Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

New bill to combat understaffing in California dialysis clinics, including 15 in Contra Costa, three in Antioch

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

By Sean Wherley

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced legislation, on Wednesday, to improve staffing at more than 550 dialysis clinics in California.

SB 349, the Dialysis Patient Safety Act, would mandate annual inspections of dialysis clinics and safer staffing levels. Current law requires inspections of dialysis clinics every six years, while nursing homes in California must be inspected every year, and hospitals every two years.

This legislation would affect 15 dialysis clinics in Contra Costa County: three each in Antioch and Walnut Creek; two each in Pittsburg and San Pablo; and one each in Brentwood, Concord, El Cerrito, Pleasant Hill and Richmond.

“Dialysis patients are grandparents, children and siblings not numbers on a balance sheet,” said Lara. “It’s time to fix the dialysis industry and improve patient care for the more than 63,000 Californians who rely on this life-saving treatment in clinics daily.”

Dialysis is necessary for people with kidney failure, who must have their blood removed, cleaned, and put back into their bodies. A typical treatment lasts three hours, and must be conducted three days a week for the rest of the patient’s life.

The two largest dialysis corporations – DaVita and Fresenius – make $2.9 billion a year in profits from their dialysis operations in the United States, but workers say the companies pocket the money rather than improve patient care or provide adequate staffing in their clinics.

Dialysis workers regularly report staffing levels so low that it threatens patient care. One worker cited an incident last March at a dialysis clinic in Anaheim, Calif. in which a patient collapsed in the parking lot. The worker said it could have been prevented if more staff were onsite at the time. Seven states already have minimum staffing levels in dialysis clinics: Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Dialysis workers in California have been organizing into a union, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), for safer working conditions and stronger worker and patient protections. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.morethannumbers.org.

Wherley is the Media Relations Specialist with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West.

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BART to pay $1.275 million settlement in environmental prosecution case by DA’s of three counties

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Transit agency failed to implement plans notifying first responders of the presence of large quantities of hazardous materials at its facilities throughout the Bay Area

Martinez, , CA – The Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney, along with District Attorneys from Alameda County and San Mateo County, announced today that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson has ordered San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to pay $1.275 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution alleging that the transit agency failed to implement hazardous materials business plans at facilities throughout the three counties as well as violating aboveground storage tank, underground storage tank, and hazardous waste laws.

The judgment agreed to by BART, resolves allegations made in a civil enforcement lawsuit filed January 31, 2017 in Alameda County and covers environmental violations dating back to January 2010.  The lawsuit claimed that at over 30 of BART’s 190 facilities throughout Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Mateo Counties, BART unlawfully failed to establish and implement a hazardous materials business plan for emergency response to a release or threatened release of hazardous materials.  These hazardous materials included large quantities of diesel fuel, petroleum, sulfuric acid contained in industrial batteries, and fire extinguishing chemicals.  The lawsuit further alleged that at these and other facilities, BART violated its environmental obligations related to its aboveground storage and underground storage of petroleum, and its hazardous waste.

“The protection of the public and the environment from dangerous hazardous materials through the enforcement of environmental protection laws is and always will be a high priority,” say District Attorney, Mark A. Peterson. “I am committed to ensuring both private and public entities comply with environmental laws enacted to protect our community and environment.”

In January of 2014, during routine compliance inspections, hazardous materials inspectors from the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health observed large aboveground storage tanks containing diesel at BART facilities in East Dublin/Pleasanton, West Dublin, and Castro Valley. These tanks, which contained 500 to over 1,700 gallons of diesel, fueled backup generators and were located in close proximity to areas accessed by thousands of BART commuters each day.  Despite the presence of large quantities of hazardous materials, BART had never implemented a hazardous materials business plan for any of these facilities as required by law.  These plans contain critical emergency response information for first responders, such as firefighters, and BART employees, should there be a release or threatened release of hazardous materials into the environment.  These hazardous materials business plans are designed to ensure the protection of the public and the environment in the event of a hazardous materials spill.

The violations were brought to the attention of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division who then conducted a follow up investigation with the District Attorney’s Offices’ Environmental Protection Units of Contra Costa County and San Mateo County.  The Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Program and San Mateo County Environmental Health Division also conducted inspections of all BART facilities in their respective Counties.  The follow up investigations revealed that BART’s failure to implement hazardous materials business plans was more widespread and covered over 30 BART facilities in the three counties.  The investigation also revealed that, at numerous other BART facilities, BART was committing violations of California’s aboveground storage tank, underground storage tank, and hazardous waste laws.

BART was cooperative throughout the investigation and worked hard to bring their agency into substantial environmental compliance.  During the investigation, BART hired an third party to conduct an audit of its environmental management programs and the audit identified areas of improvement related to hazardous materials, aboveground storage tanks, and hazardous waste. As part of the settlement, BART agreed to implement the recommendations from this audit.

As part of the settlement, BART agreed to implement the recommendations from this audit.

Under the settlement, BART must pay $675,000 in civil penalties paid out, according to statute, to other government agencies, and $300,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation.  As part of the settlement, BART must also commit $300,000 to an additional environmental compliance position, for a total of two such positions for the next two years.  BART will also be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.

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Antioch woman’s company, Pacific Senior Care Services, honored with fifth award in first three years in business

Friday, December 30th, 2016
Pacific Senior Care Services owner Kelly Gonzales with the 2016 award from Best Businesses of Walnut Creek.

Pacific Senior Care Services owner Kelly Gonzales with the 2016 award from Best Businesses of Walnut Creek.

By Allen Payton

Pacific Senior Care Services, LLC owned by Antioch resident Kelly Gonzales, has been selected for the 2016 Best Businesses of Walnut Creek Award in the Home Health Care and Senior Services organizations categories by the Best Businesses of Walnut Creek Award Program. This is the second time since 2014 that Pacific Senior Care Services has been selected for the awards.

Each year, the Best Businesses of Walnut Creek Award Program identifies companies that the organization believes have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Walnut Creek area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2016 Best Businesses of Walnut Creek Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Best Businesses of Walnut Creek Award Program and data provided by third parties.

“I’m honored to receive these awards, in just our third year of business,” said Gonzales. “We strive to meet elder needs with love and compassion, as our slogan states.”

Pacific Senior Care Services place seniors and others in care homes and senior facilities, offer senior care referral services, as well as senior insurance services through their affiliated company.

This is the fifth award for the company since Gonzales formed it in April, 2014. They also received the 2016 City Beat News Spectrum Award bestowed on companies for their excellence in customer service.

About the Best Businesses of Walnut Creek Award Program

The Best Businesses of Walnut Creek Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the
achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Walnut Creek area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

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Cause of Thanksgiving foodborne illness outbreak in Antioch identified

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

By Allen Payton

Contra Costa County Health Services announced, today, Tuesday, December 20, 2016, that the cause of the foodborne illness outbreak reported after a Thanksgiving Day charity event in Antioch has been identified. It was caused by the bacteria Clostridium perfringens.

A laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) confirmed the presence of the bacteria in stool samples taken from people sickened by food served at the Nov. 24 holiday celebration, held by Golden Hills Community Church of Brentwood and Antioch, at Antioch’s American Legion hall.

“Clostridium perfringens is one of the most common foodborne illnesses in the U.S. It can be found in the human intestine without hurting us, but eating food containing large amounts of this bacteria can cause illness and in some cases death,” said Dr. Louise McNitt, deputy health officer for Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS).

CCHS’ Public Health and Environmental Health divisions investigated 25 related reports of foodborne illness after the event, including three fatal cases.

“Our investigation was not able to determine exactly what people ate that made them sick. But after extensive interviews we found most of the ill people ate turkey and mashed potatoes and they all ate around the same time. Some dishes served at the event, including cooked turkey, were brought to the site after they were prepared in private homes,” said Dr. Marilyn Underwood, CCHS Environmental Health director.

Underwood said proper food handling is essential to prevent foodborne illness, including cooking foods to proper temperatures, cooling and storing them appropriately if they are not going to be eaten right away, separating raw meats from foods that won’t be cooked, storing food properly and washing hands and cooking surfaces often.

“We’re saddened for the families that suffered losses this holiday season. We encourage anyone planning charity events where food will be served to the public to contact us to understand the permitting process and to learn about food safety,” said Underwood.

All of the reported illnesses occurred within 24 hours of the patients consuming food from the event.

“We at Golden Hills are mindful of all the people who were affected,” said Senior Pastor Larry Adams. “We will continue to cooperate with local health officials and are encouraged by the county’s speedy investigation.”

“This is a difficult season for all involved. We as a Christian community will continue to pray for those who are ill and the families of those who have died,” he added.

For more information about preventing foodborne illness or about C. perfringens, visit cchealth.org.

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Lose weight during the holidays with a special program working for others in Antioch

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

arbonne_lynn_kutsal_dec_2016Join Lynn Kutsal, owner of Nature’s Bounty in Antioch, in a clean eating adventure that could change your life.

“It’s working for me. I’ve lost 10 pounds in just the first two weeks on the program and an inch around my waist in just the first three,” said Allen Payton, publisher of the Antioch Herald. “Try it and see if it works for you, too.”

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24 Hour Fitness® expands club in Antioch, Grand Opening this Saturday, Dec. 17

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

New “Super Sport” club designed to keep pace with growth in Antioch, East County

The 24 Hour Fitness at the Somersville Towne Center in Antioch is expanding and relocating inside the former Gottschalks store. The new club is designed to match the fitness lifestyle needs of some of the fastest-growing communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, found here in Eastern Contra Costa County.

A grand opening event is scheduled this Saturday, December 17, 2016 from 9:00 a.m., to 1:00 p.m. for the 24 Hour Fitness Somersville Road Super Sport at 2520 Somersville Road in Antioch. The community is invited to this free celebration, which includes club tours, prize drawings, group training demonstrations, innovative group exercise studio classes and more.

The new club is situated in what is both a highly retail and densely residential area, and so the 24 Hour Fitness Somersville Road Super Sport will be poised where more and more East Bay residents live, play, dine and shop.

“We are excited to meet the needs of this rapidly-growing community with a large and convenient space for fitness,” said Tony Cigliutti, General Manager. “With a greater variety of equipment, and more of it, plus classes like Cycle and amenities like a lap pool, basketball court and Kids Club, there really is something for every member of the family. As the winter holidays and New Year approach, we know many people set new goals for themselves. The club is just one part of leading and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and we can help members meet those health and fitness goals even when they are outside of the club.”

The new, 38,000+ square foot club features a modern design and open-floor plan. Amenities include:

  • Cardio, strength and functional training equipment
  • Large rooms for a full schedule of Cycle and Group X® classes, including new formats like POP Pilates, Treat While You Train and bootybarre®
  • Lap pool, spa & sauna
  • Indoor basketball court
  • Personal and Group training services*
  • Kids’ Club*

*Additional fees apply

To experience the new gym, download a free guest pass from 24hourfitness.com.

About 24 Hour Fitness

Headquartered in San Ramon, Calif., 24 Hour Fitness is a leading health club industry pioneer, serving nearly four million members in over 400 clubs across the U.S. For more than 30 years, the company has been dedicated to helping members change their lives and reach their individual fitness goals. With convenient club locations, personal training services, popular group exercise classes and a variety of strength, cardio and functional training equipment, 24 Hour Fitness offers fitness solutions for everyone. Please visit 24hourfitness.com for more information and to find the club nearest you.

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Kiwanis to hold 40th Annual Holiday Run & Walk for Health, Saturday, Dec. 10th at Contra Loma

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

holiday_run_flyer_2016-final

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DeSaulnier, White House laud House bipartisan vote for 21st Century Cures Act, amid bipartisan opposition

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Accusations it includes fraud, bribery, corruption; requires Senate passage during lame duck session

By Allen Payton

On Wednesday, November 30, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34) on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 392-26. The almost 1,000-page bill is designed for medical innovation, additional funding for cancer research, and to combat the nation’s growing opioid and heroin epidemic. But opponents say what the bill includes continues and advances corruption. Plus, they don’t like the fact it’s being considered and voted on by a lame-duck Congress, some of whose members weren’t re-elected in November and will be leaving, soon.

Congressman DeSaulnier (D, CA-11), who represents most of Contra Costa County and voted for the bill, issued the following statement lauding its passage.

“This legislation will help ensure the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have the resources needed to continue important work improving biomedical research and developing innovative treatments. Included in the bill is funding for the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot, which is essential to continuing the program under the new Administration, as well as funds to combat the growing opioid and heroin epidemic facing our country. While this bill is not perfect, it provides $4.8 billion in new funding to ensure NIH is able to further its work for patients and families relying on research, treatment and recovery options. As a survivor of cancer and a beneficiary of the remarkable progress this country has made in treatment and research, I know all too well the value of these investments and how many lives can be saved as a result.”

According to other news reports, the legislation was introduced by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., “in hopes of speeding up the discovery, development and delivery of life-saving drugs and devices for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It passed the House 344-77 in July, but later stalled in the Senate. A reworked version was released last weekend.”

Congressman DeSaulnier offered an amendment to the bill, which would have helped improve doctor-patient communication when patients are diagnosed and receiving treatment for severe or chronic diseases. No amendments were included in the final version of the bill. He will continue to work on these important issues.

White House Supports

The bill will now go to the Senate for a final vote and if passed the White House has indicated President Obama will sign it. In a statement, issued Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest praised the passage of the bill.

“This critically important legislation will get states the resources they need to fight the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic. It invests the $1 billion the President has repeatedly said is necessary to help communities that have seen far too many overdoses. It also responds to the Vice President’s call for a Moonshot in cancer research by investing $1.8 billion in new resources to transform cancer research and accelerate discoveries. Plus, it invests nearly $3 billion to continue the President’s signature biomedical research initiatives, the BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives, over the next decade to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s and create new research models to find cures and better target treatments.

H.R. 34 also takes important steps to improve mental health, including provisions that build on the work of the President’s Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force. It further advances the drug approval process by taking steps like modernizing clinical trial design and better incorporating patients’ voices into FDA’s decision-making processes. Like all comprehensive legislation, the bill is not perfect, and there are provisions the Administration would prefer were improved, but the legislation offers advances in health that far outweigh these concerns. The Senate should promptly pass this bill so that the President can sign it.”

Liberal Opposition

However, not everyone in the Senate is supportive of the bill, including DeSaulnier’s fellow Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). She has been generally supportive of the legislation, but will now work against its passage, blasting it for being favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, saying “there’s a lot of bad stuff” in the bill, and called it extortion, and includes “special favors for campaign donors and giveaways to the richest drug companies in the world.”

In a floor statement on Monday night, which can be viewed here, she said that “Big Pharma hijack(ed) the Cures bill. This final deal has only a tiny fig leaf of funding, for NIH and for the opioid crisis. And most of that fig leaf isn’t even real. Most of the money won’t really be there unless future Congresses passes future bills in future years to spend those dollars.”

Warren continued, saying “In the closing days of this Congress, Big Pharma has its hand out for a bunch of special giveaways and favors that are packed together in something called the 21st Century Cures bill.

And when American voters say Congress is owned by big companies, this bill is exactly what they are talking about. Now, we face a choice. Will this Congress say that yes, we’re bought and paid for, or will we stand up and work for the American people?

Medical breakthroughs come from increasing investments in basic research. Right now, Congress is choking off investments in the NIH. Adjusted for inflation, federal spending on medical research over the past dozen years has been cut by 20%. Those cuts take the legs out from under future medical innovation in America. We can name a piece of legislation the “cures” bill, but if it doesn’t include meaningful funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, it won’t cure anything.”

Her reasons for opposing the bill include her argument that “this funding is political cover for huge giveaways to giant drug companies.” She stated it would “legalize fraud” and “cover up bribery,” and, in her usual practice of partisan attacks, also said it would “hand out dangerous, special deals to Republican campaign contributors.”

Warren said that “this Cures bill that would shoot holes in the anti-fraud law. Make it easier for drug companies to get away with fraud.”

Another accusation she made is “the Cures act offers to sell government favors. It delivers a special deal so people can sell…treatments without meeting the FDA gold standards for protecting patient safety and making sure these drugs do some good.”

Warren gave a list of other reasons she opposed it.

“The Cures Act – a bill that was supposed to be about medical innovation – has a giveaway to the gun lobby,” she said. “The bill cuts Medicare funding. It raids money from the Affordable Care Act. It takes health care dollars that should have gone to Puerto Rico. It makes it harder for people with disabilities to get Medicaid services. There’s a lot of bad stuff here.”

“It is time for Democrats – Democrats and Republicans who should be ashamed by this kind of corruption -to make it clear who exactly they work for. Does the Senate work for big pharma that hires the lobbyists and makes the campaign contributions or does the Senate work for American people who actually sent us here,” Warren concluded.

Conservative Opposition

Some conservatives are also opposed to the bill, but not all for the same reasons as Warren’s. The conservative Heritage Foundation gave four reasons they oppose the bill, calling it a “Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests.”

On their website, they wrote, “Congress has taken this legislation, which was initially a 300 page bill, and turned it into an almost 1,000 page omnibus health care spending bill. The negotiators have added pieces of a mental health bill, makes changes to Medicare Part A and B, another bill making significant changes to the federal foster care system, a “cancer moonshot” requested by Vice President Biden, additional funding for opioid abuse prevention, etc., in addition to the NIH funding and the FDA funding, for a grand total of over $6.3 billion dollars. In Washington terms, backroom negotiators have turned the Cures bill into a Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests, all at the expense of the taxpayer.  Therefore, conservatives should oppose the 21st Century Cures Bill for four main reasons.

First, the bill’s “pay-fors” rely on budget gimmicks, and even worse, the new spending is not subject to the budget caps. Second, NIH and FDA do not need additional funding. Instead, they need to spend the money they already have on critical research instead of wasteful projects. Third, Congress has no business considering an almost 1,000 page omnibus health care spending bill during the lame duck session. Fourth, and finally, the process has been questionable and the bill will likely be closed to amendments.

An email to DeSaulnier’s office asking for his comments on Warren’s statements opposing the bill was not responded to before publication time. Please check back later for any updates.

A vote by the Senate on the bill is expected to take place early next week. For the complete text of the bill, please click here.

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