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Coastal Voices: Secrecy imperils locally owned, full-service hospital

I write to separate facts from rhetoric concerning Sutter Health and Sutter Coast Hospital. Currently, Sutter Coast remains locally owned and governed by a local board. In 2011, the hospital board voted to “regionalize” Sutter Coast, which will dissolve itself as the governing body and transfer hospital ownership and governance to a Sutter Health board in San Francisco. Under regionalization, decisions which are currently made locally will be made in the Bay Area.

Why is Sutter Health fighting so hard to own Sutter Coast?

Sutter Health originally told our hospital board that regionalization was needed to increase efficiency in an era of decreasing payments. However, former hospital CEO Eugene Suksi later reported that Sutter’s strategies for improved efficiency, such as outsourcing local jobs and purchasing supplies in bulk, are already in place and do not require regionalization. The main force behind regionalization appears to be control. Now, our hospital board has the right to negotiate with companies other than Sutter Health to manage the hospital. Under regionalization, we lose ownership of the hospital, and management will be decided by a Sutter-appointed board, which meets 350 miles away and controls 11 hospitals in the region. 

What would “Critical Access” designation mean for us?

The first major decision facing the hospital is whether to downsize it by 50% to qualify for increased Medicare payments under the federal Critical Access program. Sutter Health’s 2012 study on Critical Access concluded with the following statement: “We believe the Hospital should pursue the Critical Access Hospital program.” The same study estimated that under Critical Access designation, 247 patients would have required emergency transfers from Crescent City to outside hospitals in 2011.


Del Norte People: The great educators along the way

Longtime Del Norte County resident Chuck Blackburn’s column appears monthly.

Recently we watched as the media covered the tragic tornadoes in the Midwest. The F-5 that hit Moore, Okla., was particularly devastating as it hit two schools. The heroism of the educators in helping save many kids’ lives brought back some memories of times past in my teaching career in Del Norte County.

I was a young teacher in October 1962 and a tremendous storm struck the Pacific Northwest and Del Norte County. Wind was the main culprit and 100-mph gusts were reported. I watched from the door of the gym at Redwood School and close to noon a wind gust hit and a TV antenna on a house next door bent over double.

A decision was made to load up the buses and try to get these kids home during a slight break in the storm, but 15 minutes later, they all returned as all roads were blocked by downed trees. Communications went out to parents to pick up their kids whenever possible. We kept kids in the classrooms and I took many into the gym. We had activities to try to keep them calm and happy. Our last kids were not picked up until 6 p.m.


Church Notebook: Salad Luncheon and Bazaar at Methodist Church

My grandson just discovered we have some new neighbors.

Not welcome ones, either.

As he was mowing the lawn a couple days ago, he bumped the red rhododendron bush and was immediately introduced — to the tune of lots of buzzing wings — to little folks with striped black and yellow coats.

Closer observation revealed a huge gray papery construction in the top of the bush.

 


Sutter's CEO explains Strategic Options Study

Running a hospital and working in health care can be extremely rewarding and at times difficult and challenging. In the short time I’ve been at Sutter Coast Hospital, I find myself inspired every day by the caring and compassionate nature of our employees, physicians and volunteers.

I have spent a tremendous amount of my time and energy sharing transparent and factual information about the challenges facing Sutter Coast Hospital now and in the future under Health Care Reform with community members and leaders.

Sutter Coast Hospital has recently begun a Strategic Options Study at the request of the Hospital Board. Because of the many questions surrounding our Strategic Options Study, I want to share some facts about the process.

The study is being conducted by The Camden Group, a nationally known health care consulting firm. It was selected to conduct the study by a group of independent community members — Dr. Warren Rehwaldt, Jan Moorehouse and Ted Fitzgerald, who devoted time to reviewing proposals and interviewing potential firms.

The Camden Group is utilizing a Steering Committee approach within the study process for Sutter Coast. It has done this in many other communities where it has conducted similar studies to foster engagement and dialogue. While the Board of Directors maintains decision-making authority, the Committee, which is comprised of 14 members, is actively engaged with primary responsibilities including:

• Review, interpretation and validation of findings.

• Sharing knowledge of the local health care environment.

• Providing feedback to the Board on strategic options.

• Reconciling information from local conversations, with quantitative and qualitative analyses performed by The Camden Group.

• Evaluating strategic options for consideration by the Hospital Board of Directors.

This will be an interactive process for the committee members including different stages throughout the process where representatives will have direct interaction with the Sutter Coast Hospital Board of Directors.


California Focus: Patriotic talk, but PAC same as all the others

Now it’s official: Despite happy talk about doing what’s best for America, Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and the cadre of other Silicon Valley titans helping with his new lobbying organization FWD.us are looking out for their own self-interest, just like every previous political action committee or billionaires’ club.

Zuckerberg tried to explain himself the other day in the Washington Post, writing that U.S. immigration policy today is “unfit for today’s world…To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people. We need to train and attract the best.”

What that means is that Zuckerberg and allies from companies like Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Yahoo, Yelp and LinkedIn, along with some of the venture capitalists who bankroll many Silicon Valley high-tech start-ups, want to bring in more workers on H-1B visas.

They argue there aren’t enough American-born math and science majors to fill all job openings, leaving many companies starving for qualified workers.

But critics call that claim exaggerated, suggesting the real motive is to bring in workers at wages far below those the companies would have to pay equally qualified American citizens. They say the H-1B program, which lets companies bring in 65,000 workers annually for six-year sojourns, trains foreign workers who often continue in similar jobs for the same companies in their home countries after the visas expire. So the H-1B program, they say, is essentially an outsourcing system designed to save companies money and ship American jobs overseas.

One critic is Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at the Rochester, N.Y., Institute of Technology.

He told National Public Radio the other day that “What these firms do is exploit the loopholes in the H-1B program to bring in on-site workers to learn the jobs of Americans to then ship (jobs) offshore. And also to bring in on-site workers who are cheaper (to) undercut American workers’ rights here.”


Church Notebook: Churches may wish to consider reviving Bible schools with joint efforts

This column is usually written around 9 p.m. on Thursday nights, after I get home from Bible study. That time frame also gives folks until the last possible minute to email or call with a church activity. With the holiday, it’s being done earlier in the day.

It’s nice to see that we have a bright, sunny day for the Fourth, as so many in the past have not been. I’m looking forward to this evening. The cookies are baked for the potluck — the event at church will, I’m sure, be lots of fun — and the fireworks from that vantage point will be great unless the fog rolls in.

The “serenade” last night was a bit frustrating, and the realization that it will likely continue for the next two weeks, judging by past years — even more so, but, “this too shall pass.” Did you ever try to measure a teaspoon of something just as a big boom startles you and the measuring spoon goes flying?

There may have been cinnamon dusted across the counter, but the cookies taste just fine. I guess this aging nervous system just isn’t as tolerant of being startled as it used to be. Perhaps I should simply invest in some ear plugs!

Except for Vacation Bible School programs, there is only one other thing this week.

On Thursday the Ladies Christian Fellowship will meet at 10:30 a.m. in the Trinity Center of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

I’ve been a part of this group for several years now, and they really are a great bunch of folks. All women are welcome to come, regardless of (or lack of) religious affiliation. The membership is multi-denominational, representative of probably just about every local church. We have an enjoyable time of fellowship, speakers and music, and a very nice meal catered by Northwoods (with the exception of a couple potlucks each year).


Vista Point: Who knows what makes a seascape memorable?

A confluence of thoughts and plans has taken my mind offshore, and I find it drifting into unfamiliar waters, well out of its depth.

Time permits only one wave’s recounting today.

I was browsing the website Tumblr.com, a smorgasbord of cartoons and art, both highbrow and low, and paused when I saw a painting by San Francisco artist Kim Cogan, whose work consists mostly of urban landscapes that display a talent for capturing light. He has recently taken an interest in seascapes, and one of them in particular, “Wave no. 18,” struck me in a way seascapes never have before. 

(This painting and several of his other seascapes can be seen at hespegallery.blogspot.com/2012/09/kim-cogan-sea-change-september-4.html.)

Much as I like the real thing, no seascape had given me that spiritual rush, that need to drop anchor and stay awhile that good art or scenery can provide.

I think I got a bad first impression of seascape paintings. The earliest one I recall was a large painting of basaltic rocks in a scummy, raw umber hue upon which crashed an unenthusiastic wave of dull blue and dingy white foam under an excrementally brown sky.

It hung above my piano teacher’s Kimball, where I, a fidgety 7-year-old, cultivated the art of not paying attention more than that of plunking. I spent a lot of time looking at that seascape and perhaps that was the problem. Dull and static, time frozen in a dirty ice cube, it bored me in a way the sea itself did not.

I don’t really know anything about art or art theory, about what separates a great seascape from a meh-scape. All I know is I like what I like, and I can’t even say why most of the time.


Church Notebook: New Life sets potluck for the Fourth of July

The Fourth is almost here!

I wonder what the weather will be like — so many Fourths have been wet, chilly and windy it’s been hard to enjoy a picnic, and at times, so foggy it was hard to see the fireworks. The fireworks booths are starting to sprout up all over, and before long parents are going to be inundated with demands for all kinds of them.

I remember one Fourth past. One of my grandsons — can’t remember if it was Scott, (now 14), or his brother Michael, (now 22) — was just a little guy. It was his first experience with fireworks, and we gave him a sparkler. He giggled and danced around until it was finished, then brought it back to us wanting us to light it again, and just couldn’t understand why when we told him it couldn’t be done. They just grow up way too fast!

Because our town has such a widespread reputation about the wonderful celebration it has, there will be many visitors in the next few days. This includes family members coming home for a visit, and strangers who want to see for themselves if what they’ve heard about us is true. Some folks have made it a habit to come every year — some from several states away, I’ve been told.

People are going to be rushing to get things done, competing for items on the grocery store shelves, and jostling for space at South Beach to picnic and do their fireworks.


California Focus: Calif. fracking: Sensible regulation the way to go

Fears abound as California faces the reality that besides all its other natural wonders, it sits atop an Arabian-sized oil and natural gas bonanza that can only be exploited via the process of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

One fear is that when oil drillers insert the mix of water, sand and chemicals used to force raw petroleum products out of rock formations, they will pollute drinking water supplies and water wells used by farmers atop the Monterey Shale formation. This rich formation, containing an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil, stretches from Monterey and San Benito counties south along the western side of the San Joaquin Valley, roughly parallel to the Interstate 5 freeway.

 So far, there is no evidence in California to back the water pollution worries, although questions have been raised near fracking operations in Wyoming.

Another fear is that Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for two “peripheral tunnels” to help preserve the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers while bringing more water south and aiding endangered species is a Trojan horse. The real purpose, some say, is not to slake the thirst of farmers or Southern and Central California cities, but to provide massive amounts of water for use in fracking.

Then there’s the fear that massive new oil and gas supplies emanating from California might destabilize the world’s economic balance of power, bringing oil prices down as it makes the United States the world’s largest oil producer by 2017. This could wreck economies from the Arab world to Russia and South America, where oil revenues now prop up regimes. If oil prices dropped, this theory goes, the governing systems of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and many other places could be upset and no one knows what forces might try to bring them down.


Coastal Voices: Finding links in regional food chain

Exploring Crescent City recently, we made a delicious discovery, the Rumiano Cheese retail store on Ninth Street.

It advertises its cheeses as GMO free and grass-fed. My wife bought some jack cheese.

Now, I’m normally not fond of jack or other mild cheeses, but when she offered me a slice, I was impressed and wanted more. We put the rest in our ice chest for the road home, thinking no more about it.

Then two days later, in Humboldt County, after a tourist stop in Ferndale, we were leisurely making our way back toward Highway 101 on Grizzly Bluff Road when we saw something that rekindled a discussion we’d  been having during this trip.

At a dairy, we saw rows of small white crates, about 3 feet high, with a door hole in one end. My wife was curious about them, speculating that they might be used for transporting dairy products or even branding animals.

She had to know for sure, so we stopped.

The sign on the front of the milking barn said “Mike Brazil Dairy,” and I parked between the barn and the house and waited to see if my wife could find someone to talk to.


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