Health

News on health, wellness and health care

The bond rating firm Fitch announced this week that it is downgrading the debt of a Tulare county hospital. The Tulare Local Health Care District saw its rating dip from BBB- to BB+.

The firm cited the hospital’s recent drop in profitability, and dramatic decline in liquidity as factors for the downgrade. The organization believes the hospital’s financial health will stabilize in the remainder of 2012, as a new 24 bed emergency wing is completed at the Tulare Regional Medical Center.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Fresno County is moving forward with a plan to reopen a crisis center for mental health patients. The county closed the center in 2009 due to budget cuts. That resulted in patients being sent to area emergency rooms.

Hospitals say they aren’t well equipped to handle those patients. The new crisis stabilization service will be run by a private contractor, Exodus Health, at the county’s former facility on Kings Canyon Road.

The four year contract with Exodus Health to provide the services for Fresno County is for around $16 million.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

When we get sick, this is what most of us want to see a doctor.That’s what the people of the town of Reedley wanted when they voted to establish the Sierra Kings Health Care District. They taxed themselves and sold bonds to build their own hospital. “What individuals felt is that they could really not for their own health care travel 35 minutes to Fresno or Visalia for major health care,” says Kathy Omachi.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Community Regional Medical Center, located in downtown Fresno, is where the poorest of Fresno County residents go for medical care.

“The county was providing the services at the old Valley Medical Center and Community Medical Centers took it over in 1996 for about $18 million a year and providing basically Medi-Cal level services,” says Kevin Hamilton, an administrator with Clinica Sierra Vista.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It's Thursday night, and inside a small classroom at a church in Clovis, a handful of actors have gathered to put the finishing touches on a new original production. 

“Let’s go to the piece where this builds up before you take off into this speech,” shouts the director.

It's a theatre production of a four vignettes plus an original song, all focused an issue that's having a big impact on many Valley residents - obesity.

The recession isn't just hurting families financially. It's also creating more stress for parents who already feel overwhelmed by the demands of raising children. Child safety advocates are concerned about the link between the economy and rising reports of abusive head injuries in infants. That condition is better known as shaken baby syndrome. FM89's Shellie Branco has this report.

Special funding for this program comes from the California HealthCare Foundation
http://www.chcf.org/

Fresno Needle Exchange Program Generates Controversy

Sep 27, 2011
Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

Volunteers are counting piles of used needles dumped out of plastic bags on a hot Saturday afternoon. People are lining up under a shade tent on a secluded north Fresno street to get rid of their dirty syringes. In return, they're getting an equal number of clean needles from the volunteers at the Fresno Needle Exchange Program.

The first person in line is a woman in her late forties who prefers to be called Tobi. She's a heroin user who's been coming to the exchange for 10 years. She's seen other drug users trading their old needles on the streets.

In Downtown Fresno, the Hamilton family is on a mission – to share their vision of an organic, vegan, raw food diet with the rest of the Central Valley. Valley Public Radio's Juanita Stevenson visits the Revive Café and Whole Farms Market to talk with owner Tara Hamilton and her customers, including some who are embracing the entire vegan lifestyle, and others who are making smaller steps towards healthy eating. 

Valley Educators Teach Healthy Eating

Aug 23, 2011
Lauren Whaley / California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting

Last month, new data came out ranking California as the 12th skinniest state in the union. But, you wouldn’t know it living in the San Joaquin Valley, where one in three people is obese and therefore at risk for a slew of diseases, including diabetes, heart attack and early death.

Doctor Shortage Hits Rural California

Aug 16, 2011
Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

Children and parents crowd the waiting room in the United Health Centers clinic for low-income patients in Parlier. It's a busy morning, and Dr. Rogelio Fernandez is seeing patients one right after the other. At this moment, he's treating 35 year old Yesenia Campuzano of Reedley. The birth control implant in her arm caused acne, so Dr. Fernandez is surgically removing the tiny, tube-like device. She's feeling the incision, so she needs more of the local anesthetic.

Farmers, Government Seek to Prevent Heat Illness

Jul 26, 2011

It's mid-morning under a sunny and nearly cloudless sky at Paul Betancourt's farm, about 20 miles southwest of Kerman. Two workers are getting ready to disk the wheat field with the tractor and irrigate the cotton. Betancourt has been monitoring the temperature.

"It was 86 when you drove up and the forecast for Fresno is 99," he says. "It's usually a little cooler out here. We've kinda done the heavy lifting for the day already."

One of his employees, Ruben Elenes, has been a farmworker for 15 years. He knows how to protect himself from the sun.

Fresno Teen Find Hopes In Diagnosis

Jul 5, 2011
Lauren Whaley / California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting

We hear the term “obesity epidemic” often in the news these days.

Last month, the L.A. Unified School District voted to removed flavored milk from school lunch menus, a move proponents argue will help stem childhood obesity.

In April, the state assembly shelved a proposal to tax sugar-filled drinks. The money would have gone to obesity prevention programs.

Diabetes Patients Turn to Grey Market Sources

May 26, 2011

Californians spend $24 billion each year on diabetes care, and the Valley's diabetes rates are some of the highest in the state, around 10 percent. For people struggling with the disease, the financial and emotional burdens of diabetes make for a difficult combination. When the costs of diabetes testing supplies add up, some bypass the pharmacy and turn to the street to get what they need. Valley Public Radio's Shellie Branco reports on how some Valley residents are dealing with their disease.

School Nurse Programs Suffer With Budget Cuts

Apr 19, 2011

When we hear about budget problems in California schools, we usually think of teachers losing their jobs. But school nurses are also worried about job security and cuts to student health services. In this report, FM89 health correspondent Shellie Branco talks with school nurses and one Visalia family who relies on them. 

Budget Cuts Hit County Mental Health Program

Feb 10, 2011

As California’s counties face increasing budget pressures, programs that aid those with mental illness have been reduced or eliminated. In Fresno County, patients who used to be treated in the county’s Crisis Intervention Service program are now being sent to area hospital emergency rooms, with serious consequences for patients and the public. Correspondent Shellie Branco reports on the state of mental health services in the Valley.

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