Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Now, let’s just take a step back here…

Yesterday, a Mercury News story said some disparaging things about Valley Medical Center, and while I don’t often get into these kinds of things, I just can’t sit idly by and let it go. Not this time.

Because, you see, the story was based on a consultant’s report that wasn’t discussed or accepted by county officials until AFTER the story was published. The discussion yesterday at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting didn’t make the paper, but I was there.

Some of the findings were called into question, by the consultants themselves, and data sets backing up the claims haven’t been released yet. If you read the Mercury News’ story, you’ll remember they claimed that, based on the report:

- VMC is overstaffed
- VMC spends more on salaries as a % of overall expenses than other hospitals
- Births are declining at VMC

That last stat is true, and is true for the entire nation. Welcome to a recession, in the most expensive place in the nation to live! But, let’s step back and remember the two most basic facts I’ve been telling you for some time now:

- VMC’s budget: Reduced nine years in a row
- VMC’s patient population: Increased nine years in a row

VMC is overstaffed? By what metric? I wish I knew whether the hospitals VMC was being compared to had award-winning spinal cord and brain injury programs, or top-level NICU’s. VMC spends more on salaries than other things? Proudly, the VMC Foundation’s generous donors see that expensive devices like Giraffe Beds for infants and linear accelerators for cancer patients are provided, so the county spends less on equipment when times are tough…and it seems they always are.

County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith pointed out yesterday that the report wasn’t meant to imply that VMC was anything less than fantastic. “VMC’s staff work their butts off every day,” he said, “We’re just trying to find ways to be even better, and even more efficient.”

Again, that part didn’t make the paper. And I hope that more efficiency doesn’t mean doctors spending seven minutes on a patient visit. That’s how it was for me before I got here…when my doctor worked for a for-profit system. I’m proud that my VMC doctor takes time with me, and I know the opposite is one of the major frustrations people site when discussing health care. I’m also proud that the care I get is excellent, and that someone with no job and no coverage can get the exact same quality care.

And I know I’m not alone. Our community is justifiably proud of VMC, and amid efforts to make it even better, I will never forget that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Capping a political week...

Today our Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren paid a visit to Valley Medical Center, a place she knows more about than I do.

That's because, among other reasons, she helped save it.

Back in the mid-90's, there were some who wanted the County of Santa Clara to get out of the medical center business. Zoe, a county supervisor at the time, said, essentially, "nope - that ain't gonna happen" and fought to keep VMC open and available to everyone.

Today, she came to learn about our Medical Legal Partnership Clinic. The alert reader of this blog knows about how we have attorneys from the SV Law Foundation on hand to help our patients with problems that doctors cannot solve. She was really excited about this innovation, and pledged to help us keep the program going.

She's not the only one impressed by VMC's creativity.

Yesterday, we had a visit from Michael Blake, who does intergovernmental affairs for the White House. Yes, THAT White House. He was also blown away by what he heard from our team of doctors, nurses, and administrators who never stop thinking about how to serve Silicon Valley better than the day before. Big thanks to Supervisor Liz Kniss who made sure Mr. Blake came to see VMC during his whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley.

Both Michael and Zoe also had a lot to say about health care reform, but to keep from getting TOO political, let me just say that not all the good news about it has made the papers, and not all of it is even worked out yet. I'll just quote Congresswoman Lofgren who said, about those on the fringes who oppose ANY reform at all: "We're living on the same planet, but we're breathing different air."

Visits like these certainly demonstrate one thing: VMC has a lot to show off, and many of our programs and ideas can (and should) serve as models for medical centers across the nation. Wanna hear more about what VMC is doing? Visit our website and see what's new!