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Health

News on health, wellness and health care

If you’re a regular Valley Public Radio listener, you probably already know that your health depends a lot on where you live. But just 10 years ago, that field of research was still emerging.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

A year ago, two universities were vying to open the first medical school in the San Joaquin Valley. On Wednesday, one took a big step forward—while the other fizzled. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

The San Joaquin Valley’s newest university is expanding: On Wednesday, groundbreaking ceremony for a new campus of California Health Sciences University.

The 90-acre plot of land between Highway 168, Temperance and Alluvial Avenues in Clovis is part of the university’s plan to operate a family of schools of medicine and health. The School of Pharmacy’s inaugural class will graduate later this month.

Coalinga Regional Medical Center website

A long-standing Fresno County hospital is closing. Coalinga Regional Medical Center announced Tuesday it will shut its doors within six weeks.

The hospital’s facilities are set to close by June 15. CEO Wayne Allen came on only three weeks ago, shortly before S&P Global Ratings put the hospital on CreditWatch due to the deterioration of its financial situation.

Allen was hired to turn the hospital’s finances around but he says he was too late. "What’s happening is the business is financially broke; insolvent," Allen says. "And we had to go into a closure mode."

Lance Johnson / Licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user LanceJohnson http://www.flickr.com/photos/lancejohnson/5703722259/

A medical school at UC Merced has been on the table since before the university was even built. Now, the University of California and a local legislator are renewing their efforts to make it happen.

A report published this week by the University of California Office of the President estimates a medical school at UC Merced would cost $150 million in up-front costs alone. That doesn’t include the roughly $30 million dollars needed annually to run it.

Office of Asm. Rudy Salas

Two bills that could improve valley fever research made it one step closer to law on Thursday, passing out of the California Assembly and into the state Senate. 

The bills aim to streamline the state’s inconsistent reporting guidelines for valley fever, a fungal disease caused by inhaling spores that grow in arid soil. Reporting requirements for the disease vary by county, making it difficult to tally and study the disease burden across the state. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The American Lung Association has released its annual State of the Air report chronicling air pollution throughout the country - and Valley cities still receive failing grades, despite some improvements.

The report ranks pollution levels for the years 2014-2016. Thanks to the Clean Air Act and lower vehicle emissions, particle pollution overall has dropped. Most cities, including those in the San Joaquin Valley, saw fewer days of unhealthy particle pollution compared to previous years.

MIT Press

Hunger is a big problem across America but especially here in the San Joaquin Valley. One of the local groups taking on the issue is FoodLink of Tulare County. The Exeter-based organization is dedicated to bridging the gap between between health and anti-hunger relief efforts.

Kern Medical / Kern County

The San Joaquin Valley will soon have fewer training opportunities for doctors; one of Kern Medical’s residency programs is losing its accreditation.

Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd says he doesn’t yet know why the hospital’s residency program in surgery will need to shut down.

"We’re very disappointed by this," Judd says. "Of course once we receive the findings we will do what is necessary to rectify those findings and reopen the program."

Community Medical Centers

Fresno area hospitals are about to get bigger with an expansion planned for Clovis Community Medical Center.

Next month, the hospital will begin construction on 190,000 square feet of new space. It’ll almost double the hospital’s inpatient capacity with 144 new beds—all in private rooms—and it’ll expand the emergency room, pharmacy and labs.

Community Medical Centers CEO Tim Joslin says it’s all in response to the area’s growing medical needs.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Clinica Sierra Vista introduced their new CEO and opened a new clinic in north Fresno Wednesday. The Bakersfield-based clinics have historically served rural and low income communities. CEO Brian Harris says that serving those communities remains their goal.

 

“If you look at who's going to the medical emergency rooms in our community, it is the poor and underserved,” says Harris. “They're using that as their primary care home. So we need to open up clinics near the hospitals.”
 

Courtesy Kaweah Delta Health Care District.

A new study from the UCSF Healthforce Center has ominous news for the valley’s health care system. According to the authors, demand for registered nurses in the San Joaquin Valley is projected to grow by 35 percent over the next 12 years. But at the same time, the region’s total number of RNs is expected to actually decline, creating a serious shortfall. Some estimates put the regional RN shortage as high as 10,000 by 2030. So what’s behind the decline?

Flickr user San Diego PersonalInjuryAttorney, CC BY-SA 2.0

Every time you want to see a doctor, decisions are made about who’s in your network, what’s approved, and how much it’ll cost. Although your health plan manages everything, each of those decisions could be outsourced to a separate company—and those behind-closed-doors actions can have big impacts. Allegations of misconduct within two of these intermediary companies are already having real impacts on patients in the Valley.

Last fall, Dr. Sanjay Srivatsa received a letter.

Community Water Center

More than 300 California communities lack access to clean drinking water. A disproportionately high number of those communities lie in the San Joaquin Valley, as we reported in our 2017 series Contaminated. Last fall, a bill with a proposed solution passed the state senate but has since remained in limbo, receiving both broad support and opposition—even in the San Joaquin Valley.

Community Water Center

A hearing in Sacramento earlier this week revealed local support and opposition to a drinking water bill making its way through the state legislature.

More than 300 public water systems in California are currently out of compliance with state code, mostly due to contamination from substances like arsenic and nitrate. Senate Bill 623 would establish a fund to help those communities pay for water treatment projects.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A new study identifies those San Joaquin Valley residents without access to drinking water, but a solution may be close at hand.

Hundreds of thousands residents in the San Joaquin Valley lack access to clean drinking water. This is especially common in unincorporated communities categorized as disadvantaged, which are also overwhelmingly Hispanic.

UCSF Fresno

UCSF Fresno has received a state grant to expand its training programs for medical residents and fellows. The university will receive $2.15 million over three years from the Office of Statewide Health and Planning thanks to the Song-Brown Program—a state law that provides grants in order to increase training for primary care providers throughout California. The funds will be used to support UCSF Fresno’s programs in Family and Community Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

A study published last week by UC San Francisco argues the San Joaquin Valley has some of the lowest ratios of behavioral health providers like psychiatrists and licensed clinical social workers in the state. The study also predicts that if nothing changes, California is on its way to a statewide behavioral health worker shortage.

In California, mental illness afflicts as many as 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 14 children. And yet, according to a new study, the state’s workforce of behavioral health providers could be in jeopardy.

By the year 2028, California could have 41 percent fewer psychiatrists than it needs, and 11 percent fewer other providers like psychologists and licensed clinical social workers.

Struggling For Care

Feb 14, 2018

The San Joaquin Valley lacks doctors. For every 100,000 residents, the Valley has 39 primary care physicians—22 percent less than the state average of 64—and an even lower share of specialists. The supply is also short for health professionals who accept Medi-Cal and plans through the Affordable Care Act.

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