Monthly Archives: December 2011

Dental Care Hard to Find for Poor in California

(HeraldPost: Flickr)

(HeraldPost: Flickr)

Steve Fisher at Oakland Local has an extensive report today about just how hard it is for children in poor families to get good dental care.

California is ranked the third worst state in the country (after Arizona and Texas) for children’s oral health. With numbers like that, it’s not so surprising that it can be virtually impossible for people to find a dentist who accepts Medi-Cal. People with good dental care may not realize how critical healthy teeth are for overall health and success in school.

The lack of adequate dental care for California children is an enormous problem. Although 71 percent of all California children develop tooth decay by the third grade, almost one in four of these children under age 12 have never seen a dentist, according to a June 2011 report by The Children’s Partnership. Recent studies have shown that children in California  – especially low-income children – lose millions of hours of school due to dental issues, which can result in poorer academic performance and grades.

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Doing Things Right: Why Three Hospitals Didn’t Hurt My Wife

Michael Millenson and his wife, Susan. (Photo: Michael Millenson)

Michael Millenson and his wife, Susan. (Photo: Michael Millenson)

By: Michael Millenson

My wife was lying in the back of an ambulance, dazed and bloody, while I sat in the front, distraught and distracted. We had been bicycling in a quiet neighborhood in southern Maine when she hit the handbrakes too hard and catapulted over the handlebars, turning our first day of vacation into a race to the nearest hospital.

The anxiety when a loved one is injured is compounded when you know just how risky making things better can get. As a long-time advocate for patient safety, my interest in the topic has always been passionate, but never personal. Now, as Susan was being rushed into the emergency room, I wanted to keep it that way. “Wife of patient safety expert is victim” was a headline I deeply hoped to avoid.

“Wife of patient safety expert is victim” was a headline I deeply hoped to avoid.
In the weeks after the accident, we spent time at a 50-bed hospital in Maine; a Boston teaching hospital where Susan was transferred with a small vertebra fracture at the base of her neck and broken bones in her left elbow and hand; and a large community hospital near our suburban Chicago home. There were plenty of opportunities for bad things to happen — but nothing did. As far as I could tell, we didn’t even experience any near misses.

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What Shortage of Nurses? In California, We May Have Too Many

The number of young registered nurses entering the workforce more than doubled in the past decade. (photo: Krissy Clark/KQED)

The number of young registered nurses entering the workforce more than doubled in the past decade. (photo: Krissy Clark/KQED)

From the 1980s to the 2000s, the number of young people going into nursing schools plummeted — both nationally and in California. To reverse the trend, the government launched recruitment efforts to to spur more people to go into nursing.

It looks like they did a pretty good job. The number of registered nurses nationwide skyrocketed in the past decade, according to a study released in today’s Health Affairs. Recent grads aged 23-26 increased by 62 percent. There hasn’t been a spike in nursing grads like this in the U.S. since the 1970s.

There hasn’t been a spike in nursing graduates like this in the U.S. since the 1970s.

And it’s no different in California. Nursing school enrollments have doubled in the past decade, says Joanne Spetz, a nursing professor at UCSF and co-author of a UCSF report looking at California’s nursing forecast. The report shows that in the past five years, the number of California nursing graduates has doubled. Spetz says that’s because California also made huge efforts to recruit nursing students, like implementing accelerated degree programs.

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Are CA Hospital Report Cards Going Away?

By: Sarah Varney

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes KQED, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

(Ryan Ozawa: Flickr)

(Ryan Ozawa: Flickr)

On the Cal Hospital Compare website, conscientious consumers in California can look up scorecards for their local hospitals. How well does the hospital control infections? How often do patients die from complications that can be treated? How satisfied are most patients with their experience?

Most major hospitals in California give the data voluntarily to independent researchers who analyze and publish consumer-friendly reports.

The project was considered a pioneering effort when it started in 2004, but Jan Emerson-Shea, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, says the report cards have outlived their usefulness. “Today there are numerous places consumers can get information on the quality of care delivered by hospitals,” Emerson-Shea says. “Public reporting has very much come of age at this point in time.”

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ouRXperience: Pesticides & Farmworkers; Hmong Community; Workplace Injury

Salinas farmers work a field despite clear "danger" sign from recent pesticide application. (Photo: Patricia Carrillo)

Salinas farmers work a field despite clear "danger" sign from recent pesticide application. (Photo: Patricia Carrillo)

Editor’s Note: KQED produces ouRXperience, a blog from community correspondents, to enrich coverage of health issues across California. The mission of ouRXperience is to give voice to those Californians whose concerns might otherwise be overlooked. 

This week ouRXperience featured posts from three California communities:

  • In Salinas, Patricia Carrillo details how farmworkers can protect themselves from pesticide exposure.
  • From Oroville, Rachelle Parker has two posts about a new home for the Hmong Community Center. You can read her stories here and here.
  • And in Mendota, Sam Rubio brings us the story of his friend who suffered an on-the-job injury after being instructed to clean a chlorine tank without proper protection. Then he got fired.

Court OKs Compensation to Bone Marrow Donors

Bone marrow donation can be done by apheresis. (ec-jpr/Flickr)

Bone marrow donation can be done by apheresis. (ec-jpr/Flickr)

More than 3,000 Americans die every year waiting for a bone marrow donor match. Federal law has banned compensation to bone marrow donors since 1984, under the National Organ Transplant Act which likened bone marrow donation to organ donation. Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled that the law no longer extends to bone marrow, declaring that marrow cells are “blood parts” and not “organ parts.”

Back in the 80s extracting bone marrow was risky for the donor. But in the last 20 years, the process for obtaining marrow has become much safer and can be achieved through apheresis, a process similar to blood donation.

From The Los Angeles Times:

“This is a fundamental change to how deadly blood diseases will be treated in the country,” said Jeff Rowes, the Institute for Justice attorney who argued the case before the 9th Circuit panel in February. “Compensation will expand the donor pool by at least hundreds and potentially thousands each year.”

The lead plaintiff in the case is Doreen Flynn of Lewiston, Maine, a single mother of five trying to ensure that a broader field of potential donors is available when her three daughters suffering from Fanconi anemia need marrow transplants after treatment for the potentially fatal genetic disorder.

“That is, like, the best Christmas news ever!” said a jubilant Flynn upon hearing that the 9th Circuit had ruled to exclude marrow from the compensation ban. Her 13-year-old daughter is already on medication to stave off the need for a marrow transplant while waiting for a well matched donor, and Flynn must decide soon whether to put one of her 7-year-old twins on the same medication, she said.

MoreMarrowDonors.org wanted the organ transplant law struck down or amended to allow the nonprofit to offer $3,000 scholarships or housing payments to attract new registrants to the National Marrow Donor Program. The registry has more than 7 million members, but many joined years ago during donor drives for friends or family members and are often reluctant to donate to a stranger.

Mental Health Care May be Mandated in California, But Most Aren’t Getting Treated

17 percent of unmarried women with children report having mental health problems, according to a recent UCLA study. ((Photo: Getty Images)

17 percent of unmarried women with children report having mental health problems, according to a recent UCLA study. ((Photo: Getty Images)

More than two million adults in California say they need mental health care, but about half of them aren’t getting it, according to a report released Wednesday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

California mandates health insurance companies provide equal care for mental and physical health problems. But mental health services are often inadequate–or they don’t exist at all, says lead author David Grant.

One reason is when hospitals want to cut costs, mental health care is often the first to go. Grant notes that, just this morning, LA’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center announced it is cutting most of its psychiatric services.

“It’s a disaster,” Grant said about Cedars-Sinai’s closing. “Health care is undergoing so much change and it’s under so much financial stress right now. Providers are really looking for ways to reduce health care costs.”
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HIV/AIDS Cases Up Most for People of Color

(gernhaex: Flickr)

(gernhaex: Flickr)

Timed to today’s observance of World AIDS Day, California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development released a brief [PDF] looking at over 20 years of hospitalization trends for people with HIV and AIDS.

The state’s analysis showed that the number of people living with HIV and AIDS is up most significantly among blacks and Hispanics. Between 1988 and 2008, the number of white people with HIV/AIDS had nearly doubled, but the number of cases for blacks had more than tripled and were up more than five times for Hispanics.

Native Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders with HIV/AIDS were also up dramatically, although these groups represent a small percentage of the total number of Californians living with HIV/AIDS.

The State’s analysis looked in detail at hospitalization rates for people with HIV/AIDS and found they have dropped dramatically, largely due to the introduction of antiretroviral therapy in 1997.
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