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Updated 2:34pm - Jul 29, 2016

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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).

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.

Church Notebook: Heaven’s Connection at Lighthouse Community Church

Our community gardens require a lot of work and cooperative effort, people working together with faith in each other and in God for the rain and sunshine to make them grow.

Since the one at Peterson Park is on my regular route to church, I’ve been watching it take shape over the past few years.

In the past, I have been terribly disappointed in the behavior of a few who seemed to make it their mission in life to trample, smash and ruin the work of others. Over and over,  I saw it had happened when I drove by, and I wondered, where was everybody? Did no one see what was happening?

Thursday evening I looked as I drove by — and that garden, thanks to diligent care, looks absolutely beautiful.

Growing things is close to the heart for me — something that enhances faith. To see things destroyed is like trampling on that faith, and my trust in my fellow man.

Could it be that the trend not to discipline our children has brought this about?

I hope that this year, as that garden grows, the folks in the area will keep an eye on it and protect it. It’s a thing of beauty and will be an important source of food. And what a sense of accomplishment for those who care for it!

Coastal Voices: Doctors advise supervisors regarding hospital study

We just mailed the following letter to county supervisors, as they consider their role in the future of Sutter Coast Hospital.  Sutter Health has hired a consultant group to help the hospital Board decide whether or not to transfer hospital ownership to Sutter Health, or cut Sutter Coast by 50 percent to qualify for higher Medicare reimbursement under the federal Critical Access program. 

Had Sutter Coast been a Critical Access facility, the hospital would have been closed to new admissions the majority of days during the past eight months. Patients needing a hospital bed would have been flown by air ambulance, at their expense, to distant hospitals.

Dear Supervisors of Del Norte County:

We write with an update on the status of the Sutter Coast Hospital Strategic Options Study. This is a study about the future of Sutter Coast Hospital (SCH), being conducted and paid for by Sutter Health, using a consultant group (The Camden Group) with ongoing business connections to Sutter Health. As you know, the medical staff passed a unanimous resolution (among the physicians attending our medical staff meeting) that prior to participation in any study, we would like our concerns addressed with respect to  the funding, design, and rights and responsibilities of community participants. The physicians have received no response to our concerns from Sutter Health or the Board of Directors of SCH.

We have also confirmed with two community members familiar with the study that outside funding remains available, as long as the study results are not predetermined. However, Sutter Health Regional President Mike Cohill and Sutter Health study coordinator Traci Van have rejected the outside independent funding.  Thus, although the hospital Board voted to approve a collaboratively funded and independent study, the current study is entirely Sutter-funded and Sutter-controlled.

House Calls: Carry a list of contacts for a crisis

House Calls is published monthly. Today’s article was written by Peggy Castro, case management assistant at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Have you ever thought about who you would want contacted, or how an emergency worker would know how to contact those individuals if you had a medical emergency?

It’s important to carry a list of every medication you take, including over-the-counter vitamins and drug allergies, as well as a list of emergency contacts and how to reach them. It sounds so simple, but can be complicated by circumstances out of your control.

Communications to rescue and emergency workers can sometimes be hindered due to unexpected medical conditions. These conditions may make it impossible for you to speak or write.

Having a list of contacts in your wallet, car or on your cell phone, as well as a list of any known medical conditions, becomes vital in helping emergency workers provide the correct and appropriate care to you.

This information allows your rescue and emergency health-care team to make correct diagnoses and treatments for your possible illness, as well as being able to contact those loved ones who might be looking for you. 

Church Notebook: Several local options for Vacation Bible School

Ever since I can remember, Vacation Bible School has been one of the highlights of summer vacation. Kids — and, I suspect, parents — look forward to it, though perhaps for different reasons.

It’s fun for kids, a chance to learn something different, in an atmosphere that is less restrictive than that of “regular” school. (And, sadly, for some kids, it’s the only place they learn that “God” and “Jesus” are not just words of profanity.)

I remember, when I was in high school, helping to teach VBS at my church in a little town in upstate New York.

My class was 5- and 6- year-olds, and how those kids loved Bible stories! David and Goliath, Gideon and his fleece, Samson — and then, of course, the wonderful stories of the life of Jesus.

The availability of VBS here has varied over the years I’ve been writing this column, but we’ve always had several. I was getting worried it wasn’t going to happen this year, but the information is coming in and the kids are not going to be disappointed. They’ll learn about Jesus, have fun, and instead of complaining about being bored, they’ll be regaling Mom with tales of what was learned that morning.

A lot of our church congregations these days are too small to support a program — and sometimes some of them join together to put one on, and I think that is one great idea.

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