Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My People

“Yo, Annie come here!”

“I’m on the phone Frank! Wait!”

“OK, what?”

My uncle Frank had twelve bottles of pills open on the table, he meticulously counted and loaded his one-week pillbox, and halfway through he already had five or six pills in each cell. He picked up some small pink pills and handed them to me.

“You want me to take these?”

“ No, I want you to get me these cheaper. These pills cost six dollars a piece and I take three a day. Can you get them for two dollars?”

“Frank, I’m a physical therapist not a pharmacist.”

My uncles’ brag about how cheap they get things, my uncle Gene had a two hundred dollar set of dentures. When he was working on a Fire Department boat on lake Michigan, he sneezed and they flew out of his mouth into the lake. The cheap bastard sent the frogmen down to find his teeth.

We buried my uncle Frank with his clicker, his toothpicks, a deck of cards and a poker chip. Lots of things aged and killed my uncle, the Korean War, too many beef sandwiches, coffee cake, polish food, the clicker and the TV, but the cost of the pills put a price on his health. Frank spent thousands on us nieces and nephews and since he never married, had a job as a teamster and a degree in accounting, he left a pile of cash. Uncle Frank never thought of himself as an important person and with the cost of the pills, I guess it didn’t seem like a worth-wile investment.

OK, my family may not be the statistical norm, but I think there are a lot of old folks out there looking at those Medicare Part D forms, throwing up their hands in disgust and going out for a bacon cheeseburger.


Vote for Jim Price he’s the underdog, bow-wow!

Vote for Jim Price and your wildest dreams will come true!

Jim Price’s father worked at Highland as a Psychiatric Technician, Jim’s got public healthcare in his blood. A psych tech is real hands on in your face healthcare, it’s not some sissy ninny job that you can fake, half do or coast through. After a 30-year career as a psych tech daddy Price still has the energy to be Santa for the neighborhood kids. Alice Lai-Bitker, the incumbent county supervisor got her seat because she worked as Wilma Chan’s chief of staff. The Alameda County political machine made the decision not the voters.

Alice is “Chainsaw Charlie Plummer’s” gal. Actually I think the sheriff likes Gail Steele better, Gail’s positively passionate about prisons, but Alice is his type of chick too. Alice dresses nice and doesn’t make waves; in fact she hasn’t even made a ripple in years. She regularly gets the county supervisors Pet Rock award. The “big dog” county bureaucrats, Susan Muranishi, Dave Kears and Charlie Plummer, consider her the most easily influenced supervisor. She prefers to let them do her thinking.

So, I say cast a vote for change, leadership and the underdog, Jim Price. Hey, he could win and your wildest dreams could come true. Bow-wow!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Go Oakland Tribune!

The Oakland Tribune printed an editorial calling for support for the medical center and political accountability. They pointed out that Cambio Healthcare Solutions left a huge mess on the CEO’s plate. They rightly pointed out that to solve problems Mr. Lassiter needs the full support of the county supervisors.

Thank You Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We need heroes and leaders and more importantly we need to live up to their hopes and dreams for us. The medical center has many people who fought with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to make this country a better place. Everyday those of us who work at the medical center benefit from their thoughtfulness, their compassion and their love. The African American, staff particularly the women, have a fierce commitment to caring and to the dream of a better country. It is their leadership and love that has taught me to be a better clinician, a better person and a better parent.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Head Games

Well, we’re in the news again. It’s a rehashing of old bad news about poor staffing at John George Psychiatric Pavilion, part of Cambio’s legacy of unsolved problems.

See, we have more seriously mentally ill patients than we are able to safely treat at John George. Dave Kears, Alameda County’s Healthcare Czar pays non-profits and the biggest for profit (not patients) mental health franchise, Telecare, to keep people sane and out of John George. When they fail they dump everyone back into the county hospital, the county supervisors then blame the medical center for not meeting their needs.

Sure, John George needs better management and more nurses, but it’s being overwhelmed because the county’s privatized mental health services are failing miserably.

We don’t have coordinated mental health services and private providers continue to fail in their mission and dump their problems into the medical center.

It is time for the county supervisors to step up to the plate and create a mental healthcare system that serves the mentally ill, as well as the corporations, which profit from their suffering.

To read the gory details click here:

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Year In Dirt (2005)

“Memories, like the corners of our mind, misty …”
-Some seventies song I hated

Like most medical center employees, I seldom have the time or energy for reflection but I’m told it helps, so here goes.

We started out 2005 with Cambio Healthcare Solutions at the helm of the ship (have you ever heard the expression, “ in a sinking ship with blind sailors.”) The turnaround team would fly in Tuesday through Thursday and not pay bills and attempt to cut or contract out services. They gave all the union psychiatrists at John George Pavilion two weeks notice; they had planned to contract out the mental health services to the Psychic Hotline. They implemented a 35-step process for approval of all purchase orders over fifty cents. Hospital vendors hounded department heads for unpaid bills and had begun to threaten to stop delivery on non-essential items like oxygen.

The county budget battles began early with Sheriff Plummer and the DA positioning themselves to gobble up any Measure “A” monies Plummer squeeze out of the medical center. In a well-orchestrated attempt to loot the medical center budget the sheriff, the county sups and their minions rolled out the plan. “Chainsaw” Charlie Plummer was nominated to be on the Hospital Authority Board, all of the county sups now vigorously deny having made the nomination but it happened with great fanfare and press coverage. Around the same time Grand Jury Foreman Keith Boyer, a retired Sheriff and congressman “ Pete” Stark’s son, baby Stark, released a scathing report on the medical center. The report read just like Sheriff Plummer’s many letters to the county sups about the medical center, light on facts and heavy on ideology. Coincidence or corruption, you be the judge?

Well, the unions and Vote Health couldn’t take this mess lying down. They pointed out that the appointment of the sheriff to the hospital authority was unwise, unethical and probably illegal. Politicians, especially county sups respond poorly to reason so Brad Cleveland, Kay Eisenhower and hospital employees created a flash mob. Hundreds of phone calls, faxes and emails later the sups saw the light and withdrew the nomination. Then the Hospital Authority Board in an impressive display of brains and balls wrote a response to the scathing grand jury report.

Cambio ever touting their successes spent their last months concocting a bogus budget; according to their beautifully typed presentations they had met their performance goals and cured the county hospital. The medical center even without Cambio’s lies, half-truths and excessive fees still has a much more stable future because of Measure “A” and toward the end of the year we got real executives. Wright Lassiter III has the poise and charisma of a Senator and Bill Manns doesn’t look old enough to drink but he’s super smart and he’s not work shy. He goes home from his twelve-hour days and fixes his own floors and gutters. He needs to stay off his roof in the rain; he really doesn’t want to end up in the emergency department with us cutting off his clothes.