- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- University of California OKs $8.5 Million For Two Patients Suing Over Financial Conflicts
- Long-Term Care Is An Immediate Problem — For The Government
- Hospital Roundup 1
- Prime Healthcare CEO Accused Of Strong-Arming Doctors Into Hospitalizing Patients
- Public Health and Education 1
- Experts Stumped Why Meningitis Outbreaks Disproportionately Affect Gay Men
- Around California 1
- Lawsuit: Long Beach Officers Not Properly Trained To Handle People With Mental Illnesses
Latest From California Healthline:
The patients allege that Dr. Jeffrey Wang, former executive director of UCLA's spine center, failed to disclose his conflicts of interest with device maker Medtronic before using the company's devices in surgeries that left them in chronic pain. Both UCLA and Medtronic deny wrongdoing. (Chad Terhune, 7/29)
Medi-Cal has become the payer of first resort for many Californians unable to afford the long-term care they need. (Anna Gorman and Barbara Feder Ostrov, 8/1)
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Summaries Of The News:
California cardiologist Prem Reddy's actions are at the heart of a lawsuit brought by an employee and the Justice Department over his Medicare billing practices.
The Wall Street Journal:
Hospital Chain’s CEO Faces Lawsuit Over Business Practices
Over the past decade and a half, California cardiologist Prem Reddy has built Prime Healthcare Service Inc. into one of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the U.S. by targeting distressed hospitals for acquisition. He boasts that his aggressive turnaround strategies have righted the finances of each and every one. But the chief executive has also attracted criticism, including claims that he plays hardball with insurers. Now Dr. Reddy is the central figure in a lawsuit brought by an employee and the Justice Department alleging that he strong-arms doctors in an effort to unnecessarily hospitalize patients at Medicare’s expense. (Evans, 7/31)
In other hospital news —
Hospitals Say No To ‘Pokémon Go’
Any Pokémon-loving child stuck in a hospital bed would probably be ecstatic to see an Eevee or a Squirtle, two especially cute characters on the popular animated game “Pokémon Go,” wandering around the hallways or even their own rooms. Trouble is, the elusive creatures aren’t always hanging around pediatric wards, and some kids are too sick to get out and “catch ’em all.” That’s why well-intentioned strangers have been placing “lures,” or virtual Pokémon-attracting devices, in Sacramento hospitals, causing staff to worry over privacy and security threats – and in some cases to even ban the game. (Caiola, 7/30)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Hospital’s Energy Plant Knocks Bill Down To Zero
Sharp Grossmont Hospital is off the electrical grid and its new on-site Central Energy Plant is already saving the La Mesa hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. State regulators approved the hospital’s natural gas plant plans in 2012. Construction began in 2013. The plant began operating earlier this year. The Grossmont Healthcare District, the hospital’s landlord, reports that because of the plant, the hospital’s normal energy bill to SDG&E of nearly $180,000 per month is now zero. (Pearlman, 7/29)
California's outbreak is just the latest that has struck gay and bisexual men at high rates.
Los Angeles Times:
Meningitis Outbreaks Among Gay Men Have Experts Puzzled
As cases of meningitis, a rare and potentially fatal disease, popped up in cities nationwide over the past several years, public health officials noticed a trend: many of those infected were gay men. There’s no known medical reason why meningitis, which is transmitted through saliva, would spread more among gay and bisexual men. Yet New York, Chicago and now Southern California have experienced outbreaks disproportionately affecting that population. “It is perplexing,” said Dr. Rachel Civen, a medical epidemiologist at L.A. County’s Department of Public Health. (Karlamangla, 7/30)
In other public health news —
Orange County Register:
Hidden Stroke Victims: Hospitalizations Are Rising Quickly Among Younger Adults
[Mike] Lehmkuhl, gaunt and gray with a scraggly beard, grabbed one of the large tree branches that windstorms had scattered about the property, Kelly later told police. The security guard reached for his belt, where he carried a Taser on one side and a firearm on the other. Lehmkuhl charged, [Adam]Kelly said, so he grabbed for his Taser but tumbled backward. As Lehmkuhl swung, Kelly pulled out his gun. Seconds later, the guard was on the ground with a broken arm, and Lehmkuhl lay dying with bullet holes in his chest, left shoulder and back. (Hubert, 7/31)
The Air Is Brown — Should I Wear A Mask?
With California facing a year-round fire season, questions about air quality have darkened some decisions about going outside. Particulate matter matters, and so does airborne debris, but how bad is bad? Are we at mask-level bad? Do you need to wear one? We asked air quality specialists, health officials, agencies, medical professionals and mask companies. Here's the short, conditional, answer: No agency endorses the practice of public mask-wearing, but if it makes you feel better to wear one, you could grab a single-use N95 respirator from the hardware store in a pinch. You might not need it, or like wearing it, or be putting it on correctly, but you could try if you absolutely have to be outside. Which you absolutely shouldn’t be. (Katz and Galentine, 7/30)
Rate Of Flu Shots Among African-Americans Are Lowest; Vietnamese Are Highest
About 1 in 3 adult Californians get the flu shot each year, but the rates of immunization vary by race and ethnicity, and a new study by UCLA researchers shows the rate is lowest among African-Americans. ... The study adjusted for economic and insurance access factors to identify if there were other reasons keeping people away from the flu shot, says lead researcher Dr. Christopher Almorio. (Agullera, 7/29)
A loophole in California law prevents children or spouses who are providing in-home care to collect unemployment if the patient dies. But a bill moving through the legislature may change that.
The San Bernardino Sun:
Grieving California Mother Fights For Unemployment Rights For Family Caregivers
In February, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, introduced Assembly Bill 1930 to create an In-Home Supportive Services Family Caregiver Benefits Advisory Committee to examine situations like hers and create a report by Jan. 1, 2018. The report would make recommendations to ensure that IHSS providers who provide supportive services to a spouse or child have access to employment-based support and protections, including Social Security benefits and state unemployment insurance benefits. ...The Assembly approved the bill, 77-0, in June and it is now making its way through state Senate committees. (Yarbrough, 7/31)
The political arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana is pouring $2 million into the fight against legalization in multiple states including California.
Los Angeles Times:
Kennedy Group Puts $2 Million Into Fight Against Pot-Legalization Measures
Facing well-financed campaigns to legalize recreational pot, a national coalition that includes former Rep. Patrick Kennedy has raised more than $2 million to fight initiatives in five states this year, including a November ballot measure in California. The money is being put up by the political arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group founded by Kennedy; David Frum, senior editor of the Atlantic; and Kevin Sabet, a former drug policy advisor to the Obama administration. The opposition campaign to California’s Proposition 64 will eventually get a large amount of the money because its vote affects so many people and is likely to have the biggest influence on other states considering similar proposals, said Sabet, president of the group, SAM Action. (McGreevy, 8/1)
The program is touted by some as the solution to long waits for veterans, but the people who are using the system aren't satisfied.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Rocky Start For VA’s Choice Program
In response to scandals about long wait times faced by veterans across the country, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act dictated that vets who would wait over 30 days for an appointment, or lived 40 miles or more away from the provider, could get care from private doctors instead. But data shows low usage of the program — just 27 percent of the largest pool of vets referred outside the San Diego VA have completed those appointments. ... [Veterans] describe a nightmarish amount of red tape when trying to make appointments. (Steele, 7/29)
In other veterans' health care news —
The Associated Press:
Obama Pointing To Strides In Veterans’ Health Care
President Barack Obama is touting strides in reducing homelessness among military veterans as his administration reaches the halfway point in building a massive database on veterans’ health. Overall veteran homelessness has been cut nearly in half, by 47 percent, although that’s still short of Obama’s long-held goal of getting it to zero by 2015. Credit also goes to first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, for using their initiative on military families to challenge mayors and county officials nationwide to end veterans’ homelessness, the White House says. (Superville, 8/1)
City Attorney Mike Feuer says, "Crisis pregnancy centers have been known to spread false medical information. I believe extremely strongly that women are entitled to be fully informed about their reproductive choices."
LA City Attorney: Local Pregnancy Centers Violating State Abortion Notification Law
The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has alerted three so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" that they are violating a new state law intended to ensure that women know their all options when making a decision about an unplanned pregnancy. ... The Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act requires licensed facilities that provide pregnancy-related services to notify clients that the state offers access to low-cost and free abortions. It requires unlicensed facilities to disclose that they're not licensed by the state to provide medical care. (Plevin, 7/29)
Nurses, doctors and others in the health care industry are embracing the "maker movement," which encourages inventive solutions when traditional ones don't cut it.
Medical MacGyvers: Nurses Craft DIY Devices To Fit Patients’ Needs
Inside sterile hospital environments, medical MacGyvers are designing and building new medical devices with an assortment of raw materials to improve patient care. Doing the crafting, tinkering and inventing are nurses, doctors, patients and even caregivers. Nurses have used plastic cups and surgical tape to keep children from picking at their IVs. They’ve adapted goggles to protect the eyes of neonatal infants. And you’ve seen tennis balls on walkers, right? It’s called MakerHealth, born out of the maker movement. (McClurg, 7/29)
The federal lawsuit was filed by the family of a mentally ill man who was fatally shot in December.
LA Daily News:
Family Of Mentally Ill Carson Man Fatally Shot By Long Beach Police Files Federal Lawsuit
The parents of a mentally ill man who died after a Long Beach police officer shot him at Looff’s Lite-A-Line gaming parlor in December announced Thursday they have filed a federal lawsuit against the city. The suit, which seeks punitive damages against Police Chief Robert Luna and the officers involved in the shooting, alleges the Long Beach Police Department failed to properly train officers to deal with people living with mental illnesses and that officers’ actions on the night of the shooting “escalated a peaceful encounter” and led to an unjustified use of deadly force. Mharloun Verdejo Saycon, 39, of Carson died after police shot him the night of Dec. 14. (Edwards, 7/28)
In other health care news from across the state —
Did Drinking Too Much Water Contribute To De La Salle Grad's Death In Army Ranger Training?
The condition that may have caused the death this week of a former De La Salle High School quarterback who was training to become a U.S. Army Ranger has dogged the military branch for decades as it has grappled with heat-related illnesses and proper hydration for trainees. No cause of death has been determined for 2nd Lt. Michael Parros, 21, of Walnut Creek, who played on the vaunted Spartans football team in 2010 and 2011. He was hospitalized for hyponatremia Monday, his first day of the elite training in the sweltering heat at Fort Benning, Georgia, and died Wednesday. The condition can be caused by drinking too much water, which causes the body's level of sodium to become abnormally low. (Gafni, 7/29)
He Was Homeless — But To Get Help, The Rules Said He Had To Prove It
After being discharged from detox, Rory Gallegos had nowhere to go. So he made the street his home. A year later, he thought he had found a home when the Hillview Mental Health Center in Pacoima offered him an apartment with onsite mental health services. But to qualify for a voucher to pay for the room, Gallegos first had to prove that he was chronically homeless. He couldn’t produce the necessary documents. (Smith, 7/31)
Promises Kept: Girl Scout Troop’s Longevity Honors Leader Lost To Cancer
Modesto Girl Scout Troop 3380 always was, and always will be, “Kristen’s troop” – even now that its 12 members have graduated high school and are going their own ways into adulthood. ... Kristen Machado formed the troop in 2003 and led it for nine years. Seven of those, she also battled sarcoma cancer – a fight she lost Oct. 29, 2012, less than two weeks before her 40th birthday. Months before her death, as her Scouts were nearing the start of high school and some wanted to start work on the Girl Scout Silver Award, Machado’s energy was low and she turned to her friend [Joanne] Serpa for help. (Farrow, 7/30)
Through the Care Program for Refugees, mental health professionals from California are offering training to people working with refugees affected by turmoil in the Middle East.
California Mental Health Experts Bring PTSD Training To Jordan
For a group of mental health professionals in California, watching the Syrian refugee crisis unfold on television was not an option. ... A study from the World Health Organization says fewer than 100 psychiatrists live in Jordan. In the face of overwhelming need came a creative response from the Alalusi Foundation, a Hayward-based nonprofit focusing on refugee relief and humanitarian projects around the world. The foundation developed the Care Program for Refugees — or CPR — to train professionals who work with refugees to provide mental health care. (Roberts, 7/29)
The government says doctors are incorrectly trying to collect deductibles, co-payments and other costs from these patients.
The New York Times:
Doctors Are Improperly Billing Some On Medicare, U.S. Says
Doctors are improperly billing poor people on Medicare for deductibles, co-payments and other costs from which they are supposed to be exempt, the Obama administration says. Federal officials have warned doctors that they may be subject to penalties if they persist in these practices. They could, for example, be fined or excluded from Medicare. The people who are being billed improperly are “qualified Medicare beneficiaries” who are also enrolled in Medicaid. They are 65 and older or disabled and have low incomes, generally less than $1,010 a month for an individual or $1,355 for a married couple. (Pear, 7/30)
In other national news —
Kaine Faces Abortion Blowback
Sen. Tim Kaine’s disagreement with Hillary Clinton on a key abortion restriction is causing blowback from abortion rights groups. On Friday morning, the vice presidential nominee said that he still supports the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding for abortions. But Clinton and many abortion rights supporters in the Democratic Party want to repeal the Hyde Amendment, leaving the running mates at odds on the subject just hours after they sealed their status on the Democratic ticket together. (Everett and Haberkorn, 7/29)
The New York Times:
Immunotherapy Offers Hope To A Cancer Patient, But No Certainty
A cancer patient nicknamed the Steel Bull got his death sentence on a gloomy March Wednesday in 2015. He was 47, his given name Jason Greenstein, but he had earned the moniker from his oncologist for his stubborn will during more than four years of brutal chemotherapy and radiation treatment — all of which had failed. ... The oncologist, Dr. Mark Brunvand, said he excused himself to the hallway to gather his emotions. When he returned a moment later, he looked Mr. Greenstein in the eye. “You are going to die,” he remembers saying. “And because you’re my friend, it’s my job to make you as comfortable as possible.” ... What happened next qualified as well beyond “dramatic response.” A few days later, Mr. Greenstein agreed to try a last-ditch drug called nivolumab that was being tested for Hodgkin’s. It dripped into his veins, just like those body-racking chemotherapy treatments. But this time, there were no harsh side effects. And this time, the outcome was very different. (Richtel, 7/31)
The Wall Street Journal:
Glaxo, Alphabet Plan $700 Million Bioelectric Treatment Venture
GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Google-parent Alphabet Inc. have teamed up to develop what they call bioelectronic medicines, or treatments that use miniature electronic devices to modify how electrical impulses are transmitted around the nervous system. The U.K pharmaceutical company said it had signed an agreement with Verily Life Sciences LLC, formerly Google Life Sciences, to create Galvani Bioelectronics. It said the pair would spend up to £540 million ($700 million) over seven years on the venture, provided they succeeded in hitting various milestones along the way. Glaxo will control 55% of the new company with Verily holding the rest. (Roland, 8/1)
The New York Times:
Zika Cases In Puerto Rico Are Skyrocketing
The Zika epidemic that has spread from Brazil to the rest of Latin America is now raging in Puerto Rico — and the island’s response is in chaos. The war against the Aedes aegypti mosquito carrying the virus is sputtering out in failure. Infections are skyrocketing: Many residents fail to protect themselves against bites because they believe the threat is exaggerated. (McNeil, 7/30)