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House Calls: nicotine kick: give it the boot

House Calls is published monthly. Today’s article was written by Doron Andrews, a respiratory therapist at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Crescent City is a beautiful city on California’s northern coast. It’s well known for its lush nature and giant redwood forests that generously promote flora and beauty. Crescent City is a great place to walk outside, feel the ocean breeze, take in a deep breath of air and exhale the freshness that the coastal city offers.  

Unfortunately, not all of us are able to take in a full, deep breath of air, and in certain cases some individual’s struggle to take in a deep breath at all. 

What can possibly prevent someone from taking a full breath of air?  You guessed right — smoking tobacco.

 

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Coastal Voices: Unproductive Congress can function better

It’s disappointing that U.S. John House Speaker Boehner just adjourned the House of Representatives for August “recess” instead of staying in session to tackle the pile of unfinished congressional work — including votes on comprehensive immigration reform, gun violence prevention, replacing the “sequester” cuts that are undermining our economic recovery, and key appropriations bills that are needed to avoid a government shutdown in October. 

Instead of holding votes on these critical matters, Speaker Boehner is stalling as he tries to appease the extreme anti-government, anti-immigrant Tea Party wing of his party. The shameful result: This is shaping up to be one of the least productive congresses in history.

 

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Coastal Voices: Rural Human Services: What it is, what it does

For more than 30 years, Rural Human Services has been a fixture in Del Norte County.

In fact, since 1981, RHS has offered professional service programs that provide training, instruction and assistance to businesses and individuals alike. It is estimated that its community outreach programs touch more than 2,000 lives a month.

Yet, despite a prominent presence in the community for decades, little seems to be known about the agency. There are even a few misconceptions.

RHS offers five core programs and services: workforce development; domestic violence assistance; natural resources programs; supported living services; and food and family programs.

 

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New beginning awaits after difficult goodbyes

It took the extraordinary to bring back a sense of normalcy.

Laura and I recently descended to a remote stretch of North Coast beach and found miles of magnificent solitude. Even though we’ve been hiking in these parts for 5 ½ years, we’d never been to this place. Therein lay the familiar in the unfamiliar: This was just our latest discovery of a spectacular nearby destination.

There seems to be no end to the secret rewards awaiting us in the place we now call home. And I needed the reminder after a series of absorbing events.

In June, the Triplicate produced one of its most significant projects in my tenure as editor, the product of hundreds of hours of work and many lost weekends for staff writer Anthony Skeens. “Inside the SHU” played out over four consecutive editions and provided an enlightening look at Pelican Bay State Prison’s brand of what you may or may not consider “solitary confinement.”

As we applied the finishing touches to the words, designer Bryant Anderson brought his artistic touch to layouts, giving the series its appropriately gritty veneer.

With another inmate hunger strike now under way, the prison’s Security Housing Unit is suddenly a national story, and journalists are scrambling to gain interviews with the main characters. They’re racing to retrace Anthony’s steps.

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Church Notebook: Smith R. United Methodist welcomes new pastor

The fair is in full swing, so we’re all finished getting entries ready. I didn’t do very much this year, and I’ll be interested to see how my entries fared — though most of all, I want to see the quilts — the one thing I haven’t tried. There is so much work in them, and they are always so beautiful.

I did enter that stubborn Dwarf Banana, though mostly to help fill a space. There just wasn’t a lot there this year. Sometimes it’s nature – like with my African Violets. Out of a couple dozen plants that we had babied along, only one had bloomed, and that not one of the best specimens. One never knows.

 I wonder if maybe interest in the fair is waning — though I hope not. The fair is a big part of any community, bringing together friends and neighbors, as well as folks from out of town to see all the various projects and animals.

Maybe, like with church recently as activities slow down, people are traveling while school is out and they can take the kids to see other interesting places. We have a mighty big country and lots of differing terrain to see. I remember driving through Wyoming and thinking, “My gosh, some of this looks like it could be another planet.”

I have to admit I am a creationist. All that different land, plants, animals — to me, it just has to be the hand of God.

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Coastal Voices: Another doctor’s viewpoint on hospital issues

In response to the July 18 Coastal Voices piece by my colleague, Dr. Greg Duncan (“Secrecy imperils locally owned, full-service hospital”), I feel compelled to offer a slightly different viewpoint from a physician who has also been in this community for a long time.

Although I have agreed with my fellow physicians on some of these issues rejecting regionalization, it is solely because I believe that it is a step that will lead rather quickly to critical access application for this hospital.  Based on what I know about the many ramifications of critical access, I would prefer that Sutter Health not take that step, at least not until it was absolutely necessary.

The main objection of the medical staff has been the process of the decision by the Board of Directors at Sutter Coast, in that we physicians as a group were excluded, and we do not understand, even at this late date, the need to take these steps. We want to understand the reasoning behind this process and we are also convinced that the public deserves similar understanding.  

If, however, critical access were not being discussed in the same breath, I might be in favor of regionalization because the potential benefits might outweigh the numerous objections that have been raised.

I do not favor the hospital Board’s decision to “go regional” without bargaining to get a permanent seat on the regional board. But even setting that aside, if Sutter Health through the West Bay Region could assure a supply of physicians to this community by virtue of the resources of the West Bay Region physician foundation, then “going regional” might be the best solution to the main chronic medical problem in this community — lack of physicians.  

In the first years I was here, in Crescent City alone, there were seven private primary care offices whose physicians had privileges at the hospital, and at their peak these offices numbered about 15 physicians between them. Now there are two such private offices in this town, with four physicians between them. I am now in my 21st year as a working physician in this community and during that time I can think of only one or two cases where physicians, after announcing their intent to leave, have actually replaced themselves, or been replaced in a timely way. All the others have retired, died, or moved away and turned their patient files over to the care of a partner or some other local office. Numerous physicians have been brought to this community to try and fill the gaps, and in most cases they left after only brief stays.   

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Coastal Voices: Solid waste: Remember all the accomplishments

On Wednesday, I retired as the director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority.

It has been apparent for some time that the Board of Commissioners and I have fundamental disagreements about the proper direction for the agency, especially regarding the possibility of dissolving this partnership between the city and county and totally privatizing solid waste in our community. For this reason, it is in the interest of both parties to negotiate a separation.  

In response to the question of “missing money” referred to in a Thursday Triplicate article, let me state unequivocally that I have done nothing illegal. Three separate auditors have investigated this issue with an indeterminate conclusion.

There is no evidence or even a suggestion of impropriety on my part. The only thing that I am being blamed for is the fact that I was the director when this problem occurred.

If I am going to be held responsible for this recent accounting issue, then I should also be given credit for my many accomplishments over the last 20 years. It is only fair that I should be evaluated on the totality of my employment here. Let me go back to the beginning.

 When I first moved here in 1993, the entire system was privately operated by Del Norte Disposal, aka Recology Del Norte. It ran the collection vehicles, operated the county-owned landfill and collected the fees at the gate. After state agencies started imposing enforcement orders and fining the county for violating anti-pollution laws, the private company was able to walk away with no cost or liability.

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Church Notebook: Game nights and Bible studies spice things up

It happens once in awhile.

And summer is the most likely time.

We have a week with no special programs to tell you about. But just because there are no special events doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on at church!

Most churches have lots of scheduled activities that occur on a regular basis. Some are well attended, some are not.

Lots of folks seem to feel that going to church on Sunday (or Saturday) morning is sufficient, electing to skip mid-week studies and things like game nights and movie nights. Some churches have various classes — sewing, crocheting, quilting — where ladies can gather and work on projects together.

Often these classes welcome the younger ladies to come and learn the various crafts. In the old days, most homes had an older aunt or grandmother to help teach young girls these skills, but as more and more women found it necessary to join the workforce, these skills dropped by the wayside.

Game night is one regular activity at my church that I thoroughly enjoy. Once a month we gather, bring snacks and our favorite games, and spend two to three hours together just having fun. It makes not only for a very enjoyable evening but allows those of us who participate the chance to get to know each other so much better.

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Coastal Voices: Regionalization, critical access: setting the record straight

Spending time at a recent two-by-two meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the Del Norte Health Care District Board gives me the opportunity to address concerns I heard.

The public seems eager to get the facts and we want to offer them. As a reminder, we are in the midst of the Strategic Options Study with The Camden Group because of very real financial issues. Our No. 1 goal is to ensure this community has access to health care.

The first misconception continues to be that regionalization/centralization equals Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation. This is not true. Regionalization is strictly a governance structure. Sutter Coast Hospital will continue to have a local administrative team and input into governance matters and a local advisory board.

The regional bylaws require that the Board be representative of the communities it serves. The current West Bay Board has individuals from each of the four counties in which it has facilities. If Sutter Coast becomes part of the West Bay, I have every reason to believe there would be at least one individual from Del Norte County.

Some have speculated that if we regionalize, we impose CAH designation. We have not made that statement, or that decision. In fact, The Camden Group, as discussed in my last “Coastal Voices,” has been enlisted to guide us through the process of analysis about the best options to ensure that the hospital can meet the health care needs of our community now and in the future.

A significant focus of The Camden Group is patient safety, quality of care and the financial impact to access that care. This study is currently under way and we look forward to the evidence-based interactive process. The Steering Committee plays an active role.    

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Health District, hospital have more they can do

In light of the recent meetings, blogs, guest opinions, letters to the editor and general public discussion regarding the plans of Sutter Health to regionalize our local hospital, I felt compelled to discuss the issue and hopefully provide some much-needed clarification as to the involvement and position of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors.

At the request of doctors Greg Duncan and Kevin Caldwell, the Board of Supervisors has considered the potential impacts of a possible regionalization and designation of Sutter Coast Hospital as a Critical Access facility. After considering the information provided and available, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support the doctors and the Health Care District in its opposition to regionalization and Critical Access designation.

The Board of Supervisors followed up with letters demanding the disclosure of information being held by Sutter Health and the local Hospital Board to allow for a full and accurate discussion of the decisions being made behind closed doors.

To reiterate, the County Board of Supervisors has from the beginning opposed any designation of Sutter Coast Hospital that would negatively impact our residents.

Recently, the Board of Supervisors and the Health Care District conducted a “two-by-two” meeting between the appointed committee members to discuss the settlement of a lawsuit brought forward against Sutter Health by the Health Care District.

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