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Coastal Voices: Don’t lose sight of what’s good in local health care

My family and I moved to Eureka in 2003, and I have been practicing radiology at Sutter Coast Hospital since 2005.

I am writing this because there is a lot being said about the problems in medicine, not just here in Crescent City, but all over the country. The reality is that the entire system of health-care delivery needs a major overhaul, and no one has a good solution right now. Talking about these issues is healthy. Dissent is healthy, too, because sometimes thinking outside the box will spur innovation.

However, I do not want the people of Del Norte to lose sight of all the good things we have here.

Often we do not appreciate what is right in our backyard. It is easy to forget how much better things are here than in the big cities. This is certainly true when it comes to medical care.  The proverbial grass isn’t always greener.

I have been working as a radiologist for over 20 years. Over that time, I have had the opportunity to work at major medical teaching centers, HMOs, and large-, medium- and small-sized hospitals. My first choice is Sutter Coast Hospital; both as the place I choose to work and as the place my family prefers to receive medical care.

The reason is simple. The patient comes first at Sutter Coast Hospital. The staff, the physicians, the nurses and technologists treat patients as they would treat family members. In my experience, that is rarely the case in larger hospitals where, more often than not, you are treated as a disease, not as a person — or as my wife described her experience at a prestigious university cancer center, being just another “number.”

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Coastal Voices: Clark Wade

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.”

— Thomas Jefferson

“Of all tyranny, the tyranny exercised for the good of the people is the most oppressive.”

C.S. Lewis

This is in response to Bret Raushenbush’s Oct. 24 letter, “Lies mask GOP’s selfish, extremist obstructionism.” He describes the Republicans as having nothing to offer but to “the fanatics in their base.”

Webster defines “fanatic” as “marked by intense uncritical devotion.” I say this instead: There is no more curious political devotee than the one who lends cover to this man no matter the scandals, the lies and the suffering.     

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Del Norte Gardening: Before the big rains, clean up your garden

Greetings from the farm!  As the holiday season arrives, and most certainly the “wet and cold” season, we are scrambling to put things to rest.

Thankfully, a year like this provides us with a November that is suitable for cleaning up the gardens, ripping out exhausted plantings, planting cover crops and even planting garlic and strawberries.

It looks like some solid stretches of rain are not far off, so, if you haven’t already put things to rest, we advise you do so quickly. One of our most helpful tasks of the late fall is combing the property of all items that are likely to blow all over the place in a storm. The alternative can really be a mess, and we’ve found ourselves all kinds of reluctant to be tidying in the wind and rain.

So take advantage of what dry weather we’ve had and make a push to clean up your space. You won’t regret it in December.

In the garden, there is still plenty of time to plant garlic and strawberries, and this is the time of year we plant those crops. Rain and soil moisture are the biggest factors in planting right now, so if there’s a window, you might as well take it.

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Church Notebook: End-times evangelist to speak at Redwoods Family Worship Center

All those beautiful leaves, almost gone!

There are a few bright bits of yellow still clinging to those maples, just not very many. Soon, all there’ll be are bare branches — but along with those, we know that come spring, the cycle will start all over again. And not just new green buds in the trees, but daffodils and tulips, crocuses and other spring flowers that brighten our days as the winter finally begins to lose its grip.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? I kind of miss those days, many years ago, at my grandmother’s table. I didn’t have to travel to get there, because she raised my sister Mary and me.

And oh, those meals! I don’t do anything near what she did back then. Seems like today families are spread so much farther apart, and lives are so busy it just doesn’t happen so much any more. We settle for phone calls and emails to keep in touch and get to see the grandkids growing up via the Internet.

When I count the numbers of my own descendants, the number is rather shocking. Six kids, however, do translate to lots more grandchildren and great-grands to boot. I try to imagine them (and their spouses)  all at one table and then realize how big it would have to be!

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Letters to the Editor Nov. 12, 2013

McClure not appointed to serve on hospital study committee

The Nov. 7 Triplicate printed a list of the 15 members of the Camden Study Steering Committee.

On this list was 2nd District Supervisor Martha McClure. The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors chose not to send a representative to the Camden Study. If Supervisor McClure participated on the study, she did so as an individual and not as a duly appointed representative of the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Roger Gitlin, Crescent City

Homeless basically told to wander off and die in woods

Five minutes is all I ask. I want you to think about what you would do if by no fault of your own you become homeless with little more than the clothes on your back.

You’re a good person that wants to be a productive member of our society and want your life back desperately. The only problem is everywhere you go people treat you like a leper, call you lazy and treat you like trash.

What a sad world we live in when we can’t reach out and at least try to help the good homeless people. Why do we let the bad homeless dictate how we treat them all? If we treat them all as unwanted or criminals, does that not promote even more lawlessness and discontent?

It just sickens me that they have basically been told to wander off and die in the woods because we don’t want them.

Robert Allen, Smith River

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Coastal Voices: There should be no hurry regarding hospital's next move

According to the chairman of the local Sutter Coast Hospital Board, it may vote on whether to downsize the hospital to a Critical Access facility, and to “regionalize” the hospital, which will dissolve themselves as the governing body, and transfer hospital ownership to Sutter Health’s West Bay Region in San Francisco, before the end of the year.

What’s the hurry? 

Two years ago, the Del Norte Healthcare District filed suit to slow down the regionalization process, which Sutter Health had initiated without informing our community.

It has been wrongly stated several times and again recently in a Coastal Voices piece by a local physician that Sutter Health owns Sutter Coast Hospital. When Sutter Health and the Del Norte County Local Hospital District negotiated a contract to build a new hospital  in 1985, it was agreed that Sutter Health would manage the hospital for an annual fee, the profits that Sutter Coast Hospital generated from its local patients paid for the facility and Sutter Health did very well managing the facility over the years.

It was also agreed that Sutter Coast would be operated as a locally owned entity, with a local Board.  

If ownership is transferred it will be to the Sutter Health subsidiary The West Bay Region.

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Church Notebook: Methodist Church sets the dates for its annual Holiday Bazaar

I’ve been writing this column for over 10 years now. But, could I write anything longer?

For the past few years I’ve had an idea for a book about Mary Magdalene. Lately, it’s become more than an idea. And, no, if I do, it won’t be anything like that other book out there — the one that made her out to be Jesus’ wife.

So, we’ll see. If I can get beyond a couple chapters, perhaps ...

But away from ideas of fiction and on to the real stuff for the next week or so. There are some good things coming up. With the holidays approaching, it’s time for those holiday bazaars, with their interesting sale items and delicious edible offerings.

• We’ll start the week off Sunday with an inspiring journey into the past at the Crescent City United Methodist Church. During pioneer days, the gospel was spread via camp meeting revivals. In many places, there were no established churches, and circuit riders traveled about carrying God’s word and mountain gospel music. That music isn’t heard many places anymore — but it is on occasion, here at the Methodist Church.

And it will be Sunday! Once again, the Jefferson State Boondock Band will be a lively addition to the Sunday morning service. The music will start at 10:15 a.m., and the regular worship service at 10:30. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s worth going! I’ve heard them, and they are absolutely delightful.

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Coastal Voices: Keep this in mind as Sutter study is released

This coming week, Sutter Health will release its long awaited “independent” study on Sutter Coast Hospital.

I am writing this update on the future of Sutter Coast Hospital because the hospital Board of Directors, of which my husband Dr. Greg Duncan is a member, voted to censure Greg for allegedly releasing confidential information outside the board room. Sutter Health and the hospital Board refuse to provide any written specific charges or evidence to support their allegations.

Sutter Health is now beginning its final push to take ownership of Sutter Coast Hospital. As Sutter’s public relations blitz begins, please remember these facts:

1) Sutter Coast Hospital is now owned and governed locally.  Regionalization is a change in ownership and governance.  If we regionalize, local ownership and governance will be lost, and all future hospital decisions will be made by a Sutter-appointed board in San Francisco.

2) Under Critical Access Hospital designation, 24 of our 49 inpatient beds would be closed. If Critical Access is implemented here, people will be transferred elsewhere as a result of the restriction in hospital bed count.

3) The Healthcare District lawsuit had nothing to do with hospital ownership — it was an effort to hold Sutter Health accountable to its promises to provide expanded care and maintain a local hospital Board, in exchange for the monopoly privilege of operating the only hospital in the county. The lawsuit was settled when the cost became prohibitive for the district’s small budget. What the settlement did prove is which side had more money.

But the lawsuit bought our community precious time to become educated on these issues.

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Church Notebook: Pastor Ed’s last Sunday at Northside Baptist

Happy events seem to have been on the schedule for me lately. Both my family and my plants have been full of surprises.

Two years ago, my Sanseveria (snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue) blossomed. Like several others of my plants, I’d had it for several years. It had never bloomed, and I had never even heard of one doing so, nor had anyone else I talked to.

And, of course, there’s that Gloxinia I keep telling you about — the one that decided on an extra season this fall — it now has three beautiful blossoms, and shows no signs of going into its normal dormancy for this time of year.

And it hasn’t stopped there. My grandson called my attention to another plant in bloom this morning — still another one I’ve had for years, never blossoming, and have never ever seen one  in bloom. It’s my Creeping Charlie — I think some folks call it Swedish ivy — and it has a spike of tiny pale blue flowers that look almost like miniature orchids.

Life is full of surprises,  and it’s so nice every once in a while for those events to be happy ones!

Like my “early birthday gift.” My birthday was Thursday, but I started getting texts and pictures on my cell phone Tuesday morning — the best surprise of all — great-granddaughter No. 4 had arrived in Abilene. Big brother Josiah, 2, is completely enthralled with her. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make that trip next summer!

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House Calls: Dealing with eye injuries

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Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Know when to go to ER, when to call a doctor, and when you can handle this yourself

House Calls runs monthly. Today’s column is written by Doris Fitch, a registered nurse at Sutter Coast Hospital and trainer at College of the Redwoods.

Some eye injuries cause so much pain and abrupt changes in vision that going to the ER is a no-brainer. But other injuries may not be as obvious, even though they might still cause permanent damage or vision loss.

Most eye symptoms, whether caused by injury or something unknown, should be evaluated by a medical professional. It is difficult to determine which symptoms could result in a permanent loss of vision versus symptoms that will heal without difficulty.

The bottom line is that you are better off seeking medical attention whether you have acute or chronic symptoms. Changes in vision can be gradual or sudden; both will need to be evaluated by a medical professional.

For eye irritation due to an unknown cause, make an appointment with your eye doctor or care provider. Bloodshot eyes can be a very frightening symptom, but not always a serious condition.

The spot of blood that is visible at the surface of the eye is due to a condition called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. In this condition a small blood vessel leaks blood under the surface of the eye. It looks worse than it is and it will usually resolve on its own. Even so it is a good idea to see or call your physician.

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