Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Toby Gerhart visits Matt Blea at VMC - what a winning team!

You likely remember reading about Matt Blea, the high school student injured on the football field on Thanksgiving. Well today Toby Gerhart, Stanford University football star and Heisman Trophy runner-up, came to visit while Matt is back at Valley Medical Center for rehab!

Matt, just weeks after life-saving surgery, started his day jogging in the grass outside the Rehab Unit where his progress has been amazing. Matt had no idea that Toby, one of the players he especially looks up to, was planning to visit him. Toby had heard about the high-schooler's injury from his coach, and decided to pay Matt a visit.

Coming directly to Valley Medical Center from The Stanford team's practice for their New Years Eve Sun Bowl game against Oklahoma , Toby met Matt in the day room of Valley Medical Center's Brain Injury Rehabilitation unit.

Toby was accompanied by Stanford football assistant coach, Tom Steiner, and as family, staff and other patients looked on, Matt accepted gifts of a Stanford jersey and a signed football.

Matt told Toby that he was a huge fan, and shared that his goal was to become a high school coach one day. Toby said how impressed he was with Matt's progress, and congratulated Matt on his planned discharge from VMC on Christmas Eve - the perfect present!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Our best Bike Build EVER. Again!

On Saturday, something happened so amazing that you pretty much have to see it to believe it...which you can do Turning Wheels for Kids.

My favorite coverage so far is by Tonic.com, and they've made the 2300 bikes and 600 volunteers their big inspiring story of the week. Read it here, and seriously now, share this with others. People deserve to know that the biggest all-volunteer "elf" event for the holidays involved this astounding program of the VMC Foundation.

Huge congratulations to Sue Runsvold, R.N., and her team of dedicated "Wheeler Dealers" whose contribution to holiday joy in Silicon Valley is unparallelled.

Last year's Bike Build was so big, I wondered if they could do it again. Serves me right for wondering...this was the biggest and best ever. Hooray!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Please help VMC help patients with brain injuries!

You may have seen the recent story in the Mercury News of a case involving a football player from a local high school being treated at Valley Medical Center. Our thoughts go out to his family, and we at the VMC Foundation wish him a full recovery. We treat cases like this young man’s all too often at VMC, and we have a need directly related to patients with head injuries on our Holiday Wish List.

Watch the video below to learn about this project, and to see how you can help.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wish List success continuing...

The VMC Foundation "Holiday Wish List" is now officially 75% granted, thanks to a great group of folks with big hearts...and led by two of the biggest:

Elaine Elkin, philanthropist and business owner, offered a challenge grant to fund the H1N1 Infection Control Stations this week, which was immediately matched to fulfill the $9,500 needed. VMC will now be stopping flu at the door, thanks to this holiday generosity.

Also, Silicon Valley foundation and development powerhouse John A. Sobrato funded the balance of the "art for oncology patients" program, providing a soothing atmosphere for patients undergoing radiation treatment - hugely important, and we're so thankful!

Click here to learn more about Ms. Elkin and Mr. Sobrato, and if you happen to know them, help me thank them...and watch this space next week for updates on our final "Wish List" item. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday Cheer...it officially starts now!

Our 2009 Holiday Wish List is only a few weeks old and we already have one project fully funded! Last Friday we got a call from the Hammond Family Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation saying that they wanted to cover the remaining costs for the Patient Lift described in this video.

Now, it wasn’t magic that the Hammond Family Fund called us out of the blue. They saw a need and were generous enough to make our wish come true, and for that we thank them. What IS magic is what that gift will do for the staff and patients at Valley Medical Center .

We need to make that sort of magic happen for the three remaining projects. Check them out and see what you can do!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How about some EXTREMELY local health care reform?

Alert readers of this blog remember that Measure A, passed a year ago by the oh-so smart and good-looking electorate of Santa Clara County, provided not just $790M to rebuild VMC, but $50M for health services in downtown San Jose.

So you want progress? Here's progress - and a huge congrats to San Jose residents and thanks to the team that negotiated this deal...from today's Mercury News:

Surprise deal for downtown San Jose hospital site
By Joe Rodriguez

Five years after downtown San Jose lost its hospital, Santa Clara County on Tuesday announced a surprising $28.3 million deal for the site in a plan that promises to bring back more than doctors and nurses.

"It gives the downtown a shot in the arm," said Sam Liccardo, the neighborhood's city councilman. "I know the community will be thrilled to hear that medical care is coming back."

Read the full story here!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Presenting the VMC Foundation Holiday Wish List!

I know that you - and many families - often make tax-deductible charitable gifts at the end of the year, around the holidays. That's why I am pleased to announce the new VMC Foundation Holiday Wish List!

This new opportunity to support vital health & hospital services comes after a tough selection process. Front line professionals from Valley Medical Center, our clinics, and all parts of the Health & Hospital System know best what our patients need...so we asked the staff, and narrowed down submissions to four top-priority projects.

They all have a goal we can reach, but only if we do it together. Please visit www.vmcfoundation.org/wishlist and learn about the four areas to which we ask you to direct your year-end giving. We hope that, with your help, we can fund all four and help a great number of patients. Giving is easy, too: Right from the website, or by check...but our deadline is Dec. 31, and I invite you to be among the FIRST to get our campaign off on the right track.

So please consider making your tax-deductible gift today - visit our site and know that your gift will fund a very important unmet need at Silicon Valley's busiest medical center, where everyone is offered world-class care regardless of ability to pay.

THANK YOU, and may I be the first to offer you a hearty and heart-felt HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sharks visit VMC's young patients...check out these photos

VMC Foundation sports reporter Chris Wilder, here…the question I’m most often asked is “So the San Jose Sharks can win big on the road and have a great penalty kill, but how are they with children?”

Yesterday we found out: They RULE! Spending the afternoon with some of our young patients at Valley Medical Center was the following star lineup:

Joe Pavelski
Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Jody Shelley
Kent Huskins

Supported by their wives and girlfriends who helped raise $17,000 for our pediatrics department, these hockey heroes could not have been more terrific. On their own time, they spent time with kids who, despite the excellent quality of their care, are not stoked to be in a hospital. S.J. Sharkie (the team mascot) was of course also on hand…it never fails to amaze me that kids love Sharkie, even though he’s a 7-foot carnivorous fish with big teeth.

Seriously, this was a magic day at VMC…check the photos here, and help us root our team on to the Stanley Cup this year – these guys, and their wives and girlfriends, are truly class acts…like the staff at VMC. A huge thanks also to the staff of the Sharks, especially the team at the Sharks Foundation. Working together, we’re making cool things happen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chris is running? Now I've heard everything.

After voluntarily flying in a jet-copter last weekend (I have serious acrophobia), my friends and family are all asking me the same question: “Who are you and what have you done with Chris?”

They conclude I have been replaced by an imposter not just from the whirlybird incident, but also because I’ve been running. No, I’m not being chased, though that was my standard response for decades…until now. I blame my friend James MacGregor, Publisher of the Silicon Valley San Jose Business Journal:

JAMES: Maybe you should set some goals around running.
ME: I hate running. It makes me insane with anger.
JAMES: Nah, you just need to train for something!
ME: Fat chance.
JAMES: Tell ya what – if you run the 2009 Turkey Trot, I’ll run it with you.
ME: James, you could run that race TODAY, twice!

…and so on. Sadly, the more James talked, the more sense he made, so I am training to run the 2009 Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. This race is ten kilometers, which is something like 300 miles if my math is correct.

So I started running in August, and guess what? It’s not bad! I’m actually enjoying it, and ready to take on the Turkey Trot. Here’s a thought: Why not run it with me and James? It’s not expensive, so let’s get a VMC Foundation team together…if you’re game, send me an email at echristopher.wilder@hhs.sccgov.org and we’ll join forces.

Here’s the best part: the Turkey Trot raises money for some super organizations, including the Children’s Health Initiative (I serve on their foundation’s board, and their work truly benefits Valley Medical Center’s patients). Let’s start Thanksgiving right, by giving back to our community and doing something good for ourselves too.

Amazing, really. Who am I and what have I done with myself?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Global Handwashing Day - today's the day!

Today, October 15, is Global Handwashing Day…the one day a year when we’re supposed to wash our hands.

Oopsie. I’ve just been informed that we should wash our hands EVERY day, and frequently! Today’s commemoration is designed to spread awareness, instead of germs, which is what happens when we don’t wash our hands often enough. During a growing concern about Swine Flu (H1N1), it’s timely to discuss this simple but VERY important activity. So, here are some handy tips for handy washing:

Q: How often should I wash my hands?
A: All the time…after eating, before eating, after handling lizards, when the mud pies are all done, after gutting a trout, or just when you’re feeling a little grubby.

Q: Should I use soap?
A: Fo’ Sho’. That’s part of this campaign – and it’s a serious issue, because not everyone in all parts of the world has ready access to soap. But they should, and the UN, WHO and CDC are working on that.

Q: How long should I wash my hands?
A: Experts say you should sing a little song as you wash for maybe 20 seconds, something like "Happy Birthday". Then go buy me a gift. When my hands are especially dirty, I always sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" until my wife begs me to stop.

Q: Will washing my hands mean I won’t get the H1N1 virus?
A: No, but I like your odds. Washing your hands (with soap, and then drying them) is the best way to avoid getting the flu, a cold, and whatever is growing in the Men’s Restroom.

Q: Things grow in the Men’s Restroom?
A: For women – you wouldn’t believe the things men get up to in public lavatories. Men are pretty gross regularly (we’re like bears with furniture, really) but somehow take it to the “next level” when in the confines of the toilet. And we men ALL know that some guys still don’t wash their hands before they leave. Yuck.

Q: Where can I learn more about handwashing?
A: Today’s observance means the Web is full of great info…search away, but remember the basics: Wash your hands. For real. A lot. As VMC’s Trauma Surgeon Gregg Adams told me yesterday, “I had H1N1 a few weeks back…it was awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

…even on those guys who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A big boost for our public hospitals

Even Assemblyman Jim Beall would agree that great news doesn't come out of Sacramento every day...but thanks to him, and the Governor, today is one of those days!

That's Jim there, on the right, next to Assemblyman Ira Ruskin. They helped us break ground on the new VMC Bed Building a couple of Fridays ago...and now, with the passage of Jim Beall's AB303, other public hospitals have a chance to do the same.

As for VMC, Jim's legislation gives us options on speeding up our construction plans and leveraging the generosity of the voters who last year passed Measure A. Check out the news release from Assemblyman Beall's office below, and help me thank a great leader who has been championing VMC for a very long time. HOORAY JIM!

For Immediate Release: 10/12/2009 Contact: Rodney Foo 408.282.8920

Legislation authored by Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. to help hospitals obtain federal funds to finance and complete state-mandated seismic safety improvements was signed by the Governor.

“Assembly Bill 303 ensures our emergency rooms can remain open during a catastrophe,’’ Beall said. “It also creates thousands of construction jobs statewide. It’s a stimulus package that works on two fronts.’’

Assembly Bill 303 allows specified public hospitals and some private hospitals that are contracted to serve Medi-Cal patients to use local funding in place of state funding to qualify for reimbursement from the federal Construction Renovation Reimbursement Program for new capital projects to meet state seismic safety deadlines. Currently, there is no state funding available to draw those federal funding.

After 11 hospitals were completely or partially closed in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the Legislature passed a 2013 deadline for hospitals to begin safety retrofitting or replacement of their most vulnerable buildings. The law also requires that hospital buildings with retrofitting must be replaced by 2030. Fifteen years ago, the initial total cost was projected at $14 billion to make the buildings safe. But more detailed and accurate studies have now placed that figure at $110 billion or more.

The bill’s passage was hailed by hospital officials on Monday.

“This bill really means a lot to us as a Public Safety Net institution,’’ said Kim Roberts, chief executive officer of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Santa Clara County’s biggest hospital. “Public Safety Net hospitals have the greatest challenge of how to meet the seismic mandates because we don’t have the funding. This bill is a great example of creativity.’’

Said Ron Smith, senior vice president of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California: “In the current financial situation our country faces, this bill allows about 60 hospitals to raise enough capital to rebuild. It’s likely many of these hospitals would have otherwise closed. Without Assemblymember Jim Beall’s bill many of these hospitals might have closed.’’

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mr. Wilder goes to Washington...

...Don't worry, I haven't been elected to anything - the country need not panic.

Tomorrow I’m flying to Washington DC, to give a presentation on how social media can help promote your medical center. You are reading this, so you helped…thanks!

Heading to our nations’ capital has me thinking about politics, especially since the health care debate has continued simmering all summer long. Last week, VMC’s executive director Robin Roche was talking to the management team about “the public option” – because that’s what we are, really. And about how Medicare is a pretty successful example of the public option, as is the VA hospital. I took the moment to shout “You LIE!” from the back of the room, Congressman Wilson-style. Everyone laughed, getting the joke, which was lucky because 1) the joke expired pretty much last week, and 2) if they hadn’t laughed, Robin would have kicked my butt.

But we have to laugh at the health care debate…for one thing, finding common ground is harder. From Senator Kyl’s “I don’t need maternity care” to death panels, to “health co-ops” (???)…well, I thought the circus came to town at our gala two weeks ago (see previous post).

My fave, though, came today in the report of House Minority Leader John Boehner’s comment: “The public option is about as unpopular as a garlic milkshake.” Leave it to our own Mike Honda to send him a basket of Gilroy garlic along with a poem praising the public option – and garlic – as being good for you. Congressman Honda admits to never having a garlic milkshake, which has me planning.

I’ll whip one up for him (soy milk, of course) and deliver it next week when I visit the Capital. If you have any unusual deliveries or messages you’d like me to take with me, let me know in the next few hours as I pack. I’ll be preparing for a week in DC by reading Dan Brown’s latest novel on the plane…it’s reputed frantic and over-the-top plot should be just the thing!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The. Best. Party. EVER.

Friends, the VMC Foundation held our annual gala Saturday night, and I know I say this pretty much every year, but this one ROCKED.

If you've ever been to one of our events, you know the VMC Foundation will NOT do "chicken dinner at the hotel ballroom"...no offense to hotel ballrooms, or chickens. We find unique venues, like Club Auto Sport, to show off some of the most amazing cars in the world. We find the coolest entertainment, like Earth Circus - "Cirque" style performers who amazed our 450 attendees. I like the photo above, taken by Elisabeth Handler with her cell...blurry but magical.

We serve the finest wine, provided by Burrell School Vineyards. The best food, thanks to Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme. The best band, David Dumont's Li'l Big Band. The slickest auctioneer, attorney Richard Alexander. If you were there, then you know. If not, hey - come next year!

We do all of this for three reasons:

1. Our donors and supporters deserve a great party.
2. The VMC Foundation staff, especailly Gala Diva Judy Cosgrove, will not settle for less.

3. I go attend a zillion events every year, as many of you do...so I want ours to stand out. It did, and I thank everyone who made it happen. Go visit our Facebook page later this week to see the photos!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reach Out and Read (with your Congressman)

The alert reader of the San Jose Mercury News may have seen the photo of Congressman Mike Honda reading to kids at Valley Health Center, East Valley, this week.

If not - even if so - here's the low-down: Our cool representitive wanted to see one of the VMC Foundation's best programs. So, we took him to our clinic on McKee Road where he met our doctors and nurses and staff who run the show...and run Reach Out and Read (click here to learn about ROR...it's the fourth program listed)

This fusion of health care and literacy is so powerful, and watching Mike Honda read to kids in fluent Spanish was a blast...in the photo above, he and David were reading about a cow who ate too many pears. Sounds like more fun than being shouted at by foes of your health care reform ideas.

It was also amazing to see how many people knew and liked Congressman Honda, everywhere he went. People would just run up to hug him or shake his hand. Makes me wonder how many other legislators are so well-loved in their districts. Thanks, Mike! Oh - here are more pictures too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Everyone Eating

Everyone Eating
Originally uploaded by VMC Foundation

How big was our party? Our "Give a Booster Shot" party? We served 1300 meals, gave away 1400 bottles of VMC Foundation water (compostable!) and the Idol Hands Band (way in the background of this shot) rocked for two hours.

We had so much fun, we're thinking of doing this again...in part for the folks who couldn't attend this one (we need an event for the swing/night shifts) and in part because it was just such a BLAST!

Thanks so much for everyone (that's a lot of people) who made this party a success...and for those who gave a booster shot to the VMC Foundation: www.giveaboostershot.org

VMCF Staff Making Paella

VMCF Staff Making Paella
Originally uploaded by VMC Foundation

So Thursday, we threw a party for the staff of the Santa Clara Valley Heatlh & Hospital System. Two reasons: The excellent work everyone does to care for all the patients that need VMC, the clinics, mental health, alcohol & drug services, public health...are we the best public hospital system in the nation? Is that paella pan big?

That's Elizabeth, Hayley, Andy, Debbie and Judy. Okay, they didn't really cook the food...Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme did.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Reform: Just the facts, Wilder...

As the director of the VMC Foundation, it's not my job to weigh in on our nation's health care reform debate...but as an engaged member of our community, it is my responsibility to have an opinion.

So, when Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and PACT (People Acting in Community Together) asked me to speak at their news confrerence last week, I did so, on my own time, and stuck to the facts. Mostly.

But it's really HARD keeping one's cool when VMC's Emergency Dept. is so crowded, or when I see VMC's Dr. Lee and Dr. Helman work so hard for culturally appropriate end-of-life care, only to have it distorted by those crying "Death Panels!" Can somone please put a tent over this circus?

Anyhow, if you can't see YouTube at work, send this to your home email. Finally, here's a letter in today's Mercury News from my good friend Gary Ater who blogs about issues of the day at American Chronicle:

Health care crisis must be addressed
It's very disturbing that there are so many Americans misinformed about the country's health care issues. Every day, more than 2,000 Californians alone lose their health care coverage due to either losing their job or they just flat can't afford it. At the current rate of increase, for the average family of four, in less than 10 years, annual health care coverage will cost over $22,000.

The "Palin Dunces" who talk about "death panels" and "forced euthanasia" or say that we're going too fast (after this issue has been in discussion for the last 60 years) don't deserve low-cost health care. But, if we do nothing, we will still pay double for their health care in America's hospital emergency rooms.

Gary Ater

Santa Clara

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm an uncle again!

Wonderful news: My sister-in-Law gave birth to Sophie and Olivia this week, so I'm an uncle twice more!

My extended family's new twins reminds me of a great event you should attend the day after our VMC Foundation gala - which the alert reader knows is September 12.

So, hosted by the Coalition for Alcohol and Drug Free Pregnancies, their "Mothers' Tea for Healthy Babies" takes place 9/13 at the St. Elizabeth Day Home in San Jose. Details are on their website, where you can buy tickets, but consider WHY you should attend:

- When a pregnant woman smokes, drinks or uses drugs, so does her baby (this you likely know)

- This NUMBER ONE cause of mental retardation is 100% preventable (again, you knew)

- Drug and alcohol use during pregancy has NOT declined in recent years (this really shocks me...maybe you too?)

Obviously, they have a lot of education to do, and your attending this event will help them do it. Thanks so much, and welcome Sophie and Olivia.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dancing With the CARS - September 12!

As I'm sure you know, we here at the VMC Foundation like to have a big, formal, opulent gala every fall...except this one.

Oh - we'll have a huge party all right, but it won't be stuffy, or formal. Leave the penguin suit at home and come to the most FUN event of the year: Dancing with the CARS.
Club Auto Sport in San Jose is hosting us, featuring some of the world's rarest and most amazing cars you've ever seen...including my favorite pictured above. Yes, they have a Bugatti there and it's so pretty my knees get weak.

But even if cars aren't your thing, we'll have amazing food by Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (like last year), world-class wine by Burrell School Vineyards (a returning sponsor), fabulous dance music from David DuMont's Li'l Big Band (back again) and something new: Cirque performers to astound and amaze.

And auction items. And prizes. And race car simulators. Kids will even enjoy this party, and in a shocking show of non-stuffyness, we've lowered the ticket price to $149 each - down from previous years, and well worth it for the fun you'll have.

So make plans, and get your tickets here. There are still some larger sponsorship opportunities as well, which could be beneficial to your organization and to the VMC Foundation. Of course, give us a ring at 408-885-5299 with any detail questions.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

129 miles and 15 BIG hearts!

In another example of "this is so amazing I'm nearly speechless", I give you this year's Turning Wheels for Kids' DEATH RIDE team!

The team is led by VMC Foundation's Board Chair, Leah Toeniskoetter...she rode the Death Ride three years ago, and has grown the team since then. This year, the group you see will embark on one of the hardest bike rides in the nation: 129 miles, 15,000 feet of elevation change - all in one day. It's not called The Death Ride lightly - Team TWFK is seriously risking a lot by attempting to finish this race.

Why on earth would they do this, other than "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger?" Well, turns out they're all raising money for one of the VMC Foundation's most inspiring program, consider a gift to support the team's amazing ride, which they'll be undertaking this Saturday!

GO Leah, Go Dan, Go John...GO TEAM TWFK!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

To all giving "Booster Shots"...some national exposure!

Many of you know that we've recently launched a new campaign at the VMC Foundation called Give a Booster Shot. The plan is to encourage employees of the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System to support us, and I've recently been asked how it's going.

Well, how about this:

I was contacted by a corporation called Tonic, whose website is dedicated to spreading "good news" around the globe. The asked me to tell the "Booster Shot" story, which I have done - click here to read just how it's going...you may be amazed.

I know I was.

And if you are a "Booster Shot" donor, congratulations...you have made international news, and given a big bit of publicity to our medical center. Your next task: Help us spread the word and drive traffic to Tonic!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Support VMC the easy way...Rock n' Roll and BBQ!

So, last night's band practice was totally excellent...I know because my ears are still ringing.

We're practicing for the upcoming VMC BBQ, put on annually by your public hospital's award-winning Therapeutic Recreation department. This dedicated crew supports our patients with spinal cord and brain injuries - and their family and friends.

Oh - the band...yes, it's the famous Idol Hands, in which your humble author plays bass guitar. We do blues, rock, R&B...fronted by our amazing singer Veronica Giles, R.N., we provide live entertainment for all the big VMC events...maybe because we play for free.

Come support VMC's Rehab Center, National Parks and Recreation Month, and the Idol Hands Band:

Thursday July 9, 11:30 - 1 (ish)
Valley Medical Center's Rehab Lawn, Bascom at Renova
BBQ, live music, games, prizes and fun
Five Dollars for lunch, rehab patients FREE

This great mid-day, mid-week escape is open to the public...tell a friend or two and come on down!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Deep cuts to the County Budget - it's happening now

Typically I like to use this space to tell you some good news, or uplifting information. Today, I'm afraid, not so much.

Today is the day our county will decide on some of the most drastic cuts we've faced - it's happening now, and so this is getting to you a day later than I'd like...but you may have seen the editorial in yesterday's Mercury News that outlines what we're all facing:

Half of the county's regional public health nurses — gone. These are the people who, among other things, make sure expectant mothers get prenatal care and that TB cases are properly managed.

Transitional beds for people recovering from mental illness — gone. Drug and alcohol treatment programs designed to keep people working — gone.

After eight straight years of budget deficits, there's no obvious fat left to trim. Programs once seen as bare essentials will be dramatically curtailed.

Please read the full editorial here. this nightmare would have been worse had the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System not worked with Deloitte to find $60M worth of savings and efficiencies...but it's bad enough, and there's little our county leaders can do about what they must do today.

...and, depending on what happens at the state level with California's budget crisis, this may not be the end of this story. Watch this space.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Protect children's health in Califirornia!

In my spare time (ha!) I serve on the board of directors for the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation, which helps fund the "Healthy Kids" program for our county. You may know that Santa Clara County was the FIRST in the nation to ensure health coverage for all kids.

That's all at risk now.

We knew this fight was coming with our state's budget mess, and fortunately we have an army of fighters. One is Dr. Heidi Roman, a pediatrician at Valley Medical Center. Her article in today's Mercury News says it so well...in part:

I understand that California legislators face an exceptionally complex and difficult task in balancing the budget. Yet elimination of Healthy Families is not only morally reprehensible, it is fiscally irresponsible. The state currently receives 2-to-1 matching funds from the federal government to administer Healthy Families. This money would be lost. In addition, we know that lack of health insurance leads to poorer health and increased future reliance on the state in the long term.

Read the full article here, and let's hope the Governor does the same.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Turner turns golf into GOLD!

Turner is a big company with a big heart: Founded in 1902, they build schools, airports...and of course, medical centers!

For the last dozen years or so, Turner has also been supporting the VMC Foundation with their annual golf classic. This is a fun way for the Bay Area team and their subcontractors and partners to raise funds while proving that they spend more time working than playing golf...yes, there was some bad golf played this week at Oakland's Claremont Country Club, led of course by your Hacker-in-Chief, me.

No matter - at the evening banquet, the VMC Foundation was presented with a BIG check - $58,000, which is the most Turner has ever raised for us in one year. We are absolutely thrilled about this, so please help me give a shout-out of thanks to Kevin Antonelli and his great Turner team for all they did to make this day happen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

VMC Foundation Water: Good for you AND the planet!

Hey VMC staff...I'm pleased to announce the arrival of VMC Foundation Water!

For now, this unique product is only available in Valley Specialty Center and the AOB, but it's coming soon to a Valley Health Center near you assuming the response is positive.

We hope it will be, and here are a few reasons why: First, VMC Foundation Water Bottles are not your typical plastic; they are plant-based, and biodegradable and compostable in commercial facilities! Just place your empties in our normal recycle bins, and they'll be separated off site.

Second, we should be drinking more water. As part of the "Soda Free Summer" campaign, our County Public Health Department encourages us to "rethink our drink" as we see the effects of sugary beverages on our community's weight and health. The VMC Foundation is proud to partner with BANPAC, Kaiser, and others to ensure these messages get out far and wide.

Third, every bottle sold benefits the VMC Foundation, which benefits YOU! What could be better? We hope you enjoy the convenience of VMC Foundation Water, and hope this trend in plant-based packaging starts replacing some of the plastic that's filling up our planet at an alarming rate.

You see, more than sixty million plastic bottles wind up in our landfills every day. We're proud to NOT be contributing - so drink up...to our health!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is it time to go SOLAR?

As the alert “Wilder Side of Health” reader knows, we have new solar panels installed on the parking structures of Valley Medical Center…and now, SunPower is offering a special deal for YOU, just because you work here.

It’s called the SunPower Affiliate Solar Program, and it works to encourage folks to install solar panels at home – at a time when it’s never been more affordable and the incentives so enticing. Visit our new web page for more details if you and your family have been thinking about going solar!

Now, why would I be helping SunPower sell solar systems? Two main reasons:

1. The Earth is my very favorite planet. It’s where I keep all my stuff.
2. The VMC Foundation gets a donation from SunPower for every system sold!

…but you probably guessed that, right? Any way you look at it, this is a neat offer and we are really pleased to be working with SunPower, one of the most dynamic companies in Silicon Valley. So, if you’ve been concerned with your carbon footprint, check it out. I’m having a consultant visit my home in a couple of weeks myself!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


With touch of sadness, but an eye on the future, today saw the tear-down of VMC's old outpatient building...making way of course for the NEW VMC coming soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Progress on the "New VMC" - your dollars at work!

I promised several weeks ago that I’d keep you in the loop about the “New VMC” being built with the money you approved when you voted YES on Measure A last fall. Read on, and consider yourself “in the loop!”

First, the County’s first 2009 Series A General Obligation Bonds successfully sold this week, attracting 9 strong bids from the underwriting community. Merrill Lynch won a very close bid, coming in at a much lower interest rate than we expected. The result is that the county now has its first $350,000,000 toward the whole “New VMC” project – and saved a few million bucks in the process.

Meanwhile, construction goes on – or more specifically, destruction. The old outpatient building is being slowly dismantled, and we’ll let you know about the ground-breaking ceremony that will happen later this year when the site is ready for the new hospital. Our new parking garage opened this week, and the wonderful staff of the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System has begun helping with our capital campaign by

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Give a Booster Shot!

Today the VMC Foundation launched a new initiative that asks the dedicated staff of the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System to "Give a Booster Shot!"

Time's are tough, as we all know, so it may seem strange to ask our doctors, nurses, technicians, administrators and everyone to dig even deeper than they already do every day...but we know our staff to be generous and to understand how their gifts can be leveraged.

So, http://www.giveaboostershot.orgwas born today! Click and check it out - it's fun and even a little competitive! We've even figured out how to do a payroll deduction for the VMC Foundation - for as little as an $8 "Booster Shot" per check, your name will be on the donor wall in the NEW VMC bed building for all time.

I could go on about how giving a little can help a lot, but I got an email just now that does it better than I could. It's from Dr. Gregg Adams, our rock star trauma surgeon, who sent this to his co-workers:

Hello all,

In a time of belt tightening and anxiety about the future, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to see your dollars put to hard work for the benefit of you and the community. The VMC Foundation is one such opportunity. They have been a constant, enthusiastic supporter of all of your hard work, and a creative force in getting the resources necessary for continuing the level of care for which VMC is heralded.

Now the VMC Foundation is asking for support from us, from the very people who benefit so greatly from their endeavors.

Please see the information below, and join me in giving the VMC Foundation a Booster Shot. There are many options available, one for every sized pocketbook.

You are among a select group of individuals who never have to look in the mirror and wonder if you make a difference in this world. You make a difference everyday. The community you serve reaffirmed their appreciation for that Mission with the overwhelming passage of Measure A last fall. Please take the time to read through Chris Wilder’s missive below, and consider helping the VMC Foundation, in turn, help us.

Thank you,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Celebrate National Nurses Week!

As Valley Medical Center continues to see a larger number of patients every year, it sure is great to know we have a fantastic team of nurses - HAPPY NATIONAL NURSES WEEK!

Here at YOUR public hospital, we're celebrating today with a nursing education fair, 11am to 4:30pm in our new Valley Specialty Center building, Sobrato Cancer Center Conference Room...come by!

Tomorrow, Thursday May 7, VMC's Nursing Exellence Awards will be given out in an inspiring ceremony at 1pm - again, Sobrato Concference Room at VSC.

Join me in thanking those who have dedicated their lives to the field of nursing. If you happen to be a nurse reading this, THANK YOU! I've been on the receiving end of wonderful nursing care here at VMC, and I sleep better at night knowing you are there for us all.

Monday, May 4, 2009

VMC and our Public Health Officer in the news...

It's likely no surprise to you, but the H1N1 Virus (we're not calling it Swine-Flu anymore, I'm told) is driving a large number of people to Valley Medical Center's emergency department.

But that's nothing new...it just makes a growing problem worse. This article is in today's Mercury News:

While Roy Milligan sped along the freeway on his Harley, a metal chunk flew off a truck and struck his foot. Milligan worried the foot was broken but had lost his insurance along with his job last year. A co-worker at his new job suggested he go to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“He told me they were really good to people who don’t have insurance,” Milligan said.

Apparently, the word is spreading. Since October, Valley Medical Center officials have seen a 10 percent increase in the number of uninsured patients

Check out the full article here.

Meanwhile, the fight against the outbreak of H1N1 has a great champion. Dr. Marty Fenstersheib is profiled today in the Mercury News as well:

Meet Dr. Marty Fenstersheib and his dark companions: anthrax and bioterrorism. West Nile virus and cryptosporidium. SARS, HIV and TB.

As Santa Clara County's public health officer since 1994, the small-statured, 59-year-old former pediatrician and marathon runner from Pittsburgh is accustomed to finding himself at the center of Silicon Valley's scariest public health threats.

Again, read the full article here - Marty is a pretty amazing guy, and we should all thank our lucky stars that he's looking out for us!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In case you missed our Earth Day celebration...

Valley Medical Center did Earth Day 2009 up right with a historic launch of our solar panels...and nearly 1,000 people were on hand for the fiesta.

If you weren't able to attend, below is the next best thing. If your employer blocks videos, send this to your private account and watch from home. A huge thanks to Michael Elliott, VMC Foundation's Director of Program Development and Videography.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Join us Wednesday and MAKE HISTORY!

Hot enough for ya?

This week brings weather warm enough to fry an egg...or help save the planet, in the case of Valley Medical Center.

Join us at 2pm this Wednesday, EARTH DAY, on top of our parking deck for a history-making event: We're activiting our solar panels - 2,288 of them to be exact - and ushering in a new era of efficiency and environmentalism at YOUR public hospital.

Free ice cream, music, VMC Foundation water (in compostable bottles!), and Valley VIP's including Tom Werner, CEO of Sunpower (they make the solar panels). I know I've mentioned this event before, but this will truly be one to tell your grandkids about...

...when they ask you what our generation did to save the earth.

I know I feel pretty darn proud to work for an organization that takes energy conservation seriously. Oh - and it will be FUN, too - hope to see you there!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The chilling cost of budget cuts - life hanging in the balance

When the leadership of Santa Clara County and The Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System decided to spend 20 million dollars on
So what does this mean? VMC just expanded its cancer care. With our new Sobrato Cancer Center, we’re serving more people than ever before...we're still hurting, but we're still here.

What if our county leadership hadn’t done this? The results could have been devastating, as it is today in Las Vegas. If you saw 60 Minutes last week, you know what I’m talking about. University Medical Center just closed their cancer clinic due to budget cuts.

It's worth ten minutes to watch this, seriously:
Watch CBS Videos Online

Their patients see it as a death sentence, though many are trying to get area hospitals to take them…and they are searching further and further from Las Vegas. Soon, we expect, some may knock on Valley Medical Center’s door.

And VMC will answer. Thanks, county leadership. Thanks, Deloitte.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Here comes the Sun (Power)!

Earth Day 2009 will be extra-special at Valley Medical Center, and YOU are invited to be a part of it! The 50-second video below provides a sneak preview, but here are the details in print form:

Valley Medical Center invites you to Earth Day 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2pm
Main Parking Garage, top floor, corner of Moorpark and Turner Drive in San Jose

We will be officially powering up our new Solar panels!
Join Silicon Valley VIP's, elected officials, and dedicated staff of your public hospital as we turn on our massive new photovoltaics - the first of their kind in Silicon Valley!

Free ice cream + healthier snacks while they last, music, and the spirit that says "VMC is GOING GREEN!"

Please do join us for this historic day - we'd love to have you there for this celebration. For more info, visit http://www.vmcfoundation.org/ and of course, if your employer blocks YouTube, send this to your private email.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Delicious and deadly...shaking our hypertension

On this Cesar Chavez Day, I thought we’d discuss food: The kind grown in the ground and picked by good people who work much harder than I do.

If I ate more of that kind of food – fresh fruit and veggies – maybe my doctor, Chris Snow, wouldn’t have resigned from VMC last year after taking my blood pressure. There’s no known connection, but still.

I actually do okay with the green leafies, being vegan and all, but the real problem is SALT. I promised Dr. Snow last year that I’d stop dumping the salt shaker over on top of everything I ate, but he explained that wasn’t the main problem…yes friends, the issue is processed foods: Pre-cooked, additive-rich, and pre-packaged. Welcome to the American Diet.

Food from a carton or can or box likely contains tons of salt. All that stuff in the middle isles of the grocery store, and most of the stuff Americans seem to love…it’s all processed. “Oh, but this can of tomato juice is so GOOD for me,” I hear you saying. Check the nutrition facts, and wonder no more why after drinking that can your heart feels like it’s trying to escape from your chest Alien-style.

I’m being cute about it I know, but this is serious: Hypertension kills millions of us every year. Slows some of us down too; my pal Bruce had a heart attack last week. And VMC Foundation major supporter and prominent attorney Richard Alexander just became an evangelist against salt.

You see, Dick Alexander is a big dude like me, and realized he could do more for his health after a no-salt, no sugar retreat he attended. He writes eloquently about why we ALL need to cut back on salt, and you should read it by clicking here.

And then look for me and Dick in the Valley Medical Center cafeteria. We’ll be the guys stealing all the salt shakers…because we “heart” you thiiiiiis much.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Educating nurses...from around the world?

Today was super cool - it began with a visit to Valley Medical Center by a group of 12 nursing students from Japan! That's them, in the photo, along with VMC Foundation staff member Debbie Burdsall, touring through our Spinal Cord Rehabilitation outdoor plaza.

Okay, I'm not the finest photographer on earth. Maybe they all turned their heads at once or something. That's probably it.

Anyway, they said they learned a lot (through their translator), and if only knowing six words of Japanese didn't make me feel inferior enough, I was given a reality jolt when Debbie and I explained our wireless network.

In 2004, the VMC Foundation with help from Ophoenix launched Valley Medical Center's first wireless network for patients and their families. Debbie's job is Technology Champion, helping patients with a wide range of disabilities access the Internet, email, and information. All made possible by our wireless network, of course.

We explained all this to the Japanese nursing students. They were confused. They didn't seem to understand. Then it occured to me: Most of them were from Tokyo. Their whole CITY has been wireless since most of these students were putting puffy stickers on their Hello Kitty lunch boxes. They literally had NO IDEA why what were describing was worth describing.

So another reminder that America is now and then behind the times. Still, our wireless network has been helping patients in major ways for years now, and some hospitals in Silicon Valley don't yet have this technology available in patient rooms, public areas, and everywhere we can offer it. Even if they did, they don't have Debbie...funny how the best technology still depends on a skilled and helpful human being for the best experience.

Our wireless program really is cool, in fact. Want to learn more about how we do it, about Debbie, and how you can help us improve it? Click here, and thanks!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The New VSC...making room, and fast.

Hey Friends, just a quick look at today's news on Valley Medical Center's main campus: The construction zone is in effect!

I took this shot this morning, as the fencing goes up around VMC's old one-story, outdated outpatient building (that's the dark, windowless portion just behind the truck). This facility was emptied earlier this month as all the departments moved to the new Valley Specialty Center. Next step? Bulldozers!

Once this building is gone (soon), we begin building the "NEW" VMC. Want to learn more? email me at echristopher.wilder@hhs.sccgov.org or watch this space.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ear plugs and earmarks...a big week for VMC.

A couple quick cool items for you today: Last week was the grand opening of Valley Specialty Center, VMC’s new fantastic outpatient clinic…and the Idol Hands Band was there to rock the party, louder than we've ever been, with a huge sound system (not pictured is our amazing singer, Veronica Giles, R.N.). Big thanks to the hundreds that came out for the celebration, including elected officials and even former SCVHHS CEO Bob Sillen!

Now – on to national affairs: Say what you like about federal earmarks, but I’m with George Stephanopoulos who said today “You have to decide – is it a bad earmark, or a good earmark?”

If you’re seeking an example of a good earmark, I offer two, as championed by Congressman Mike Honda and signed into law by President Obama yesterday: Valley Medical Center has been granted $404,000 for digital mammography equipment, and $233,000 for emergency room ultrasound technology.

Both will save lives, at a time when VMC is facing yet another hard year of budget cuts. Neither represents even a fraction of the federal budget. And sadly, though badly needed, these vital technology purchases are only two of the long list of items we need at YOUR public hospital…and cannot afford right now.

That’s why the VMC Foundation is working so hard to raise funds for more equipment and programs. We cannot stop just because the economy is down; in fact, since demand for VMC is up, we need to work doubly hard!

SO, yes, we're thrilled about Valley Specialty Center, which will help more patients receive care more efficiently. But we need more technology, equipment, and support to keep it all going.

Would you like to see some great photos of Valley Specialty Center? Click here. Would you like to make your mark on this vital Silicon Valley resource? Click here. Thanks so much!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The First Five Years begin with the First Five Days...

…and sometimes, the first five hours. Or minutes.

Today we celebrated a major partnership at the VMC Foundation, and I just had to share it with you. First 5 Santa Clara County has made a multi-year, multimillion dollar commitment to us for support of our tiniest, most fragile patients: The babies in VMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The benefit of this life-saving equipment and program investment can seriously not be measured fully in dollars or statistics. Let’s instead measure it in families:

The photos above are Greg, Fan and Dana…Dana is about to start Kindergarten, but spent a very tough time in our NICU when she was born tiny and prematurely. When Dana came into the world, she was the size and weight of a stick of butter. Think of that. They thought she might not survive, but today…well, you can see her: A happy, healthy girl ready for school!

It’s the major leaps in technology (and the amazing staff of our NICU) that lead to such great outcomes for Dana and so many others, and First 5’s investment will help ensure we meet our growing tech needs. “What happens to these babies in the first few minutes of life,” explained Nurse Manager Kim Corvin at today’s press conference, “will impact the rest of their lives…and that impacts our whole society.”

Kim is right – and First 5 cannot be thanked enough for this investment in our future. Visit them to learn about the other great things they do around Silicon Valley: http://www.first5kids.org/

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Big News about our Big New Medical Center!

Talk about "shovel-ready" projects...the new Valley Medical Center, approved by voters who passed Measure A in November, is ROLLING!

Yesterday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors made some great decisions. First, I'm pleased to report that Turner Construction has been awarded the "design-build" contract for this massive undertaking. Turner is a big supporter of the VMC Foundation, but more importantly, has the experience and skill to build what will likely be the finest public hospital in the United States.

Exaggeration? No way.

The new VMC will be a world-class patient tower which will include our nationally-recognized spinal cord and brain injury rehab center. And the Board of Sup's certified something else yesterday: The new VMC will be one of the "greenest" hospitals in the country.

Yes - we are moving forward to ensure the new hospital meets LEED "Gold" status. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a federal program that certifies the most efficient buildings from many perspectives...and only a handful of hospitals nationally meet this standard today. VMC will be one of them, exceeding even the county's rigid green building standards.

And it all starts NOW. Watch this space, as you will soon be invited to groundbreaking ceremonies. Bring your shovel; we're ready.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Positive Dental Outlook - Fluoride NOW!

So the situation is that San Jose is the largest city in the nation without fluoride in the water. The situation is also that 1/3 of San Jose’s kindergarteners has untreated tooth decay. How do you think it feels trying to go to school and learn – for the first time – with a toothache?

I cannot relate. I’m 41 years old had have never had a cavity. My dentist, Dr. Sera, says I have the most perfect teeth she’s ever seen. She’s not met my brother, who has also never had a filling. Before you think we’re genetic freaks, I’ll tell you our parents’ mouths are the dental equivalent to the opening battle scene in Saving Private Ryan.

The difference, of course, is fluoride; my parents didn’t have it and my brother and I did. Now, County Supervisor Liz Kniss is joining The Health Trust in fighting to fluoridate San Jose’s water. Why the need for a fight? Because there are still loonies afoot who think that “letting the Government put things in the water supply” leads to mind control or something. No, that’s what reality TV is for.

Seriously for a second – scientists and dentists and public health officers don’t debate this – fluoride is fantastic…yet opposition continues. Why, just this week in the Mercury News, responding to their editorial on fluoride, one guy quoted a British physician: "No physician in his right senses would prescribe for a person he has never met, whose medical history he does not know, a substance which is intended to create bodily change, with the advice: 'Take as much as you like, but you will take it for the rest of your life because some children suffer from tooth decay.”

WRONG! Sorry dude, but doctors thankfully do this all the time. They prescribe Vitamin B12 for vegans, iron for women and folic acid for women of childbearing years. Breast milk for infants. They push vitamin C, and leafy greens, and a good balance of protein and carbs. They do this for everyone, because it’s good for pretty much everyone.

Sorry for the rant, but this whole thing is just silly. And tragic. I love San Jose, but I’m thankful I was raised a few miles to the north and have great teeth to show for it. All kids deserve that, and the cost to fluoridate SJ’s water would be more than offset by keeping kids in school, ready to learn, without the pain of a bad tooth.

Do you disagree? Feel free to let me know. If you want to help, please consider a gift this month to the VMC Foundation...and I’ll make you a deal: Join us, and we’ll help fight the cavity creeps together.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The State of Silicon Valley (hint: not ALL bad!)

Silicon Valley is mostly Santa Clara County, and the “State of the County” address was presented yesterday by the President of the Board of Supervisors, the Honorable Liz Kniss.

Economically speaking, things are not super. Oh. You already knew that.

What impressed me though was President Kniss’s ability to muster a positive outlook and instill some hope among the hundreds who had gathered to hear her address. Since almost half the county’s budget involves Valley Medical Center and the Health & Hospital System, I was excited to hear her positive messages about what we’ve been up to.

Of course, she reminded everyone about Measure A, and what that means for the future of VMC. But VMC has also been working with Deloitte to increase efficiencies. After eight straight years of budget cuts—and rising patient population—it’s likely that we are the most efficient health care system in the nation. I’m not exaggerating.

But part of why VMC is so good is that we work hard to stay modern and state-of-the-art. That’s why I’m inviting you to a Grand Opening Ceremony to see the brand new crown jewel of VMC’s campus, Valley Specialty Center. This gigantic new beautiful outpatient building is not just the most prominent feature of our campus (right on the corner of Bascom and Moorpark in San Jose), it also allows us to serve more patients, much more efficiently, with more dignity to all who come to us for care.

So come on out on Friday, March 6, at 9:30am. You can meet Supervisor Kniss and ask her what this building means for the residents of Silicon Valley…I promise you that her answer will leave you feeling optimistic about the future – that would be a nice change wouldn’t it?

Oh – and there will be live music too! Yes, the Idol Hands Band with Yours Truly on bass guitar will be rocking the party. Let us know you want to come: 408-885-5299.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Protecting our Public Health Department (that protects US)

When I was six, my father bought my brother and me two little turtles. They lived in a bowl, ate leafy greens, and gave my father a case of Salmonella.

some species of turtles carry the disease, which we didn't know at the time. The other thing I didn't know until Friday is that my father got lucky. He got better in a couple weeks...but he could have died.

That's why we're ALL lucky that Santa Clara County has a great Department of Public Health, which does lots of important things including monitoring outbreaks of diseases like Salmonella. It's part of the system that includes Valley Medical Center, of course.

You've probably heard about Salmonella recently, and our Public Health Officers wrote a great piece in the Mercury News the other day...you can read it below.

I think there are two valuable lessons to learn here: One is that we need to keep our Public Health Department strong, because Salmonella is just one of many serious risks they mitigate.

The other is not to buy your kids everything they ask for.

Opinion: Salmonella outbreak illustrates importance of public health programs
By Dr. Marty Fenstersheib and Dr. Sara Cody
Special to the Mercury News

Lately, there's been a lot of alarming news about the national outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium and people getting sick because of eating certain peanut butter and peanut-butter products. The recent recall of cookie dough products affected 13 schools in Santa Clara County. This outbreak is a reminder of the critical role our Public Health Department plays in protecting the health and safety of Santa Clara County's 1.8 million residents.

Nationally, there have been nearly 500 salmonella cases reported in 43 states. In California there have been more than 60 reported cases, including one confirmed case in Santa Clara County. Although most people who get salmonella will get better on their own, others are not so fortunate. Of those infected in this recent outbreak, more than 100 have been hospitalized and seven have died. While these illnesses and others like it are serious, they can be prevented and contained — if local public health departments and other agencies responsible for response are robust enough to act.

In this outbreak, initial reports of illness come to local health departments from community health care providers. The ability of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments to understand the scope of the problem and respond is only as good as the information that the local health departments can collect and report. If our capacity to rapidly identify, investigate and prevent infection is diminished, so is the national response against the spread of infectious diseases. Local public health departments are the front lines of defense when disease breaks out.

Salmonella is just one of 89 different diseases that are tracked by your Public Health Department. We receive more than 900 reports of confirmed food-borne illnesses each year. Almost once a week we are investigating a disease outbreak. T

he staff of your Public Health Department is on call 24 hours a day, working to keep our community safe from these potentially dangerous outbreaks. Right now the news is about food-borne illnesses, but over the next year and at any given time, we will be dealing with many more public health concerns including meningitis, tuberculosis, measles, sexually transmitted diseases and whooping cough.

Much of what we do is invisible to the general public. So, why does the work of public health matter? Because when it comes to disease outbreaks, immediate actions are taken to protect the health and well-being of every one of us. Those actions include surveillance of diseases, investigation of cases and following up with people who may have been exposed. When it comes to contagious diseases, our local public health department will provide medications and, if needed, will restrict people from going to school or work until they are no longer contagious.

This work is about protecting the health of our community and preventing disease, illness and injury. Everyone in our county wants and expects to be safe from a communicable disease, and we believe they deserve this protection.

Maintaining a strong and stable public health infrastructure is critical to keeping Santa Clara County a safe, healthy place to live. It is an essential part of the front line of defense for the well-being and safety of this community. And yet, even with a new president and heartening promises of commitment and investment in infrastructure and health care, public health departments are facing very serious fiscal challenges and budget shortfalls.

The work of public health is too important to overlook. The work of public health is just too important to each and every one of us.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib is Santa Clara County"s health officer. Dr. Sara Cody is a deputy health officer and the communicable disease controller for Santa Clara County. They wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Health news you may have missed...

Now and then I like to use this space to ensure you saw a bit of news that could effect you...today I have two:

First, things are going from bad to worse at Los Gatos Community Hospital, which is now set to close in early April - and may not re-open again until fall despite El Camino Hosptial's best efforts. When/if it does re-open, it seems unclear (to me, at least) exactly what services it will or won't offer.

Subscribers (free) to the on-line Mercury News can read more here. This will surely have an effect on Valley Medical Center and other hospitals in Silicon Valley...not a good effect.

Second, our own Michael Skehan, Executive Director of VMC, wrote a great piece for the Editorial Page of the Merc this week...here it is:

Opinion: While we are saving the banks, we should save our safety net
By Michael Skehan
Special to the Mercury News
Posted: 01/19/2009

It is heartening to see President-elect Barack Obama and our congressional leaders already at work tackling the huge challenges our nation faces. After the divisive political environment of the last eight years, we especially need to come together now to address the nation's economic crisis and the economic, social and health challenges facing our society's most vulnerable.

Just as was done during the economic crisis of the 1930s, today we must ensure that in the midst of devastating losses — of jobs, homes or, in some cases, both — that our programs for caring for our vulnerable citizens are stable, if not strengthened.

One of those vital programs is our system of providing health care to those who are uninsured and underinsured. The numbers of our fellow Americans who fit these categories increase each day as our unemployment numbers rise and employer-sponsored health insurance decreases.
As executive director of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, I see firsthand the care provided by the safety net, the system of hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities that are committed to caring for patients regardless of their health condition or their ability to pay.

But it's not just the uninsured who benefit from VMC's presence in our community. VMC houses our area's only Level 1 trauma center, its only burn unit and an outstanding neonatal department. Our mental health services are excellent, as are our preventive health programs that keep members of our community healthier for longer and in their own homes.

These are among the key reasons why Santa Clara County voters overwhelmingly supported the passage of Measure A, the seismic safety bond on the November 2008 ballot.

Safety net hospitals like VMC are adept at working within tight budgets, but we can only do so much. In the last seven years, VMC has saved taxpayers more than $159 million through budget reductions and restructuring. Thanks to the "Transformation 2010" Initiative, we are now in the process of making aggressive new changes that will improve the quality of care while further reducing the use of tax dollars.

VMC is not alone in this difficult budget environment. Forty-three states are facing budgetary shortfalls for fiscal year 2009 because of declines in revenue and increased enrollment in state programs, like Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). As Gov. Schwarzenegger and other state leaders across the nation are seeking ways to close budget deficits by proposing massive cuts in Medicaid, doing so would be devastating to the health of local communities, and the long-term viability of many safety net hospitals.

Instead, Congress and the Obama administration should immediately provide operating and capital relief to safety net hospital systems to help ensure that the newly uninsured can access needed health care services, and that safety net hospitals remain stable and vital through this economic crisis. If we can afford to bail out banks, surely we can afford to assist our nation's safety net hospitals.

Hospitals are facing huge cuts from state and local governments grappling with the recession and facing very tough choices about possible layoffs of employees and service closures to people in need. Now is not the time to tie the hands of the hospitals that care for the most vulnerable among us. Public hospitals have always been there during hard times, but they need help from the federal government to keep them viable during this economic crisis.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You're gonna need a good lawyer...

Your doctor isn’t always the best person to solve your medical problem. Sometimes, instead, it’s a lawyer!

Consider for instance the single mom with two boys, frustrated by their weekly asthma attacks and visits to VMC. They know darned well that it’s mold in their apartment walls that’s causing the asthma, yet her landlord wont’ do anything about it…even after their VMC pediatrician wrote a letter and left voice messages. Can you imagine how that feels?

Now, imagine that landlord getting a letter not from a doctor, but from an attorney, representing the two boys! This has proven time and again to get results, and so here’s what we’re launching at VMC: Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY) has teamed up with the VMC Foundation and First 5, along with some prominent families in Silicon Valley, to start a “Medical Legal Partnership Clinic.”

Beginning today, an attorney will be available on-site at VMC’s pediatric clinic to help families solve problems as only lawyers can. Issues of custody, tenant;s rights, teen motherhood and more will be addressed immediately, and these issues so often have medical implications.

Medical Legal Partnerships have been around for a while, but ours is the first in the nation at a “county/public” medical center…which is ironic, since many of VMC’s patients deal with these kinds of issues all the time…and for too many, they often feel under-represented; that nobody has their back. Well, not anymore – not with this new initiative.

Huge thanks are in order, from Jolene at First 5, to VMC’s LeeAnna Botkin, M.D., to Jennifer Kelleher at LACY, and Steve Harris, M.D., the chair of VMC’s Pediatrics…and let’s not forget Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors who continue approving innovative programs like this one.

The results of our Medical Legal Partnership Clinic won't be known for a while, but they have a long history of success. We're pretty sure that, in the case I opened with, that landlord will make some repairs, and the boys' asthma will subside. That means better health for them, fewer missed days at school, and fewer visits to the doctor. Good for the kids, the family, VMC, and our whole community.

Now - who needs a good lawyer?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A new year, and new hope for one family...

I received a very difficult phone call three months ago. I'll never forget it.

Now, before I tell you how this story ends, I invite you to read the following letter I received just a week ago...

Dear Chris:

Back in September of this year you received a call from a mutual friend, Dave Henderson. I think Dave explained that our 16 year old son, Christian Bauerle, sustained a serious injury in a football game and was in intensive care up at Stanford.

Christian sustained an injury to his brain stem artery which caused a blood clot and stroke. The doctors at Stanford performed emergency surgery on him to clear the clot.

We were told that if he survives they did not know to what extent he would regain his functions. At the time I spoke with Dave the doctors at Stanford thought that Christian’s best chance at recovery would be immediate aggressive physical therapy. I spoke with Dave on Wednesday night September 10th and by Thursday afternoon a VMC representative met with Christian and us. By Friday September 12th around noon Christian was admitted into VMC.

Christian was at VMC for eight weeks. When he arrived all he could do was move his eyes and his left leg some. By the end of the eight weeks he was lifting weights, walking, climbing stairs, eating and talking. My wife Karen and I, along with Christian and his brothers and sister, are very grateful for everything you did to get Christian into VMC. We also want to give our thanks to Dr. Duong, Dr. Lin, Amy, Hubert, Kei, Carlo and the rest of the staff in the head injury section of the hospital.

Enclosed is a check in the amount of $1,000 for the VMC Foundation to be used for whatever the hospital committee deems necessary to continue VMC’s fine health programs.

Christian continues to recover now at home, is attending school, and plans to make the high school basketball team next year. We thank you and the VMC staff again for all that you have done for Christian and our family.


Randy Bauerle

So there's the letter. Now you see why I'll never forget it. Though he has a long road ahead, VMC's Rehab Team (with the support of a great family and determined young man) have once again defied the odds.

I promised to tell you how the story ends. Well, in fact, it hasn't yet. You see, I spoke to Randy (Christian's Dad) at length yesterday and they want very much to be involved. If you come to VMC Foundation's events this year, chances are you'll meet them. If you visit VMC's Rehab Center this year, Christian may be there providing peer support or volunteering.

And if you attend the right High School basketball game this fall, watch for him. He'll be the guy with the most positve attitude on the court...and probably the most points on the board.