Tests & Treatments

Information and new research about advances in discovering and treating diseases and conditions.

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4-Year Contract Dispute Between Kaiser, NUHW Thaws; Union ‘Hopeful’

(Ted Eytan/Flickr)

(Ted Eytan/Flickr)

For more than four years, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, representing 2,600 Kaiser mental health clinicians in California, has been in a small war with the health care giant.

NUHW members have gone on strikes of varying lengths three times over what it says are lengthy delays in providing care to mental health patients.

In 2011, the union filed a 34-page complaint with the California Department of Managed Health Care alleging Kaiser’s mental health services were “sorely understaffed and frequently fail to provide timely and appropriate care.” Continue reading

Calif. Calls Kaiser Mental Health Services ‘Inadequate’ as Treatment Delays Persist

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

A teenager with major depression and thoughts of suicide is forced to wait 24 days for an initial appointment.

A sexual assault victim, diagnosed with PTSD and major depression, sends numerous emails requesting individual psychotherapy, only to have her psychiatrist suggest she should get outside help at her own expense because no weekly appointments are available. Total time between appointments: Five months.

Following up on a survey that resulted in a $4 million fine against the HMO in 2013.  

A patient deemed high-risk for domestic abuse doesn’t show up for appointments, but mental health staff do not attempt contact. The couples therapy called for in his treatment plan does not occur. Domestic violence resulting in severe injury ensues. The man then tries to make an appointment but can’t get one.

Continue reading

When A Court Ordered Kids Vaccinated — Against Parents’ Will

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Anders Kelto, NPR

A highly contagious disease was sweeping across the United States. Thousands of children were sick and some were dying. In the midst of this outbreak, health officials did something that experts say had never been done before and hasn’t been done since. They forced parents to vaccinate their children.

The church ran a school with about a thousand kids. None had been vaccinated.  

It sounds like something that would have happened a hundred years ago. But this was 1991 — and the disease was measles.

Dr. Robert Ross was deputy health commissioner of the hardest-hit city, Philadelphia, where the outbreak was centered around the Faith Tabernacle Congregation in the northern part of town.

“This church community did not believe in either immunizations or medical care,” says Ross. Today, he heads The California Endowment, a private health foundation, based in Los Angeles. Continue reading

Getting Vaccinated Against Measles: What You Need to Know

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Liza Gross

The measles outbreak that started in December has sickened 141 people in 17 states. California has the most cases by far: 113 as of last Friday with about half traced to Disneyland.

State health officials are urging anyone who is not immunized against measles to get vaccinated. To help people figure out whether they need to get vaccinated against measles or other diseases, I spoke with Dr. Roger Baxter, who co-directs Kaiser Permanente’s Vaccine Study Center in Oakland.

First up, children. The Centers for Disease Control recommends two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine as follows:

  • First dose at 12-15 months
  • Second dose at 4-6 years

I asked Dr. Baxter, why is a second shot needed? Continue reading

Parents Relieved as Son Gets First Post-Leukemia Vaccines

Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday at the Prima Medical Group in Greenbrae. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

It’s been a big week for 7-year-old Rhett Krawitt.

On Tuesday, he stood on a folding chair at the podium to address his southern Marin school district’s board members and urged them to adopt a resolution in favor of ending the vaccine “personal belief exemption” in California. Television news crews lined one side of the auditorium. Rhett is recovering from cancer, and he’s become the face of the importance of widespread vaccination.

Because Rhett is recovering from years of chemotherapy, he’s been unable to be vaccinated. His immune system wasn’t strong enough.

Until now. Continue reading

As Covered California Enrollment Winds Down, a Push for HIV Prevention

By Heather Boerner

You’ve got just three days left to choose a new health plan under Covered California.

Choose carefully — especially if you want to take the only pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration to block HIV.

“Some plans may look appealing because their premiums are low,” Dr. Hyman Scott, who specializes in HIV at San Francisco General Hospital, said he tells patients interested in the drug, Truvada. “But the copays and deductibles, especially for what are often considered specialty drugs, can be really high.”

Enrollment in Covered California closes Sunday. Local doctors, social workers and navigators are helping the people most at risk for HIV figure out how — and if — they can afford the drug, which costs $13,000 a year, according to the drug’s maker, Gilead Sciences. Continue reading

Cancer Patients, Doctors Sue State to Allow Aid in Dying

Brittany Maynard, 29, terminally ill with brain cancer, ended her own life on Nov. 1, 2014 in Oregon. (Compassion and Choices/BrittanyFund.org)

Brittany Maynard, 29, terminally ill with brain cancer, ended her own life on Nov. 1, 2014, in Oregon.
(Compassion and Choices/BrittanyFund.org)

Cancer patients and doctors are suing the state of California to allow physicians to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, just three weeks after lawmakers proposed an “aid in dying” bill.

“I want to be in control of my life and die a peaceful death here in California, which is my home,” said Christie White, a plaintiff in the case.

She spent two years in the hospital battling leukemia. She’s in partial remission now, but the sense of helplessness she felt during her treatment haunts her. She says she’s suing the state so she can have more say over when and where she dies.

Continue reading

Health Officials Discourage ‘Measles Parties’

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Julie Schiffman is a mother of two in Marin County. The choice to not vaccinate her kids, now 6 and 8, was a long and difficult one, she said. But deciding whether to intentionally expose them to measles was easy.

“I would never do that to my kid,” she said.

She was approached recently by a friend who knew her kids were unvaccinated. The friend offered to help set up a play date with another child who was sick.

“She said, ‘I know someone who has the measles, would you like to be connected with them?’” Schiffman said.

Continue reading

New Vaccination Bill Would End ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Fenit Nirappil
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers are proposing legislation that would require parents to vaccinate all school children unless a child’s health is in danger, joining only two other states with such stringent restrictions.

Parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to school under a proposal introduced Wednesday after dozens of people have fallen ill from a measles outbreak that started in late December at Disneyland.

Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states with such strict vaccine rules, though the California bill’s chief author said he would consider including a religious exemption, as allowed now. Continue reading

Once A Vaccine Skeptic, This Mom Changed Her Mind

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left). (Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left).
(Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

By Jon Hamilton, NPR

The ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has led to some harsh comments about parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. But Juniper Russo, a writer in Chattanooga, Tenn., says she understands those parents because she used to be one of them.

“I know what it’s like to be scared and just want to protect your children, and make the wrong decisions,” Russo says.

When her daughter Vivian was born, “I was really adamant that she not get vaccines,” Russo says. “I thought that she was going to be safe without them and they would unnecessarily introduce chemicals into her body that could hurt her.”

That’s a view shared by many parents who choose not to vaccinate. And in Russo’s case, it was reinforced by parents she met online. Continue reading