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Coastal Voices: Sutter, critical access not bogeymen they're portrayed as

Read more... By now, many people have heard that I have accepted an offer to help open a new hospital and expand an obstetrics and gynecology program in Denver, so our family will be leaving Del Norte County by the end of this year. This was a difficult decision, not easy to make, especially since we have been deeply involved in this community and have made many friends over the past 14 years who will be difficult to leave behind.

As such, I feel like it is time that I share publicly my feelings about the recent conflict and rancor over the future of Sutter Health in the management and operation of Sutter Coast Hospital. I have served on the board of the hospital myself, as well as the Medical Executive Committee of the medical staff (including 2 years as chief of staff) for most of the time I have lived here, and I have never witnessed a time of more turmoil for the healthcare providers of this community. 

Reel Deal: Bottom fishing strong in ocean; Klamath R. low

Courtesy of Reel Steel Sportfishing Nichole DePaolo of Humboldt County caught this chinook salmon with Reel Steel Sportfishing out of Eureka on Sunday. The salmon bite in Crescent City has been slow.
Ocean salmon are still biting in Eureka, but they’re barely present here. The better bet is to go for bottom fish in the ocean.  

Anglers and fishing guides were excited for a release of 62,000-acre feet of water in Trinity River dams, but a federal judge blocked the release on Tuesday. 

Lower Klamath R.

A federal judge’s decision to block the release of water from the Trinity River has been the hot conversation topic among anglers on the Lower Klamath River who have been battling poor fishing conditions due to low, warm water.

“Conditions are pretty low,” said guide Steve Huber. Anglers are catching a few jacks, a couple adult salmon, and some steelhead, with many more half-pounders than adults, but “there are just not a lot of fish in the system,” Huber said.

Clear weather and clear, low water is making the fishing tough for most anglers, he said.

“It’s just really spotty,” said guide James Keeling, adding that shore-based fishermen were having decent success. 

“The bottom line is that they need to release that water,” Huber said, echoing the feeling of many anglers on the lower Klamath.


Church Notebook:Back-to-school season offers ways to give

Smith River United Methodist holding annual rummage, bake sale

From the looks of things in the stores, we are reminded that school will soon be starting.

We are being encouraged from the moment we enter the stores that we need to take advantage of their offerings and stock up not only for our own kids, but also for organizational projects as they put things together for local kids who need help obtaining the supplies they need for school.

That, of course, brings us around to that special project I like, the Christmas Shoebox gifts for kids run by Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse is a good organization run by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham. 

So, I’m asking you to think about adding the organization to your list, and, perhaps as you shop, you could purchase one extra set of supplies and consider either doing a shoebox or contributing to one of the local churches who do them. 

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.   

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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