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Christina Lopez / Valley Public Radio

On the outskirts of Kern County lies the community of Lamont. It is an unincorporated area 10 miles southeast of Bakersfield home to over 15,000 people. This corner of the county is made up of migrant farm workers, small business owners, and immigrant families, majority Hispanic. 

Flickr user Derek Dirks, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

After it was first reported in March, the recent E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce appears to be drawing to a close. But that’s only after it sickened 172 people in 32 states and resulted in one death in California. Why did it take so long to get under control? One reason is that produce can be difficult to trace from farm to fork, through the sometimes dozens of suppliers, distributors and wholesalers that make up the produce supply chain—but two recent initiatives are attempting to change that.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*Correction as of June 15, 2018: The California Department of Public Health has announced that it initially overestimated the state’s overdose deaths due to fentanyl by a factor of two. While we originally reported 750 fentanyl-related overdose deaths statewide, the corrected total is 373 – an increase of 56 percent over the year before, not 300 percent. Likewise, Kern County reported 10 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2017, not 20.

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

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. 

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."

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno passed a Parks Master Plan in January. The plan outlines the city’s goals to maintain and improve existing parks, and add more to the system. But over the years, the city’s parks budget has decreased. A new coalition hopes their efforts will put new life into parks, with a tax.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

Valley Public Radio

This winter has been an especially bad one for air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.  With long stretches of high particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5), staying informed with accurate info about air quality forecasts and current conditions is important for your health. We took a look at some popular apps for both iOS and Android devices that provide air quality information.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

A national ranking system has for years given Fresno County’s health a failing grade. At the county’s inaugural “state of the health” breakfast on Friday, health leaders vowed to change that.

City of Fresno - WRT

The City of Fresno has adopted a new parks master plan. On Thursday, the city council unanimously approved the document, which took over a year to develop. It’s the first time in decades the city has come up with a comprehensive plan for its parks infrastructure. The city says it needs 1,100 acres of new green space in the city, much of it south of Shaw Avenue.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

In this age of smart homes and electronic assistants, your appliances can now order refills automatically and you can manage your home security system using an app. But can the so-called “internet of things” be used to solve community problems? Some San Joaquin Valley residents think so: They're trying to address one of the region’s perennial public health problems with a new low-cost device.

Sarah Sharpe / CHAPS

Last week, we brought you a report about the San Joaquin Valley’s recent bout of smoggy air, which in Bakersfield was the longest consecutive episode of unhealthy PM2.5 levels in decades.

Flickr user Greg Jordan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The FDA is launching a new campaign to urge smokers to give up their habit--and the project is focusing some of its efforts on Kings County.

The campaign is called “Every Try Counts” and it targets adult smokers who’ve tried to quit in the past but failed.

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

If you spent time in the San Joaquin Valley over the holidays, the recent rain probably has you breathing a sigh of relief—not just because it’s bringing much needed rain and snow, but also because it’s the first time in weeks you can safely breathe. This story looks back at one of the most severe periods of smoggy air in decades.

When James Collins isn’t studying social work at Fresno State, he drives for the rideshare company Lyft. He sees a lot of open sky and bright sun.

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