County are either overweight or obese. A typical fast-food order – a double cheeseburger, soda, and fries – adds up to more than 1,000 calories.
Not all cholesterol is created equal. And a new study shows heart patients pay more attention to “bad” cholesterol than they do “good” cholesterol. KPCC’s Susan Valot reports.
Susan Valot: UC Irvine researchers looked at nearly 3,000 patients in a government health tracking survey a few years ago. They found nearly 40 percent of patients with heart disease got their levels of “bad” cholesterol, or LDL-C, under control, often by using anti-cholesterol drugs.
But the researchers say only 17 percent had a handle on all types of lipids in the blood, including “good” cholesterol and triglycerides. In case you didn’t pay attention at the doctor’s office, lipids are fatty substances, both good and bad. Too many of the bad ones can put you at risk for heart disease and other problems. The UCI researchers say doctors nationwide aggressively use drugs to get down those bad cholesterol levels.
But many heart patients apparently aren’t eating right, exercising, and using other therapies to control the other cholesterol and lipid levels. The study appears in the “American Heart Journal.”
Soon, Los Angeles County restaurants may have a slew of new information on display – about calories, fat content, and other nutritional facts. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors wants to make restaurants include that kind of labeling on menus. County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky co-wrote the proposed ordinance.
Zev Yaroslavsky: “It would require restaurants in Los Angeles County to label their menus with nutritional information – calorie information, salt content, other nutritional information. So that people when they go to restaurants, fast food restaurants in the county, will be empowered with information upon which they can base an informed decision about what they’re going to eat.”
Yaroslavsky said a typical fast-food order – double cheeseburger, medium fries, and medium soda – averages more than one-thousand calories. The ordinance would only apply to restaurants in unincorporated areas of L.A. county. The board of supervisors and public health officials are encouraging cities within the county to adopt similar measures.
Federal and local prosecutors say a network of hospitals, doctors, ambulance companies, and others conspired to use homeless people to bilk Medicaid and Medi-Cal out of millions of dollars. Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has sued three Southland hospitals, an ambulance company – and other parties, including a man named Estal Mitts.
Rocky Delgadillo: “The defendants developed an elaborate scheme in which L.A. Metropolitan Hospital, Tustin Hospital, and City of Angels would employ Estal Mitts and his team of runners to search for, identify, and recruit Skid Row homeless persons eligible for Medicare or Medi-Cal.”
Delgadillo said Mitts ran a Skid Row processing center that provided the homeless recruits with bogus medical diagnoses and referred them to the hospitals for unnecessary treatments. Federal authorities arrested Mitts and the owner-operator of City of Angels Medical Center this morning.
More and more people are visiting emergency rooms across the United States, even as the number of emergency rooms has declined. A report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that’s led to longer waiting times in emergency rooms. John Bibb is an emergency doctor at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He told KPCC’s AirTalk that a shortage of nurses is the biggest reason for crowded facilities.
John Bibb: “Nationwide, we’re short well over 100,000 nurses, so many hospitals may have a bed to put a patient in upstairs but they don’t have the nurses to staff those beds.”
Bibb says that leads to a phenomenon hospitals call “boarding” – some patients are forced to stay for days in the emergency room. The federal report found that about one-third more people visited ER’s during the 10 years that ended in 2006. At the same time, the number of emergency rooms across the country fell by 300.
- August 6, 2008 12:56 PM
- Categories: Health
Public health officials say the number of Americans visiting emergency rooms increased by almost a third in a decade. While the demand has increased, the number of emergency rooms has decreased. The numbers are in a report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jim Lott with the Hospital Association of Southern California told KPCC’s AirTalk that he’s not surprised about the national picture.
Jim Lott: “We’re right there with them. We’re dovetailed right into that report. We’ve seen a 29 percent increase in the need for emergency room care over the last 10 years in Southern California.”
Lott says emergency room capacity has remained essentially flat in Southern California, so patients are waiting longer for treatment. He says the average wait time for someone with a non-emergency condition in an L.A. County emergency room is seven hours.
Ten years ago, that time averaged fewer than three hours. Lott says many Southern California hospitals are creating “fast track” systems in which nurses quickly determine whether someone belongs in the ER or in another part of the hospital.
- August 6, 2008 12:28 PM
- Categories: Health
Three Southern Californians have received kidneys from three strangers, including one from New York. They got them through Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s new kidney exchange program. It matches waiting patients with living organ donors.
Dr. Jeffrey Veale is a transplant surgeon and director of UCLA’s kidney match program. He says the surgery’s pretty straightforward but can be challenging if the patients are unhealthy or obese.
Dr. Jeffrey Veale: In this case though, I transplanted two of the three patients. They were nice and thin.They were very straightforward, I must say, straightforward recipients to transplant. And that was helpful, because one of the kidneys I put in came from New York. And you don’t know what kind of kidney you’re getting, but the surgeon who removed the kidney in New York, Dr. Del Pizzo, did a beautiful job. I had a nice long artery, vein, and ureter.
Veale says the new practice of shipping living-donor kidneys across the country for transplant has the potential of helping thousands of patients who otherwise would have to remain on dialysis.
Nearly 79,000 people are on the national kidney transplant waiting list. Of those, more than 16,000 are in California.
- August 4, 2008 6:34 PM
- Categories: Health
Three Southern Californians have received kidneys from three strangers, including an anonymous donor in New York. It’s part of a new program through UCLA Medical Center that matches waiting patients with compatible organs. Dr. Jeffrey Veale is a transplant surgeon. He also directs UCLA’s kidney chain program. Veale says this is the fourth such exchange of its kind in the country.
Jeffrey Veale: “What makes ours unique was that this kidney was actually removed in New York, put on ice, and shipped to Los Angeles, where I put the kidney in and started the chain. Usually living donors, their kidneys are removed in the operating room next door, in the same hospital. They’re not removed across the country.”
He says that kidneys from living, healthy donors can last a little longer when they’re packed on ice
- August 4, 2008 3:17 PM
- Categories: Health
San Bernardino and San Diego Counties are deciding their next move in the ongoing battle over the state’s medical marijuana law. A state appeals court ruled yesterday that the counties have to set up an ID card program for medical marijuana patients. The counties argued that the program violates federal drug laws. David Wert is a spokesman for San Bernardino County.
David Wert: “It doesn’t make much sense to give someone a card that says they can use marijuana, when in fact they can turn around and be arrested by federal authorities or by county authorities, who are working in cooperation with federal authorities.”
The court ruled yesterday that the federal laws are designed to combat recreational drug use – and they’re not intended to regulate a state’s medical practices. The counties have 40 days to set up the program or appeal the ruling to the state supreme court.
San Bernardino and San Diego counties are deciding whether to appeal a ruling on medical marijuana. A state appeals court ruled yesterday that the counties have to hand out ID cards to medical marijuana patients who qualify for the program. The counties have argued that doing so would violate federal drug laws, which don’t allow for medicinal use of marijuana. David Wert is a spokesman for San Bernardino Coutny.
David Wert: “There’s currently a very clear conflict between state and federal law on this issue – and that poses a very real problem for law enforcement personnel and also for patients. And the county would like the courts to resolve that conflict.”
The appeals court ruled that the federal drug laws are designed to combat recreational drug use – and do not pre-empt California’s law allowing the use of medical marijuana. The counties now have 40 days to follow through on the ID card program or to appeal the ruling to the state supreme court.
Today’s earthquake prompted a reminder about what’s likely ahead for Southern California. Few said it better than Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith.
Greig Smith: “The big quake has yet to come. It’s going to be a 7.9 to 8.1 on the San Andreas fault in the next decade that will bring significant damage throughout the region. In 1994, our police and fire departments were able to call on mutual aid from other cities. We will not have mutual aid if that quake hits as predicted. We will be on our own as a city and as individuals. And everybody must be prepared in their home. You must have water. You must have canned foods. You must have a flashlight with batteries and a transistor radio to keep informed of what’s going on because you may be on your own for up to three or four days.”
Geologists say an earthquake capable of causing widespread destruction is 99 percent certain of hitting California within the next 30 years.
A study published earlier this year said a 7.8 magnitude quake could kill nearly 2,000 people, injure 50,000 more, and damage 300,000 buildings.
L.A. County beaches had hundreds fewer beach closure days last year, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council. But as KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports, Southern Californians are still finding plenty of bacteria at the beach.
Molly Peterson: The NRDC analyzed federal monitoring data to find that for the fifth year in a row, Los Angeles County beaches led the state in closure and advisory notices. Drought gets a lot of the credit for what drop there was; less rain means less bacteria from water running through storm systems and onto California beaches. But bacteria and runoff still cause most advisories in L.A. and Orange County.
NRDC attorney David Beckman says local agencies need to watch pollution more closely.
David Beckman: “There are 88 cities in Southern California, and they’re required by the Clean Water Act to fix this problem. And it is abundantly clear that they failed to meet that challenge and legal requirement. So it is extremely important that all cities redouble their efforts.”
Peterson: Beckman says the NRDC’s report shows that seven of the 10 dirtiest beaches in California are in L.A. County. Seventeen percent of the time last year, bacteria samples taken at Los Angeles beaches exceeded legal standards.
For the fifth straight year, Los Angeles County beachgoers saw the highest number of closure and advisory notices in the state. That’s according to federal data analyzed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in a new beach quality report.
L.A. County did have hundreds fewer closure days last year – about 18 percent less than the year before. NRDC attorney Noah Garrison says that’s because most closures in L.A. are caused by stormwater runoff, and the area’s in a drought.
Noah Garrison: And while the decrease is welcome, hoping that it does not rain cannot be Los Angeles County’s solution to beach pollution. In Orange County, despite the drought conditions, we saw no improvement in the number of beach closings and advisories that we saw last year.
Federal records show that seven of the 10 dirtiest beaches in California are in L.A. County. Garrison says local cities and the regional water board should tighten enforcement and testing.
The NRDC’s rating guide gave the highest marks to Bolsa Chica Reserve, Laguna Beach’s Blue Lagoon, and Crescent Bay in Orange County.
The city of Los Angeles today considers a one year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants. KPCC’s Steve Julian says the ban would target about 30 square miles.
Steve Julian: The area is known as South L.A., which is predominantly Latino and African-American. The County Public Health Department finds 30 percent of adults in South L.A. are obese – compared to 14 percent in the more affluent Westside. City Councilwoman Jan Perry claims South L.A. residents lack healthy food options, including grocery stores, fresh produce markets – and full-service restaurants.
One report finds nearly three-quarters of South L.A. restaurants are considered “fast food,” where there’s no wait staff and food is packaged in disposable containers or wrappers. The California Restaurant Association says the moratorium is misguided. Last Friday, L.A. banned trans fats, which lowers levels of good cholesterol and increases bad cholesterol.
California has become the first state to ban the use of trans fats at restaurants. The governor signed legislation today that will prohibit restaurants from using oil, margarine, or shortening that contain trans fats. Democratic Assemblyman Tony Mendoza of Norwalk sponsored the bill.
Tony Mendoza: “It’s about health. It’s about California families knowing that when they go out and eat, in any restaurant they choose, they know they will be eating the most healthful food available, and eliminating the stuff in our food supply that is that is known to cause heart disease. Plain fact. Scientifically proven fact: trans fats kill.”
Mendoza spoke with KPCC’s Patt Morrison. The law takes effect in January, 2010. In 2011, trans fats will be banned from baked goods as well. Violators face fines of 25 to 1,000 dollars. New York City and Philadelphia have approved local ordinances banning trans fats.
- July 25, 2008 2:59 PM
- Categories: Health
Health care providers are warning California’s budget standoff may soon hurt the health care system. KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski has more.
Brooke Binkowski: Doctors like Jose Perez say good health is a basic human right.
Jose Perez: “We’re not talking, you know, digital TVs here. We are talking the ability of getting up every morning and going to work and being a productive citizen.”
Binkowski: Perez heads Central City Community Health Center in South L.A. A spokesman for the California Department of Health Care Services says it’ll have to cut off Medi-cal reimbursements if state legislators and the governor can’t agree on a budget soon.
Jim Mangia is head of several community clinics in the L.A. area.
Jim Mangia: “The way that they play with this as a political football is really disgusting, and it’s unbecoming of the people who we elect and pay to do this job, which they don’t do.”
Binkowski: Mangia said Los Angeles-area clinics could lose nearly $4 million a week if there’s no state budget soon. He says that means clinics might not be able to afford to treat some patients.
California’s budget standoff may soon affect everybody who needs health care, not just people without health insurance. Without money from the state, some community clinics won’t have the money to treat patients. Jim Mangia’s the CEO of Saint John’s Well Child and Family Center.
Jim Mangia: “This budget crisis doesn’t only affect the poor. Obviously, that’s the first group that it impacts. But it affects everybody. And it’s really quite despicable that what we’re getting is media parlays from the governor about cutting the pay of state workers, rather than coming to the table and really offering some serious solutions to the budget crisis.”
According to the California Department of Health Care, the state’s last Medi-Cal reimbursements post Monday. After that, Mangia says, Los Angeles-area clinics could lose nearly $4 million a week until California’s budget issues are resolved.
Health care providers are warning that California’s budget standoff may soon have a dramatic effect on hospitals. The state sent out its last Medi-Cal reimbursements to community clinics today. That means community clinics that operate on low or sliding scales may soon run short on money to treat patients. Jim Mangia is president of Saint John’s Well Child and Family Center in South L.A.
Jim Mangia: “You have a situation where the uninsured are going to be crowding our emergency rooms because they can’t receive care at the community clinics because of this budget crisis. You’re going to have middle-class and wealthy people from Beverly Hills having their ambulances diverted when they have to have heart attacks, or have to go to an emergency room because the emergency rooms are going to be full.”
Magia’s calling on the governor and state legislators to end the budget impasse before clinics have to take out lines of credit to treat patients.
The nationwide alcohol watchdog group, Marin Institute released what it’s calling a landmark study today. It found moderate and heavy drinking Californians cost the state more a year than natural disasters. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario tallies up the numbers.
Patricia Nazario: The report says alcohol abuse costs California about $40 billion a year and kills about 9500 people annually.
In Los Angeles County, the bottom line is close to $11 billion and 2300 deaths.
The report calls for higher taxes to limit access to alcohol, especially for young drinkers.
Co-author Michelle Simon expects the alcohol industry to push back:
Michelle Simon: “By saying yes, we know there are some problems related to alcohol, but really parents need to do a better job at educating their kids. And maybe we need some more money for treatment here at there.”
Simon says that approach hasn’t worked.
Simon: “It’s not cutting it. We need much more serious government policies in place to prevent this harm.”
Simon says the report will be published next month in the journal “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.”
In new study released today, The Marin Institute reports moderate and heavy drinking Californians cost the state’s economy nearly $40 billion a year. Co-author Michelle Simon says they looked at the cost of alcohol-related deaths, injuries, and crime.
Michelle Simon: “For example, the illness and injury data comes from hospital data. The state of California provides information for hospitalizations, and so we were able to say how many people died of these kinds of illnesses that we know have a connection to alcohol.”
The report says alcohol use costs the Los Angeles County economy about $11 billion a year.
The California Beer Wholesalers Association had no immediate comment on the study.
In a unanimous decision, a Los Angeles City Council Committee pressed the pause button on new fast food restaurants in South L.A. Councilwoman Jan Perry represents parts of South L.A.
Jan Perry: “Our area is a mere 32 square miles, and yet we carry the greatest percentage of fast food establishments in the city.”
Perry wants the moratorium to take effect in September. It still needs the approval of the full City Council. The California Restaurant Association says L.A. lawmakers are misusing a land use ordinance to dictate the types of restaurants in the area.
West Nile virus has sent two people in Orange County to the hospital. KPCC’s Susan Valot says health officials made the announcement today, one day after reporting the county’s first two human West Nile virus cases this year.
Susan Valot: Orange County’s first two human West Nile virus cases of the year involved men who didn’t show any symptoms. Their cases were picked up by blood-screening tests. But now, the mosquito-borne disease has put an 80-year-old Anaheim man and a 49-year-old central Orange County woman into the hospital. The woman may have picked it up while traveling.
Most people don’t get sick from the virus at all. Only about one in five shows symptoms, and when symptoms do show up, they’re sometimes mistaken for the flu. Like the flu, West Nile virus can be fatal for the elderly and those with weak immune systems.
California Department of Public Health stats show Orange County’s four human cases so far this year are the most of any county. County workers are treating swimming pools at foreclosed homes to prevent mosquito infestations, and possible West Nile outbreaks.
- July 18, 2008 5:47 PM
- Categories: Health
The city and county of Los Angeles and the L.A. Unified School District are serving up free lunch to qualifying kids all summer. Kevin Regan with the city recreation and parks department helped launch the season at Cesar Chavez Elementary school in South Pasadena.
Kevin Regan: “The Department of Recreation and Parks also has a summer lunch program at a 107 recreation centers throughout the city. And these are meals primarily for children under the age of 17. They’re free and any child who shows up can get a meal. And we partner with LAUSD as well, on the program.”
They hope to distribute food to 36,000 kids and families by summer’s end. For more information about where lunch is served, call the toll-free L.A. City or County information lines: 2-1-1 or 3-1-1.
A family from Topanga has lost its billion dollar lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. KPCC’s Steve Julian says jurors in Malibu found the company was not responsible for a young girl’s blindness.
Steve Julian: It came down to the label on Children’s Motrin. Joan and Kenneth Johnson gave the over-the-counter drug to their daughter, Sabrina, who was then six. Sabrina suffered a severe allergic reaction that caused inflammation of her eyes, mouth, and mucus membranes. Sabrina testified that her eyes were so sensitive and painful that she holed up during the day inside a cardboard box.
The jury found in its verdict that Children’s Motrin did carry “substantial and dangerous” potential risks. But the panel answered “no” to the question: was a lack of sufficient instructions or warnings a substantial factor in causing harm to Sabrina Johnson? One juror said Sabrina’s mother failed to follow directions on the label by giving her the drug after the girl woke up with puffy eyes.
The union representing service and patient care workers in the University of California system began a five-day strike this morning. Hundreds of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees picketed outside UCLA’s Reagan Medical Center. Tom Rosenthal is Chief Medical Officer of UCLA Hospitals. He said the strike has had a limited effect on patient care.
Tom Rosenthal: “Most of our bedside technical workers who could have been affected by the strike elected to do the right thing and are at the bedside taking care of patients. That being the case, the UCLA Medical Center is functioning. We’ve not had to cancel surgeries, we’ve been able to safely care for all the patients being served by us today.”
The union went on strike despite a temporary restraining order a superior court judge issued last week. Rosenthal said the judge determined a potential threat to public safety. The union maintains that its strike is legal because it offered UCLA adequate advance notice.
Hundreds of janitors, cooks, and medical workers picketed today on the campus of UCLA. Their union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, began a five-day strike against the University of California system’s 10 campuses and five medical centers.
Labor and management have been negotiating new contracts for patient care and service workers for almost a year; they’re hung up over pay increases. Nurse’s assistant Monica Martinez of the union’s bargaining team said it wants to set the minimum wage for a service worker at $15 per hour.
Monica Martinez: “Ninety-six percent of the service workers qualify for public aid programs like welfare, food stamps, housing, and the university has the ability to bring people out of poverty. The $15 hour wage will not completely bring them out of poverty but it will definitely improve hundred of thousands of people’s lives.”
UC officials say they have offered pay raises as high as $2 an hour to service workers. The head of UCLA Medical Center said the vast majority of medical technicians came to work today, so the strike isn’t affecting patient care very much. He reminded those on strike that a Superior Court judge had determined that the work stoppage is illegal.
One of California’s U.S. senators contends that the White House is trying to curtail evidence that global warming affects public health.
Earlier this week, a former federal Environmental Protection Agency official sent a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer claiming that the vice president’s office deleted six pages of congressional testimony the federal Centers for Disease Control presented last October.
KPCC’s Patt Morrison spoke with Senator Boxer about CDC’s findings that global warming poses serious health threats, and the White House’s decision to disregard those findings.
Senator Barbara Boxer: “This is life and death stuff. These folks have wasted eight long years in the battle against global warming. And every day we lose time, it makes it so much more difficult because carbon stays in the air for so long, for decades.”
In a news conference this week, Senator Boxer claimed that by altering the public health report, the Bush Administration is trying to obscure the dangers of global warming from public view.
Hollywood and the government are trying to send a more consistent anti-smoking signal. KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski has more on the story.
Brooke Binkowski: Six major studios have agreed to run state-sponsored anti-smoking messages like this on DVDs with G, PG, or PG-13 ratings. At Hollywood’s Kodak Theater, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lauded the effort.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: “By agreeing to include our anti-smoking ads in the opening minutes of the DVDs, especially those that contain tobacco use, the studios will help reach tens of millions more viewers with a proven anti-smoking message. And the good thing is, it won’t cost anything to the taxpayers. Isn’t that great?”
Binkowski: California’s Department of Health and Human Services developed the public service announcements. The Entertainment Industry Foundation helped to pay for and distribute them. Motion Picture Association of America chief Dan Glickman said his industry’s responding to persistent criticism from anti-smoking activists who contend that movies routinely make smoking look cool, even glamorous.
Dan Glickman: “We are under no illusion that this single step constitutes a silver bullet. But we are going to do our part to raise awareness of the very real public health consequences of smoking.”
Binkowski: State public health officials say there are no plans to delete smoking scenes from films. The anti-smoking messages will start showing up on DVDs later this month. They may eventually run in theaters.
After years of criticism from anti-tobacco activists, Hollywood’s joined with the California’s department of Health and Human Services to include messages about the dangers of smoking on movie DVDs. Dan Glickman heads the Motion Picture Association of America.
Dan Glickman: “All six major motion picture studios joined together: Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Brothers, committing to run state-produced PSAs. All of the major film studios standing shoulder to shoulder. This is an issue that has become increasingly important in our society and within our industry.”
For Glickman, it’s personal: both his parents had cancer. All DVDs with G, PG, or PG-13 ratings will include the anti-smoking announcements, starting later this month.
Hollywood and California’s government are joining forces to target kids with messages that it’s unhealthy to smoke. Details on the plan from KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski.
Brooke Binkowski: Anti-tobacco activists have long criticized the movie industry for glamorizing smoking. Now six Hollywood studios are trying some damage control.
They’ve agreed to place anti-smoking public service announcements on future DVDs of children’s movies. The studio effort won’t delete smoking scenes from movies. Although the anti-smoking messages will only show up on DVDs at first, they may eventually run in theaters.
California’s Department of Health and Human Services developed the public service announcements. The Entertainment Industry Foundation plans to distribute them.
It’s that time of year again. West Nile Virus has emerged in the San Gabriel Valley. Throughout that area, public health officials have found clusters of birds the virus has killed. This week, they spotted infected mosquitoes in Covina and Arcadia. Kelly Middleton is with the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District. She says the virus is here to stay.
Kelly Middleton: “I would be concerned enough if I was a resident of the San Gabriel Valley, or anywhere in Los Angeles County for that matter, to start taking the precautions. It’s time that residents start checking their properties constantly, every week, for standing water, and dumping out the water. Water is where mosquitoes lay their eggs, so they develop their life cycle in this dirty, stagnant water.”
Middleton also recommends wearing loose clothes that cover the skin, and applying insect repellent. Mosquito bites usually spread West Nile Virus to birds and humans. Symptoms include fever, body aches, and exhaustion. Most cases are mild, but the virus can carry serious and permanent complications.
The alert is on for West Nile virus in the San Gabriel Valley. KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski says mosquitoes are the carriers.
Brooke Binkowski: They’re the first mosquitoes this year to test positive for the virus. Public health officials collected them from a park in Covina. Monitors also have spotted clusters of birds the virus killed in Arcadia, Temple City, and El Monte. Mosquitoes breed when it’s warm out, so authorities warn that animals and people run a higher risk of contracting the virus this time of year.
Long sleeves, long pants, and insect repellent can minimize that risk. Public health agencies also encourage people to avoid pools of standing water, and to stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
West Nile Virus is a blood-borne disease. Its symptoms include fever, body aches, and exhaustion. The disease is usually mild, but it can have serious complications, especially for the very young, the very old, and people with compromised immune systems.
- July 10, 2008 1:43 PM
- Categories: Health
An L.A. Unified School District board member is recommending that the schools require at least 20 minutes of physical education each instructional day. Chad Fenwick, an advisor to the school district’s physical education program, told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that kids these days aren’t able to run outdoors and play as their parents and grandparents did.
Chad Fenwick: “L.A. doesn’t have that space anymore, and it’s become so condensed it’s hard to find places to move where you’re gonna naturally learn a lot of these kinds of skills. The hardest hit areas are the lowest socioeconomic areas in L.A. They have the highest density, and the least facilities of parks and recreation around it.”
Fenwick says students increasingly depend upon their schools to offer opportunities for physical activity.
The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education is considering a measure that would enforce the importance of gym classes in public schools. It would require the district to hire qualified physical education teachers, develop better sports and exercise facilities, and to limit class sizes.
As many as 80 kids crowd into gym classes at some secondary schools. KPCC’s Patt Morrison spoke with Chad Fenwick, an L.A. Unified physical education advisor.
Chad Fenwick: “We have a minimum by the state standards of 200 minutes each 10 school days, and that’s all year long. But, the national recommendation is about 250 over that time. So, just to meet the minimum, it’s not getting done.”
L.A. County’s public health department says obesity among L.A. Unified students has increased from one in five nine years ago to just more than a quarter of all students enrolled two years ago.