Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Fire fighters protest COVID-19 vaccine mandate at Contra Costa Supervisors meeting

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

Goes into effect tomorrow, Sept. 17; Board supports LAFCO consolidation of fire departments

By Daniel Borsuk

With the clock ticking, a battalion of upset Contra Costa County Fire District fire fighters remotely protested before the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors that they refuse to obey a “draconian” August 13 Contra Costa Health Services order requiring county first responders to be fully vaccinated or face termination.

The county health order that goes into effect Friday, Sept. 17 was drafted by Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano and adopted by the board of supervisors in a closed session because of its employment ramifications for many veteran fire fighters and sheriff deputies and other first responders who might refuse to take the vaccine for personal, political or religious reasons.

Dr. Farnitano claims the tough vaccine employment order for first responders arises at a time the number of COVID-19 patients in county hospitals is on the rise.

But a check with the Contra Costa Health Department’s COVID-19 website shows there are 154 COVID-19 patients in county hospitals. That is down 9.3 percent over the past two weeks, the CCCHD website showed.

In addition, the county health department reported 2,421 active COVID-19 cases. That is down 45.9 percent from two weeks ago.

Nearly 85 percent of Contra Costa residents are vaccinated, county health department data shows. The national vaccination rate is 73.9 percent.

The new vaccine employment edict applies to fire department and sheriff office personnel. There were no personnel from the sheriff’s office who protested against Dr. Farnitano’s vaccination/employment order.

Nearly 40 firefighters, many with more than 20 years in service, from all ranks including engineers, firefighters, and captains, protested against the county health officer’s order.

“This is an infringement of our freedom of choice,” said Collin Spencer, a fire fighter/paramedic.

Upon opposing the vaccine mandate, fire fighter Nick Sandburg, a father of two with a “pregnant wife” commented, “I don’t think the vaccine is effective. I oppose the vaccine mandate. Just give us universal testing.”

“None of us took this lightly,” said District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff. “This is about protecting the public.”

District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen was more direct commenting “I am really shocked about the misinformation that our fire fighters have about the COVID-19 vaccine. Somewhere there is a big disconnect.”

It’ll be interesting what the fire fighters will do when the Sept. 17 deadline arrives. The county could be in a major fire crisis if large numbers of well trained, experienced fire fighters are let go especially during the start of the county’s peak fire season.

In the past month, there were 206 vegetation fires that CCCFD responded to and in one day there were seven structure fires, reported Contra Costa County Fire Department Chief Louis Brousard III.

Board Supports LAFCO Consolidation of Fire Departments

Supervisors, serving as commissioners of the Contra Costa County Fire District, pushed along on a 5-0 vote to have the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO) to act on consolidating the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and financially struggling East Contra Costa Fire District.

ECCFD board member Joe Young told supervisors he will oppose the consolidation at the district’s board meeting on Sept. 16 because the consolidated district will continue to inadequately fund fire services in Oakley, Brentwood, and Discovery Bay. Young not elaborate at the supervisors’ meeting.

“There are a lot of details that have yet to be addressed on consolidation,” admitted CCCFPD Fire Chief Broussard. “We’ll bring leaders from both organizations to make this a successful annexation.”

While giving Board Chair Diane Burgis credit for being a key player in the merger of the two districts, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia said the newly enlarged fire district will draw fire protection upgrades especially with equipment and personnel once “millions of dollars of Proposition X sales tax funds” pour into the district. Gioia was a big backer for the Prop. X ballot measure to appear on last November’s election ballot.

A proposal to consolidate the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District into the enlarged CCCFPD was not considered by the supervisors. That proposal was dropped.

 

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Contra Costa restaurants, gyms, theaters must require proof of vax or COVID test as of Sept. 22

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

“How is it our responsibility to be the vaccine police!!” – Contra Costa restaurant owner

“the peak of the surge seems to have passed” – CC Health Services

We can’t give you an exact percentage of cases that can be attributed to restaurants and the other high-risk venues covered in the order.” – CC Health Services spokesman

By Allen Payton

Source: The Rutherford Institute.

Shades of Nazi Brown Shirts will begin next week in Contra Costa County as patrons of restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues will hear something similar to the phrase used during World War II by the Hitler-led German regime, “Your Papers, Please!” That’s because as of Wednesday, Sept. 22, by order of the county’s unelected health officer, Dr. Chris Farnitano, those types of businesses in the county must require patrons show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test in order to enter, even though “the peak of the surge seems to have passed” as mentioned in the press release from Contra Costa Health Services.

According to the press release, “The new order applies to businesses where people remove face coverings to eat or drink indoors, such as restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, and to gyms and other indoor fitness facilities, including yoga and dance studios, where patrons breathe more heavily due to exercise.”

However, the announcement doesn’t provide what percentage of COVID cases in the county can be attributed to those types of businesses, supporting the need for the order. It also doesn’t allow for those who have proof of recovering from COVID in the past three months, as they have higher levels of anti-bodies than people who have been fully vaccinated, especially those who received their shot or shots five to eight months ago.

The order was issued Tuesday afternoon in the following press release:

COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination or Test Required for Some Contra Costa Businesses

Contra Costa County joined San Francisco, Berkeley and other communities across the U.S. today with a countywide health order that increases COVID-19 safety in restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses where there is elevated risk of the virus spreading.

The new order, effective September 22, requires patrons of these businesses to show proof they are fully vaccinated to enter indoor areas, or a negative COVID-19 test result from the past three days.

Contra Costa has endured a severe spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations this summer due to the increasing prevalence of the highly infectious delta variant of the virus and unvaccinated residents.

While the peak of the surge seems to have passed, data show the county’s daily case rate remains as high as it was last February. There were 15 COVID-related deaths in Contra Costa from August 25 to 31, and 20 from September 1 to 7, the two highest seven-day totals since March. Unvaccinated residents account for 95.9% of the county’s deaths so far.

COVID-19 case rates are about five times higher in unvaccinated county residents compared to fully vaccinated residents, hospitalization rates are approximately 16 times higher, and death rates are approximately 22 times higher.

“This order is necessary now to save lives, protect our overburdened healthcare system, and slow the pandemic enough to keep our schools open,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Health Officer. “Reducing community transmission of the virus now is key to preventing future spikes in cases from overwhelming our county’s hospitals during the winter months.”

The new order applies to businesses where people remove face coverings to eat or drink indoors, such as restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, and to gyms and other indoor fitness facilities, including yoga and dance studios, where patrons breathe more heavily due to exercise.

The order also includes a requirement for workers in indoor areas of these businesses to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 by November 1 or test weekly for COVID-19.

To show proof of vaccination, patrons must show photo ID and their vaccination record cards from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), or copies or pictures of their cards. Documentation from healthcare providers will also be accepted, as will digital COVID-19 vaccine records issued by the State of California.

Visit myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov for a link to your digital vaccination, which can be downloaded on to your smartphone.

Visit cchealth.org/coronavirus for more information about this health order, or to find a safe, fast and free COVID-19 vaccination in Contra Costa County.

###

Restauranteurs Respond

Restaurant owners in the county responded to the news with frustration. “How is it our responsibility to be the vaccine police!!” shared one owner who chose to remain anonymous.

“Kiss the restaurants good-bye,” said another, also anonymously.

However, another restaurant owner said anonymously, “We need to contribute to the pandemic to get better.”

Questions For Health Services

In response, questions were sent to county health services staff asking, “what percentage of COVID cases in the county can be attributed to restaurants, indoor entertainment venues and gyms, please?”

In addition, they were asked, “why not include what other countries are requiring for those who want to travel there, which is proof of having COVID within the past three months, since those folks have higher levels of antibodies than those who have been vaccinated, especially those who have been five to eight months ago?”

9/16/21 UPDATE: No Percentages of Impact from Affected Businesses

Contra Costa Public Health Services spokesman Will Harper responded with the following: “We can’t give you an exact percentage of cases that can be attributed to restaurants and the other high-risk venues covered in the order. Due to the nature of these businesses, it is not always possible to identify all the patrons who were exposed and infected by a case at one of these sites.  What we can say is that indoor settings where people remove their masks, such as restaurants and bars, or where they breathe heavily, such as in a gym, increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. As the order states, outbreaks have been documented in bars, gyms, and restaurants in California this year.

Currently there is no scientific consensus on the strength or duration of natural immunity after a covid-19 infection, or how reliably to measure this. For now, we felt most confident in requiring proof of vaccination. Vaccination is still recommended for people who have had Covid-19 to boost their immunity and protect them from a repeat infection from Covid-19. We have clear data showing that vaccinated people are more protected the unvaccinated people, regardless or prior Covid-19 infection history.”

A follow up question was sent asking what factors Dr. Farnitano will use to determine when this latest order will end.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Payton Perspective: Antioch mayor and 3 council members need to hold off on city employee vax and testing mandate

Monday, September 13th, 2021

Photo courtesy of CC Health Services.

Only Barbanica wisely voted against; city doesn’t know the costs, yet; lawsuits over similar mandates filed, more expected; no meet and confer, yet with APOA; any policy must include the 3 CDC proclaimed “effective” therapies with the same FDA Emergency Use Authorization the vaccines have had

By Allen Payton, Publisher

During their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council will consider approving a “COVID-19 Mandatory Testing and Vaccination Policy” for all city employees, contractors and volunteers. It would require they get one of the COVID-19 vaccines or undergo weekly testing. According to the city staff report for the agenda item, “During the August 24, 2021 City Council meeting, the City Council directed staff to return to Council with a resolution…with costs borne by the City, time to do so would be limited to a certain duration, and the policy would include a start and end date.” (See agenda Item 13)

It was proposed by Mayor Lamar Thorpe during a press conference in August and supported by him, and all council members except District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica.”

That was in spite of the fact that two of the council members, Districts 1 and 3 Councilwomen Tamisha Torres-Walker and Lori Ogorchock spoke against a mandate, during that meeting, before voting to support it.

Don’t Know Costs, Yet

Also, according to the staff report the city doesn’t even know, yet what the cost of such a mandate will be. It reads, “Costs related to this policy are unknown at this time. Costs may include, but may not be limited to, the cost of weekly testing, the cost of a third part to administer the test, mileage, loss in productivity.”

Wait for Lawsuits Over Other Mandates to Be Settled

Multiple lawsuits are expected to be filed against President Biden’s national mandate he just issued in an executive order, last week. According to the New York Post, “Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, issued a statement Thursday calling the mandate unnecessary, overbearing and counterintuitive.

‘This executive order villainizes employees for reasonable concerns and hesitancies and interest the federal government into individual medical decisions,’ Cosme said. ‘People should not be made to feel uncomfortable for making a reasonable medical choice.’”

There has also been a lawsuit filed “by a slew of unions” against Mayor DeBlasio for his mandate in that city.

Antioch council members should hold off for the results of those lawsuits before opening up our city to legal challenges and costs.

Violates Health Privacy – Were City Employee Groups Consulted?

Questions were sent to city staff, early Monday afternoon asking, “Have city staff met with the various employee groups to meet and confer on the proposed ordinance for mandating COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing? If so, what were the results of those meet and confer meetings? Do their contracts need to be amended? If so, did all the groups agree to that?”

They were also asked, “isn’t this a violation of privacy of city employees, contractors, and volunteers, specifically with regards to their health and medical care, since they have to reveal to other city staff members if they’ve had a specific medical treatment or not?”

APOA Requests for Meet and Confer Ignored

Corporal Steve Aiello, Vice President of the Antioch Police Officers Association said there’s been no meet and confer, yet for his organization.

“On two occasions the APOA has reached out to the city, to (Administrative Services Director) Nickie Mastay in personnel and requested a meet and confer,” he stated. “But there’s been no response.”

“It’s a work condition change,” Aiello added as the reason a meet and confer is required.

Additional questions were then sent to City Manager Ron Bernal, after Monday work hours with, “Ron, I just spoke with Steve Aiello of the APOA. He said they’ve sent two email messages to Nickie Mastay requesting a meet and confer on the vaccine and testing mandate, but she has not responded. Is that correct? If so, why not? He said it’s required since it’s a change to their work conditions. Is that true? If so, shouldn’t the APOA and all the city’s employee groups have a meet and confer on the mandate before the council takes a vote?” As of 6:30 p.m. he has not responded to either the emailed nor texted questions, nor has City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith.

Please check back later for their responses should they provide them.

Painful Weekly Testing Alternative, Punishment for No Vaccine, One Test Ineffective

Nurse’s tweet of COVID test graphic.

While the proposed policy includes an alternative for weekly testing for those employees, contractors and volunteers who choose to not take a vaccine, have any of the council members been tested? Do they know how painful it is having those swabs scrape the back of your nose and throat? If not, all four should undergo that, first to see what they’re planning on subjecting our city employees, contractors and volunteers to that weekly pain, before voting to mandate it as one of the two options.

According to a New York Times report, “If you’ve seen the test (there are plenty of Instagram videos), then you know it looks as if someone is poking your brain: A swab is inserted deep in through your nostrils…The test itself is quick — only a few seconds — but most describe the sensation as highly uncomfortable.”

According to a Newsweek report, “’This test being demonstrated is a nasopharyngeal swab or NP swab collection. It uses a small flocked swab on a flexible plastic shaft to collect a sample from the posterior nasopharynx,’ Wesley Long, a microbiologist from Houston Methodist Hospital, told Newsweek. ‘Nasopharynx’ is a term that refers to the back part of your nose where it joins the throat.”

I watched as my son get a COVID test last year, and he winced when they put those long swabs up his nostrils. Then I had a test recently and now I know why he winced. I did, too. Ouch, two times! So, basically, that part of the mayor and council majority’s mandate would effectively serve as punishment for those employees, contractors and volunteers who won’t take the vaccine.

Plus, one of the COVID-19 tests that has been in use since February 2020 has been determined ineffective and discontinued by the CDC – but not until Dec. 31, 2021 for some unknown reason – because it can’t tell the difference between the virus and the flu. Yet, those test kits are still being used. The CDC has requested that a new test be developed. The council should wait on that, as well.

Dangerous Side Effects of Vaccines, Other Medical Conditions, Religious Exemption

I’m not going to get into all the details of the fact that there are good reasons for people who don’t want the vaccines due to all their dangerous side effects, have other medical conditions that prevent them from taking the vaccine or have a fundamental religious conviction for not wanting the jab.

Vaccines Still in Clinical Trials, Mandate Violates Nuremberg Code

Plus, all three of the vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials one until Nov. 1, another until 2023 and the third until 2024! (See Moderna Dose-Confirmation Study to Evaluate the Safety, Reactogenicity, and Immunogenicity of mRNA-1273 COVID-19 Vaccine in Adults Aged 18 Years and Older here, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 BNT162b2 Vaccine Effectiveness Study here, and Janssen-Johnson & Johnson Study of (COVID-19) in Adults here)

So, they’re still experimental and therefore such a mandate clearly violates the Nuremberg Code which was established after World War II in response to the Nazis experimenting on the Jews during the Holocaust and others. It prohibits medical experimentation on humans without their consent.

According to the National Institutes of Health website the first lines read, “The Nuremberg Code 1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.”

CDC – “Effective Therapeutics Are Available”

According to the CDC’s website under the subheading, “SARS-CoV-2 Monoclonal Antibody Therapies” it reads, “In the United States, there are three anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibody treatments with FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the treatment of COVID-19: bamlanivimab plus etesevima, casirivimab plus imdevimab, and sotrovima.” In addition, the CDC website reads, “effective therapeutics are available.”

The only public mention of monoclonal antibody therapies by the government or major media that I’ve read or heard has been about what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is doing in his state to offer it to his state’s residents at multiple locations. Yet, the CDC’s website offers treatment recommendations and guidelines for administering the alternative therapies.

According to a report by CBS4 Miami, “Monoclonal antibody treatments can be prescribed by health care providers to individuals 12 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are at high risk for severe illness and hospitalization.”

Council Should Wait

For these reasons and more, the council should wait to approve the testing and vaccine mandate policy. In the meantime, just follow the current CDC guidelines and if a city employee, contractor or volunteer is experiencing COVID symptoms, the must stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days.

However, if the council insists on moving forward with their mandate, they must include the three effective therapies in their policy, so employees who don’t want the vaccine will have an alternative to painful, weekly testing. Otherwise, they’re acting like they’re medical experts, and worse, Nazis, not following the science, the CDC or FDA, nor abiding by the Nuremberg Code and giving OUR city employees – because they work for and are paid by we the people – all the options available to them.

Proposed Policy

Following is the language for the proposed policy resolution:

RESOLUTION NO. 2021/**

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ANTIOCH ADOPTING A COVID-19 TESTING AND VACCINATION POLICY

WHEREAS, the City has an interest in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of City personnel, community members with whom City personnel interact, and all residents and visitors of the City;

WHEREAS, many City employees come in close contact with members of our community as part of their daily job duties and this often includes members of our community who are unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time, such as children under the age of twelve, or those with medical conditions contraindicated for the vaccine;

WHEREAS, all City of Antioch employees are designated to be Disaster Service Workers under California Government Code sections 3100-3109 and are required to return to work during an emergency;

WHEREAS, all City employees shall either be vaccinated for COVID-19 or be subject to weekly COVID-9 testing requirements; and

WHEREAS, this policy is an effective way to ensure that City personnel do not pose harm to the public or other employees.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of Antioch as follows:

Section 1. The COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Policy shall address: vaccinations; weekly testing for City employees and contracted personnel at the City’s expense for a specified duration that commences on October 1, 2021.

Section 2. Policy implementation shall be administratively executed by the City Manager and incorporatee any applicable Federal, State and local policy directives on an ongoing basis.

 

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Sutter Health and affiliates to pay $90 million to settle allegations of False Claims Act violations for mischarging the Medicare Advantage Plans

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

By U.S. Department of Justice

Sutter Health, a California-based health care services provider, and several affiliated entities including Sutter Bay Medical Foundation (dba Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation, and Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation) and Sutter Valley Medical Foundation (dba Sutter Gould Medical Foundation and Sutter Medical Foundation) (collectively, “Sutter Health”), have agreed to pay $90 million to resolve allegations that Sutter Health violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting inaccurate information about the health status of beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage Plans.

Under Medicare Advantage, also known as the Medicare Part C program, Medicare beneficiaries have the option of enrolling in managed health care insurance plans called Medicare Advantage Plans. The plans are paid a capitated, or per-person, amount to provide Medicare-covered benefits to beneficiaries who enroll in one of their plans. Payments to plans are based on demographic information and the health status of each plan beneficiary. In general, plans receive larger payments for beneficiaries with more severe diagnoses.

Sutter Health, headquartered in Sacramento, contracted to provide health care services to California beneficiaries enrolled in certain plans. In exchange, Sutter Health received a portion of the payments for treating the beneficiaries under its care.

The government alleged that Sutter Health knowingly submitted unsupported diagnosis codes for certain patient encounters for beneficiaries under its care. These unsupported diagnosis codes caused inflated payments to be made to the plans and to Sutter Health. The lawsuit further alleged that, once Sutter Health became aware of these unsupported diagnosis codes, it failed to take sufficient corrective action to identify and delete additional unsupported diagnosis codes.

“The government relies on health care providers, including those furnishing services to Medicare Part C beneficiaries, to submit accurate information to ensure proper payment,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sarah E. Harrington of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Today’s result sends a clear message that we will hold health care providers responsible if they knowingly provide or fail to correct information that is untruthful.”

“Today’s settlement exemplifies our commitment to fighting fraud in the Medicare program,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California. “Health care providers who flout the law need to know that my office will hold accountable those who pad their bottom line at taxpayer expense.”

“The knowing submission of inaccurate information to Medicare diverts funds from this vital health care program, which is a disservice to patients needing care,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of federal health care programs and hold accountable entities who engage in false claims practices.”

In connection with the settlement, Sutter Health, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation and Sutter Valley Medical Foundation entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). The CIA requires, among other things, that Sutter Health implement a centralized risk assessment program as part of its compliance program and hire an Independent Review Organization to annually review a sample of Sutter Health’s Medicare Advantage patients’ medical records and associated diagnoses data.

The civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Kathleen Ormsby, a former employee of Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Under those provisions, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery. The Act permits the government to intervene in such lawsuits, as it has done in this case as to claims submitted for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Although the United States did not intervene as to claims submitted by the remaining Sutter affiliates, Ms. Ormsby continued to pursue those claims, some of which are also being resolved by this settlement. The qui tam case is captioned United States ex rel. Ormsby v. Sutter Health, et al., No. 15-CV-01062-LB (N.D. Cal.).

The resolution obtained in this matter resulted from a coordinated effort between the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, with assistance from HHS-OIG.

The investigation and resolution of this matter illustrate the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

The matter was handled by Attorneys Olga Yevtukhova, Jennifer J. Koh, Thomas Morris and Lyle Gruby of the Civil Division’s Fraud Section and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wolinsky for the Northern District of California, with assistance from Jonathan Birch.

Sutter Health Responds

Sutter Health on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021 announced that it has entered into an agreement with the federal government and a private plaintiff to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit filed in 2015 involving Medicare Advantage claims related to its medical foundation operations. The matter was partially resolved in April 2019 for $30 million (a fact not included by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in its press release regarding the settlement). Under the follow-on agreement announced today, Sutter will pay an additional $60 million (not $90 million) to fully resolve the litigation. The agreement makes clear that Sutter and its medical foundation affiliates admit no liability in agreeing to settle the matter.

As part of this resolution, Sutter has also concurrently entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CIA, Sutter’s first, is intended to promote compliance with federal healthcare program requirements over a period of five years and includes specific elements that must be in place and monitored.

Sutter’s Ethics and Compliance Services team is responsible for overseeing Sutter’s compliance with the CIA. Sutter looks forward to collaborating with OIG over the term of the agreement. In 2017, PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a compliance program assessment finding Sutter’s program to be effective, with several areas identified as leading practices. Sutter has since maintained and enhanced these program elements and is well-prepared to implement the terms of the agreement.

Today’s agreements bring closure to a long-running dispute, allowing Sutter to avoid the uncertainty and further expense of protracted litigation, and enabling a constructive relationship with the government as we work together under the CIA.

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

 

 

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Attorney General Bonta announces $575 Million settlement with Sutter Health on anti-competitive practices allegations

Monday, August 30th, 2021

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta Friday, August 27 lauded Judge Massullo’s final approval of a landmark $575 million settlement with Sutter Health (Sutter). The settlement agreement was reached in 2019, and resolves allegations by the Attorney General’s office, the United Food and Commercial Workers and Employers Benefit Trust (UEBT), and class action plaintiffs that Sutter’s anticompetitive practices led to higher healthcare costs for consumers in Northern California compared to other places in the state. The settlement requires Sutter to pay $575 million in compensation, prohibits anticompetitive conduct, and requires Sutter to follow certain practices to restore competition in California’s healthcare markets.

“This is a groundbreaking settlement and a win for Californians,” said AG Bonta. “Sutter will no longer have free rein to engage in anticompetitive practices that force patients to pay more for health services. Under the terms of our agreement, Sutter’s transparency must increase, and practices that decrease the accessibility and affordability of healthcare must end. A competitive healthcare market is essential to ensuring patients and families aren’t bearing the brunt of healthcare costs while one company dominates the market.”

Sutter is the largest hospital system in Northern California. The Sutter network consists of some 24 acute care hospitals, 36 ambulatory surgery centers, and 16 cardiac and cancer centers. It also includes some 12,000 physicians and over 53,000 employees. In addition, Sutter negotiates contracts on behalf of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and many affiliated physician groups.

This settlement is the result of litigation that began in 2014 when UEBT filed a class action lawsuit that challenged Sutter’s practices in rendering services and setting prices. They sought compensation for and an end to what they alleged were unlawful, anticompetitive business practices, which caused them to pay more than necessary for healthcare services and products. In March 2018, the Attorney General’s office filed a similar lawsuit against Sutter on behalf of the people of California, seeking injunctive relief to compel Sutter to correct its anticompetitive business practices moving forward. The separate lawsuits were combined by the court into one case. In October 2019, one day before the trial, the parties reached an agreement to settle. The settlement was filed with the court on December 19, 2019, and in March, Judge Massullo granted preliminary approval.

Today’s finalized settlement requires Sutter to:

  • Pay $575 million to compensate employers, unions, and others covered under the class action, and to cover costs and fees associated with the legal efforts;
  • Limit what it charges patients for out-of-network services, helping ensure that patients visiting an out-of-network hospital do not face outsized, surprise medical bills;
  • Increase transparency by permitting insurers, employers, and self-funded payers to provide plan members with access to pricing, quality, and cost information, which helps patients make better care decisions;
  • Halt measures that deny patients access to lower-cost plans, thus allowing health insurers, employers, and self-funded payers to offer and direct patients to more affordable health plan options for networks or products;
  • Stop all-or-nothing contracting deals, thus allowing insurers, employers, and self-funded payers to include some but not necessarily all of Sutter’s hospitals, clinics, or other commercial products in their plans’ network.
  • Cease anticompetitive bundling of services and products which forced insurers, employers, and self-funded payers to purchase for their plan offerings more services or products from Sutter than were needed. Sutter must now offer a stand-alone price that must be lower than any bundled package price to give insurers, employers, and self-funded payers more choice;
  • Cooperate with a court-approved compliance monitor to ensure that Sutter is following the terms of the settlement for at least 10 years. The monitor will receive and investigate complaints and may present evidence to the court; and
  • Prevent anticompetitive practices by clearly defining clinical integration to include patient quality of care. The settlement makes clear that for Sutter to claim it has clinically integrated a system, it must meet strict standards beyond regional similarities or the mere sharing of an electronic health record, and must be integrating care in a manner that takes into consideration the quality of care to the patient population. This is important because clinical integration can be used to mask market consolidation efforts by hospital systems, when in fact there is no true integration of a patient’s care. For example, saying that hospitals are regionally close or that hospitals are sharing electronic health records is not enough, there must be close coordination that will lead to less costly, higher quality care for local communities.

A report by the University of California Berkeley showed that over-consolidation drives up prices for consumers. According to the study, outpatient cardiology procedures in Southern California cost nearly $18,000 compared to almost $29,000 in Northern California. For inpatient hospital procedures, the cost in Southern California is nearly $132,000 compared to more than $223,000 in Northern California, a more than $90,000 difference. A 2016 study found that a cesarean delivery in Sacramento, where Sutter is based, costs more than $27,000, nearly double what it costs in Los Angeles or New York, making Northern California one of the most expensive places in the country to have a baby.

Sutter Health offered the following response to the settlement:

“Today’s ruling brings closure to this matter, which was settled almost two years ago. This voluntary settlement enables Sutter Health to maintain our integrated network and ability to provide patients with access to affordable, high-quality care. Sutter’s quality of care is nationally recognized, with the majority of hospitals and care facilities outperforming state and national averages in many measures of quality. We look forward to continuing to work with our health plan partners at the same time we continue to care for the underserved in our communities.”

A copy of the final approval order and judgment are available here and here.

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Contra Costa, Bay Area health officials issue orders requiring indoor masking beginning Tuesday

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Graphic by State of California from Gov. Newsom’s Wear a Mask campaign.

Also includes Counties of Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma, and the City of Berkeley; Napa and Solano Counties not included

With the COVID-19 Delta variant now infecting a small percentage of vaccinated people as well as many unvaccinated people, eight Bay Area health officers have issued health orders requiring masks indoors in public places.

The orders require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings when indoors in public settings, with limited exceptions, starting at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, August 3rd.

Vaccines remain the most powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Nonetheless, the Delta variant is infecting a small percentage of the vaccinated in the Bay Area — who still remain strongly protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. In those instances of infection in a vaccinated person, a face covering prevents further spread. Bay Area health officials urge all unvaccinated residents 12 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“We must act now to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community. If you are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine and have not yet done so, please do not wait any longer,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa. “During July the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in our county increased 400%. Four out of five of the COVID patients we see are not vaccinated, even though only one out of five Contra Costa adults are not vaccinated.”

These health orders aim to reduce community transmission of COVID-19 and protect everyone. Health officials are very concerned by the substantial levels of community transmission now found across the Bay Area, especially among unvaccinated people. In part, this is due to the widespread COVID-19 Delta variant, which is substantially more transmissible than previous forms of the virus. Recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also indicates that even fully vaccinated individuals can in some cases spread the Delta variant to others, and so indoor use of face coverings provides an important added layer of protection.

The new Health Orders require wearing a well-fitting mask indoors in public settings. Indoor settings, whether public or private, are higher risk for COVID-19 transmission, especially when you are with people you do not live with. Health officials also recommend that all employers make face coverings available to individuals entering their businesses, and businesses are required to implement the indoor face covering order.

Today’s Health Orders are consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health, which recommend that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks while in indoor public settings. Bay Area Health Officers will continue to monitor data, including increasing vaccination throughout the region, to determine when the Orders can be adjusted or lifted.

For more information about COVID-19, and how to get a free vaccine near you, visit cchealth.org/coronavirus.

 

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Doctors, organizers of today’s World Ivermectin Day claim it is “The Key to End the Pandemic”

Saturday, July 24th, 2021

A day for the recognition of Ivermectin – “Covid is treatable with ivermectin and can end the pandemic”

By British Ivermectin Recommendation Development Group

An international coalition of medical professionals together with journalists, musicians, artists and others, have established World Ivermectin Day this Saturday 24 July 2021, with the aim of sharing the evidence-based message that the cheap, safe and easily-distributed medicine ivermectin can remove the fear of the covid pandemic to lives and economies. (See website with videos)

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Ivermectin is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antiparasitic drug that is used to treat several neglected tropical diseases, including onchocerciasis, helminthiases, and scabies.

Reports from in vitro studies suggest that ivermectin acts by inhibiting the host importin alpha/beta-1 nuclear transport proteins, which are part of a key intracellular transport process that viruses hijack to enhance infection by suppressing the host’s antiviral response. In addition, ivermectin docking may interfere with the attachment of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein to the human cell membrane.

Some studies of ivermectin have also reported potential anti-inflammatory properties, which have been postulated to be beneficial in people with COVID-19.”

“We have an incredibly positive and uplifting message to share; Ivermectin treats and prevents covid and it is the key to unlocking the never-ending cycle of pandemic peaks and personal restrictions and will help restart economies.” states Dr. Tess Lawrie, UK-based founder of the Day and co-author of a recent peer-reviewed study that verified the efficacy of the medicine.

Created in just a few weeks by a team of volunteers, World Ivermectin Day features talks and discussions that will be available to millions online. The decentralized and grassroots nature of the day has inspired individuals to organize their own live meetings and activities across the globe from a growing list of countries including the UK, Canada, Kuala Lumpur and Japan.

The principle aim of the day is for people to encourage their own governments to join the 20 or so countries already deploying ivermectin and so help protect their nations’ health and do so at low cost.

Ahead of the day, the central website, worldivermectinday.org is filling up with written and filmed testimonials from people from all around the world; many of whom are celebrating their good health and even their lives thanks to ivermectin.

World Ivermectin Day has been endorsed by the British Ivermectin Recommendation Development (BIRD) Group and the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) in the USA, key players in campaigning for ivermectin approval.

About BIRD

The British Ivermectin Recommendation Development Group (BIRD) is a truly grassroots initiative bringing together clinicians, health researchers and patient representatives from all around the world to advocate for the use of ivermectin against covid-19. (See BIRD Affiliates)

BIRD Affiliates

About FLCCC

The FLCCC Alliance was organized in March 2020 by a group of highly published, world renowned Critical Care physician/scholars – with the academic support of allied physicians from around the world – to research and develop lifesaving protocols for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 in all stages of illness. Their MATHHospital Treatment Protocol, introduced in March 2020, has saved thousands of patients who were critically ill with COVID-19. Now, the FLCCC’s new I-MASKProphylaxis and Early At-Home Outpatient Treatment Protocol with Ivermectin has been released – and is a potential solution to the global pandemic.

The doctors and volunteers behind the event have designed the day to be organic, encouraging individuals and groups worldwide to organize their own activities to mark the day. There’s no financial interest in the medicine for any of them, but they are all resolutely unified by one aim – seeing ivermectin saving lives everywhere.

Graphic by BIRD

About Ivermectin

You may not be aware that Covid can be prevented and treated with a simple low-cost, generic tablet called Ivermectin.

On World Ivermectin Day we want you, and everyone on the planet to know this so we all can look forward to a healthier, happier future and not one of fear and uncertainty.

We are joined by health professionals, lawyers, musicians and artists and people of all backgrounds and nations to spread the amazing news about ivermectin.

Ivermectin, has a successful history stretching back to 1975 with 5 billion doses given and an impeccable safety record. Its inventors even won a Nobel Prize.

Ivermectin is not even the only generic treatment for covid, but leads a number of safe, widely available medicines that are being successfully used around the world to beat covid.

Sharing Good Health Worldwide

World Ivermectin Day is encouraging all nations who haven’t yet adopted ivermectin as part of their Covid treatment plan to take a serious review of the mountain of robust clinical evidence so they too can improve their people’s health and economies.

They are sharing the good news of how it is being successfully used by thousands of doctors in multiple countries as the way to prevent, treat and beat covid and end the pandemic. It is even effective against variants.

For more information visit WorldIvermectinDay.org.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Contra Costa to remain in Orange Tier until June 15, won’t follow CDC’s new mask guidelines

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Graphic by State of California from Gov. Newsom’s Wear a Mask campaign.

Following state’s guidelines instead; Antioch library reopening delayed until June 8

By Daniel Borsuk

Seventy percent of Contra Costa residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but  Contra Costa Health Services Director Anna Roth says that vaccination rate is still insufficient to convince state health officials to change the county current Orange Tier health restrictions to less stringent Blue health restrictions until at least June 15.

“We are accepting the state’s instructions to keep masking guidelines in place,” Roth said at Tuesday’s board of supervisors’ meeting.

Even though COVID-19 vaccines are being administered to children as young as 12 to 15, requirements remain in effect for persons to wear masks while indoor businesses, Roth said.

But CCHS Ambulatory Care Director Dr. Gabriela Diaz Sullivan presented a study’s gloomy findings about how COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the state’s health care delivery system.

“Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, 48,000 more Californians have died,” said Dr. Sullivan, “Heart attacks was the number one cause of death followed by cancer as number two and COVID-19 as number three.”

“Thirty-three percent of Californians had an urgent care need, unrelated to COVID-19, wanted to see a physician, but did not see a physician,” Dr. Sullivan emphasize.  She said mammograms, colorectal cancer screenings, diagnostic colonoscopies, and blood pressure procedures were all down.

In summation, the COVID-19 pandemic has eroded the state’s health care system with Californians foregoing medical care when needed in preference to staying home.

On another related matter, Contra Costa Public Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano denied Supervisor Candace Andersen’s statement that she has learned 3,500 people have died from taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has caused deaths,” Dr. Farnitano said.

Supervisors Approve Keller Canyon Permit

Over the objections of the City of Pittsburg’s Environmental Affairs Manager Laura Wright, who was the only opponent, supervisors unanimously approved a three-year land use permit for Republic Services to continue to operate the Keller Canyon Landfill on Bailey Road.

The supervisors’ action does require the county Department of Conservation and Development to conduct a one-year permit review of the landfill to determine if new or modified conditions should be considered.

Wright objected to the three-year permit renewal because the county did not adequately address the visual impacts by the inadequate number of trees that have been planted to block the view of the landfill and the inadequate measures undertaken to eradicate the dumping of litter outside the landfill.

Initially launching operations in 1995, the landfill has served as either an environmental irritant to residents living nearby the landfill or as a valuable source of money for numerous Pittsburg and Bay Point nonprofit organizations that Supervisor Federal Glover oversees the distributes thousands of dollars from Republic Services’ mitigation fund.

Two years ago, the landfill was the site of public concern when reports surfaced that radioactive waste from the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco had been transported and deposited at the Contra Costa County landfill.  A landfill radiation study last year revealed no evidence that any radioactive material had been deposited at Keller Canyon Landfill.

Antioch Library Reopening Delayed Until June 8

Citing the need for additional time to install shelving and update computers at the Antioch Library, supervisors approved County Librarian Alison McKee’s request to extend the reopening of the library to Tuesday, June 8.

In late April, supervisors had approved a request to close the library on June Tuesday, June 1 for interior paint and the installation of new carpeting and shelving, but due to additional time needed to install shelving and update computers the reopening has been delayed by a week.

Tougher Fireworks Ordinance Proposed

Supervisors are expected to consider at the June 8 meeting a proposed ordinance toughening the law banning the possession, manufacture, sale, use and discharge of fireworks.

“The proposed ordinance would amend Chapter 44-2 (i.e., vegetation fires, structure and exterior fires, personal injury or death, and noise or other public nuisances) and authorize the Sheriff to arrest and cite a responsible party, as defined in the ordinance, for violations for Chapter 44-1.  The proposed ordinance establishes that a responsible party is required to maintain, manage, and supervise the property or vessel for which they are responsible to prevent violations of Chapter 44-2. A responsible party is liable and violates the probation on fireworks under Chapter44-2 if any person possesses, manufactures, sells, offers to sell, uses, or discharges, any fireworks at the property, or on the vessel, for which the responsible party is responsible, regardless of whether the responsible party is present when the violation occurs.

“The proposed ordinance defines a responsible party as any of the following:

  1. A person that owns, rents, leases, or otherwise has possession of, or is in immediate control of, aa residence or other private property or a vessel.
  2. A person that organizes, supervises, sponsors, conducts, allows, controls, or controls access to, the possession, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use, or discharge of fireworks at a residence or other private property or on a vessel.

If a residence or other private property is rented or leased for a period of more than 30 consecutive days, the landlord or lessor is not a responsible party unless the landlord or lessor: has possession of, or is in immediate control of, the residence or other private property; or has knowledge of the possession, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use, or discharge of fireworks at the residence or other private property.

The owner of a residence that is rented for a period of 30 consecutive days or less (a short-term rental) is a responsible party and is liable for violations of Chapter 44-2 if the short-term renter, or any other person, possesses, manufactures, sells, uses, or discharges, any fireworks at the residence, regardless of whether the owner of the short-term rental is present when the violation occurs.”

The proposed tougher fireworks ordinance already has won the support from the Discovery Bay Community District which released a letter from district board president stating:

“The revisions, in essence, would hold persons in control or possession of private property responsible for fireworks violations occurring on their property,” wrote board president Byron Gutow. “The discharge of fireworks is a common problem in the district, especially during celebrations of Independence Day and New Year’s.  In many cases, the fireworks are professional grade and pose a significant risk of danger to persons and properties. We support efforts to dissuade the use of illegal fireworks.”

Promote Chief Assistant to County Counsel

Chief Assistant County Counsel Mary Ann McNett Mason was promoted to County Counsel by supervisors to fill the position that became vacant when Contra Costa County Counsel Sharon Anderson died on April 30.

Ms. Mason will earn $463,000 a year of which $105,000 is pension costs.  All the costs are budgeted in the county’s General Fund within the County Counsel’s Office operating budget.

Mason, a graduate of the University of California Hastings College of Law, started to work for the county counsel’s office in 1987 as a deputy county counsel.  In 2010 she was appointed assistant county counsel and in 2016 was promoted to chief assistant county counsel.

While serving the role of chief assistant county counsel, Mason assumed the duties of the County Counsel in her absence, supervised the attorneys in the General Government Group, and assisted in management of the County Counsel’s Office. In addition to those duties, Mason has served as the county’s retirement and employee benefit counsel, is the office specialist on open meeting and conflict of interest laws and serves as General Counsel to Delta Diablo.

Mason previously served as the counsel to the Contra Costa County Board of Education and County Superintendent of Schools, the Contra Costa Superior Court, the Grand Jury, and the Assessment Appeals Board and other clients.

“I am so happy to have this opportunity to represent the board of supervisors and the county at an important time in our history and to carry on Sharon Anderson’s legacy,” Mason told the Contra Costa Herald.  “I have some big shoes to fill.”

Load Limits Imposed on Delta-Mendota Canal Bridge

In an unusual action, supervisors approved the Contra Costa County Department of Public Works request to post 23 ton per vehicle (i.e., Type 3 Truck) load limit signs for the deteriorating Delta-Mendota Canal Bridge on Lindemann Road over the Delta-Mendota Canal because of “on-going deterioration found in multiple timber columns of the bridge.”

Supervisors did not receive any public comment pro or con on the proposal for the bridge’s load limit. “This order shall remain in effect for 90 days, or until Caltrans issues a Director’s Order establishing a permanent load restriction on the bridge, whichever occurs first,” the supervisors’ resolution states.

Alamo Architect Appointed Acting Planning Commissioner

District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville received board consent action approval on her request to appoint Alamo architect Sanjiv Bhandari to fill on an acting basis the planning commission post vacated by Rand Swenson’s resignation on April 28.

“Supervisor Andersen has been advertising the District II Commission seat since April 15, 2021 in preparation for filling the vacancy scheduled to arise at the end of Mr. Swenson’s current term on June 30, 2021.  Mr. Bhandari applied and met with Supervisor Andersen. Supervisor Andersen feels his knowledge an experience will be a positive addition to the commission,” the board agenda item report states.

 

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