Latest From California Healthline:
Syphilis is spreading from big cities into rural counties across the Midwest and West. One Missouri clinic has seen more than six times as many cases in the first few months of 2019 compared with the same period last year. Communities grappling with budget cuts and crumbling public health infrastructure also lack experience in fighting the disease. (Lauren Weber, 4/18)
Good morning! There’s a lot of California health care news for you today, so let’s get to it!
Los Angeles County Wants In On Newsom’s Ambitious Plan To Rein In High Prescription Drug Costs: Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles County have announced that they’ve formed a partnership as part of Newsom’s plan to implement a state-wide purchasing system to force down drug costs. Although Newsome has yet to release the details about how the plan will work, he promises more information soon. “I can assure you are going to see the fruits of this in the very near future,” Newsom said. While Newsom said he anticipates a major fight with pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists, so far those groups have been relatively quiet—most likely because they don’t yet know exactly what they’re up against. Newsom said the partnership with Los Angeles County will hopefully spur other local governments to join the coalition, adding that governors in Rhode Island, Colorado and Illinois have expressed interest in a similar model or joining California’s collective. Read more from the Los Angeles Times.
Kaiser Permanente Patients Gather To Demand Shorter Wait Times For Mental Health Care Appointments: The patients, who are demanding a meeting with the health system’s CEO as well, say that Kaiser doesn’t have enough clinicians to see patients in a timely manner, and that there’s too much of a focus on medication and group therapy. In response, Kaiser says it has increased the number of therapists it employs by 30 percent since 2015, including more than 500 new therapists in California, and has invested $175 million to expand its mental health care offices. The accusations about its mental health care services are not new, however. Kaiser was fined $4 million in 2013 by the California Department of Managed Health Care for not giving patients adequate access to mental health treatment. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Union Representing 10,000 University Of California Workers Mulls Striking Over Wages: UPTE-CWA 9119 has been bargaining for new labor contracts with the UC for about two years, and contracts for all the employees it represents have expired. But the university’s decision to unilaterally impose wage increases of 3 percent annually over the next four years may instigate another strike. “We believe negotiations with UPTE have taken much longer than they should, and it has been too long since you have received a raise,” said Peter Chester, the executive director UC Systemwide Labor Relations. “At some point, UC and UPTE will need to return to the bargaining table in order to negotiate any additional increases as part of a multi-year contract.” The union, meanwhile, has deemed the raises just another “bully tactic” by the university. Read more health care personnel strikes from the Sacramento Bee and Axios.
Sharp Faces More Lawsuits Stemming From Allegations Hospital Videotaped Women Without Their Knowledge: The new lawsuit joins previous ones in accusing Sharp Healthcare and Sharp Grossmont Hospital of breaching the trust of female patients by secretly videotaping them as they gave birth or underwent other medical procedures. The hospital was intending to catch medical thieves, but ended up recording female patients as well. Sharp officials say they have strengthened internal policies to make sure no such recordings are made in the future. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day. And have a healthy weekend.
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More News From Across The State
San Jose Mercury News:
Judge Approves $610 Million Sale Of Four California Hospitals, Including Seton Medical Center
A bankruptcy judge Wednesday approved the $610 million sale of four hospitals, including two in San Mateo County, that are owned by the bankrupt nonprofit Verity Health System. Seton Medical Center in Daly City and Seton Coastside in Moss Beach, as well as the St. Francis and St. Vincent medical centers in Los Angeles County, will be sold to Southern California-based The KPC Group. (Vo, 4/17)
KPC Group Closes In On Purchase Of Four Verity Health Hospitals
"Today's court approval of the sale means we are one step closer to finalizing a smooth and orderly transition for Verity's remaining hospitals and assets to a buyer who will maintain Verity's core mission," Rich Adcock, CEO of Verity Health, said in prepared remarks. "We're pleased that these important institutions will continue providing local communities with the high-quality care they need and deserve." (Kacik, 4/17)
Capital Public Radio:
Here's Why California Housing For Mentally Ill Adults Is Disappearing
In one of his first moves as chair of a new state commission on supportive housing, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg met last week with leaders in mental health and homelessness to discuss California’s lack of board and care facilities for adults with severe mental illness. Attendees weighed in on what they’re calling a shrinking safety net for the mentally ill. (Caiola, 4/17)
LA County Dept Of Mental Health Director On Homelessness, Schools, Jails And More
Dr. Jonathan Sherin leads the largest Mental Health department in the nation and its challenges are deep and wide-ranging. Today, he joins AirTalk to discuss what an ideal mental health care system would look like and what steps the L.A. County Department of Mental Health is taking to get closer to its goals. (Mantle, 4/17)
The Associated Press:
Legionnaires' Disease Found In Adjacent California Prisons
Legionnaires' disease bacteria that killed one inmate and sickened another is more widespread than expected in a California state prison, officials said Wednesday, citing new test results. Preliminary results found the bacteria in the water supply at a prison medical facility in Stockton and at two neighboring youth correctional facilities, Corrections Department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said. (4/17)
Legionella Bacteria Widespread In Stockton Prison Water
The prison took precautions in specific areas following the outbreak, including installing shower filters in one unit and providing bottled water. A nearby youth correctional facility also took precautions. A CDCR official sent an email to staff Tuesday saying preliminary tests showed the bacteria had been detected “throughout the facility,” affecting all yards and a state training center. No one should use any water at the facility that isn’t bottled or brought in from off-site, and no one should use showers without special filters, the email states. (Venteicher, 4/17)
San Jose Mercury News:
Theranos Founder Holmes Fights Feds Over Documents, Trial Date
Elizabeth Holmes, charged with felony conspiracy and fraud for allegedly misleading patients, doctors and investors about her now-defunct Silicon Valley blood-testing company Theranos, is demanding more documents from federal authorities and pushing to delay a trial date. Former Theranos CEO Holmes and former company president Sunny Balwani were indicted by a grand jury in June. They are charged with 11 criminal counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. (Baron, 4/17)
Los Angeles Times:
In A First, L.A. Sues Unlicensed Cannabis Dispensary, Seeking Millions
The city of Los Angeles is seeking millions in civil penalties from an unlicensed South L.A. cannabis dispensary accused of selling marijuana contaminated with pesticides, a move officials said Wednesday is intended to crack down on widespread illegal pot sales. The dispensary, Kush Club 20, was selling cannabis tainted with paclobutrazol, a fungicide frequently used to make golf turf more dense and verdant, which is classified as a Type II toxic chemical by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is not approved for use on cannabis in California, a lawsuit filed Monday by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office said. (Queally, 4/17)
Capital Public Radio:
As Temperatures Rise, Scientists Hope Predicting Heat Waves Could Prevent Fatalities And Damage In California
Heat waves in California can be deadly and costly. Now scientists think a phenomenon in the Indian and eastern Pacific Oceans might predict when the next one could hit the state. New findings, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, analyzed 24 heat waves from 1979 to 2010. (Romero, 4/17)
USC Center for Health Journalism Collaborative:
Will Undocumented Immigrants Avoid New State Health Benefits?
The rule change would broaden who the immigration system defines as a “public charge” — essentially a taxpayer burden — and includes an expanded list of federal taxpayer-funded public benefits that would count against immigrants, including food stamps and Medi-Cal, the state’s health program for low-income individuals and families. (Gaglianone and Amaro, 4/17)
Where Is Sacramento Planning To Build Homeless Shelters?
Sacramento Councilman Steve Hansen is proposing the city open a homeless shelter in the Capitol Park Hotel – the historic residential hotel near the heart of a revitalized downtown area. Capitol Park, at the corner of 9th and L streets, offers single-room occupancy units, or SROs. About half of the rooms are vacant, and the hotel’s roughly 90 tenants will receive relocation assistance, Hansen said. (Clift, 4/18)
Cummings Accuses Oversight Republicans Of Obstructing Drug Price Probe
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Wednesday accused ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) of deliberately trying to undermine the committee’s investigation into rising drug prices. In a letter sent Wednesday, Cummings condemned what he claimed were Jordan’s efforts to “actively obstruct” the committee’s investigation into prescription drug pricing. (Weixel, 4/17)
House Democrats Probe Trump Administration's Funding Of Anti-Abortion Group
House Democrats are launching a probe of the Trump administration's decision to fund an anti-abortion group through a federal family planning program while cutting government support for Planned Parenthood. The Trump administration announced last month that four Planned Parenthood affiliates would not be awarded Title X family planning grants this year, despite receiving them in the past. The administration also announced that, for the first time, it would fund Obria, a chain of anti-abortion clinics that don't provide contraception. (Hellmann, 4/17)
The Washington Post Fact Checker:
Pence, Buttigieg And The Debate Over ‘Conversion Therapy’
It’s a Hoosier rumble! Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has been calling out Vice President Pence for what he views as animus against gay rights. Buttigieg came out as gay when Pence was still governor of Indiana, after the two had tangled over Pence’s signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The law was signed in March 2015, and Buttigieg came out in June of that year. (Kessler, 4/18)
The New York Times:
Doctors Accused Of Trading Opioid Prescriptions For Sex And Cash
Last summer, a woman in northern Alabama who law enforcement officials said was a prostitute typed a message to a doctor: “Can u get any Xanax.” The doctor replied: “What makes you think I know a Xanax source?” Just below, he added a smiley face, and then described his home as the “Fun House.” The doctor was one of the scores of medical professionals across seven states who were charged by federal prosecutors on Wednesday with schemes to illegally distribute millions of pain pills. Opioid prescriptions were exchanged for sex in some cases, and for cash with an added “concierge fee” in others. One doctor was accused of routinely prescribing opioids to friends on Facebook. (Robertson, 4/17)
Twenty Years After Columbine, Mass Shooting Survivors Help Others Heal
Almost two decades separate the traumatic experiences of Michelle Wheeler and Chad Williams, who both survived mass shootings. But as they shared their stories one evening last July, 20 years seemed to evaporate in the crisp Colorado air. The similarities were too many to count. The same gripping fear. The loss and devastation that followed. The lasting trauma and overwhelming grief. So many funerals and memorial services. (4/17)
The New York Times:
‘Partly Alive’: Scientists Revive Cells In Brains From Dead Pigs
The brains did not regain anything resembling consciousness: There were no signs indicating coordinated electrical signaling, necessary for higher functions like awareness and intelligence. But in an experimental treatment, blood vessels in the pigs’ brains began functioning, flowing with a blood substitute, and certain brain cells regained metabolic activity, even responding to drugs. When the researchers tested slices of treated brain tissue, they discovered electrical activity in some neurons. (Kolata, 4/17)
The Associated Press:
Doctors Use HIV In Gene Therapy To Fix 'Bubble Boy' Disease
They were born without a working germ-fighting system, every infection a threat to their lives. Now eight babies with "bubble boy disease" have had it fixed by a gene therapy made from one of the immune system's worst enemies — HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. A study out Wednesday details how scientists turned this enemy virus into a savior, altering it so it couldn't cause disease and then using it to deliver a gene the boys lacked. (4/17)