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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.    

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.

California Focus: Non-citizen jurors simply a bad idea

It’s one thing to give undocumented immigrants an opportunity — however limited and lengthy and expensive — to gain American citizenship if they’ve lived and worked in this country for a long time while contributing and without committing any criminal offenses.

Drivers licenses for the undocumented also make some sense, especially since many law enforcement officials say that could compel those here illegally to obey laws requiring car insurance, thus cutting down the expenses of other drivers who may be involved in accidents with them.

But one bill that has passed the state Assembly and is now in the Senate simply makes no sense: Called AB 1401, this proposal would allow non-citizens to serve on juries in California’s state courts.

Never mind the longstanding American tradition of a having a jury of the defendant’s peers determine whether criminal charges are valid. That’s merely a custom, not a constitutional right.

The Sixth Amendment says only that every American is entitled to an “impartial jury” and that its members should live in the state or district where the crime under consideration took place. Courts have interpreted this to mean jury pools should contain a cross section of the population of the area, in terms of gender, race and national origin.

No one yet has specified that jurors must be U.S. citizens, perhaps because at the time the Bill of Rights — the Constitution’s first ten amendments — was written in 1789 and finally ratified by the states two years later, it could be difficult to determine who was a U.S. citizen. Birth and immigration record-keeping was far from comprehensive.

Church Notebook: Find the church you’re comfortable with and start attending

You can tell that summer has arrived and folks are going on vacation. Or perhaps taking the weekend days to relax at the beach. Or finally taking the time to do all those outside repairs or landscape changes that can’t be done when the winds are driving the rain at you sideways.

Church attendance seems to be down — at least from what I observe lately on my way to church Sunday mornings.

Between my house and my church, I pass four other churches and can see a couple others, and it sure seems like there are significantly fewer cars in the parking lots lately.

I hope summer activities are the reason for all those absences.

The Bible tells us that in the last days there will be a “great falling away” from our faith, and I sure hope we aren’t seeing the beginning of that. Some of the things happening in the world today sure make me wonder!

We have so many great churches here in Crescent City — just about every denomination, and even more than one church in some of them.

People have such varied choices in styles of worship today — it’s so different from when those of us who have reached senior citizen status were growing up. The music, too, has evolved. Often, the traditional hymns have been replaced by choruses of praise, and the piano and organ have been supplanted by praise bands with many more instruments.

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).

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