When a registered nurse speaks, people listen…

I am reminded often that my voice is, by definition, only so effective…after all, I get paid to say nice things about Valley Medical Center.

So when a woman who gets paid to provide health care to people offers a strong opinion on Measure A, it just means infinitely more.

Cynics might say “oh, she’s just watching out for her job.” Rubbish. The nursing shortage in this nation means she can work where she likes, whether VMC remains or not. Anyway, the following ran in yesterday’s Mercury News, and if you are interested in hearing more, please come to the Info Rally and news conference on Tuesday Oct. 7 at VMC, high noon:

Vote yes on A for sake of health

I am writing to encourage voters to vote yes on Measure A on Nov. 4. This measure provides funding for the seismic upgrades to our county hospital, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (VMC). After the 1994 Northridge earthquake shut down 11 Southern California hospitals, the state Legislature passed a law (SB 1953) requiring hospitals and other public buildings to meet certain earthquake safety standards. If these standards are not met by 2013, the buildings must shut down.

VMC will lose over half its beds should this measure be defeated. The residents of Santa Clara County cannot allow this to happen. We cannot allow the loss of our renowned adult and pediatric trauma and burn centers.
If Measure A is defeated, you can only imagine what it would feel like to learn that your badly burned child must be flown 100 miles away to the next nearest burn center. Some voters may feel that because they have private insurance they won’t go to “The County,” but think again. No matter where you go for health care, chances are that if you are hurt, you will be taken to VMC.
As a registered nurse working for our county residents at VMC, I implore you to get to the polls Nov. 4 and cast your “yes” vote for Measure A.

Deborah Gazay

Our Gala and Measure A Support!

I’ve figured out about blogging: If you do it right, you don’t really need to write much…just point out great writing that others have done – such a snap!

We’re so glad that the Mercury News truly understands Valley Medical Center, as their lead editorial today urging a YES vote on Measure A clearly demonstrates:

“When Silicon Valley residents go to a hospital, they expect to receive quality care utilizing the latest advances in technology. That holds true at Valley Medical Center today. But it won’t five years from now unless Santa Clara County voters approve Measure A…” Read the full story here.

Also today in the Merc, our pal Sal Pizarro shared his thoughts on our 20th Anniversary Gala…and I’ll share mine: A HUGE SUCCESS! I cannot thank everyone enough for the work and support and sponsorships that made “Dancing On Top of the World” so much fun, but a few that we really must:

  • Our lead sponsors: Anshen + Allen Architects, Deloitte, The Sobrato Foundation, the Sorci Family Foundation, attorney Richard Alexander and Burrell School Vineyards.
  • Vince, Meghan, and all at Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme – hands down the best event and catering team in the valley…they did the impossible. Again.
  • Narpat and Chandra Bhandari, who opened their amazing home for us.
  • The Board of the VMC Foundation, and our tireless staff…especially JUDY MAASSEN, who did the lion’s share of the work!

Our friend Chris Johnson took lots of great photos*, which you will see soon in all the papers, but Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme did too: www.psrt.com/vmc Check ’em out! We danced the night away thanks to David Dumont’s Li’l Big Band, and our volunteers kept things running smoothly – except the program, which I sort of torpedoed because, frankly, everyone was having too much fun to stop and listen to a speech.

Still, it would have been fun to tell the story of our founding, and thank the founders that were in the room: Brenna Bolger, Dr. Bob Violante, Susie Wilson, Gerry Beemiller, and Peggy Fleming-Jenkins and Greg Jenkins. Thanking John and Sue Sobrato and singing “Happy Birthday” to our board chair, Leah Toeniskoetter, would have been fun too. Instead, you got to read this, and also Sal’s column:

Pizarro: Valley Medical Center supporters kick up their heels at 20th anniversary gala
By Sal Pizarro Mercury News

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Valley Medical Center Foundation wanted its annual fundraising gala to be a truly special event. Saturday night’s “Dancing on Top of the World” certainly qualified on that account.

More than 400 people in black-tie and evening gowns flocked to the beautiful, chateau-like home of Chandra and Narpat Bhandari in the Los Gatos hills, where they took in sweeping views of Silicon Valley and danced the night away in a gorgeous ballroom to the sounds of David Dumont’s Lil’ Big Band.

Guests were spread throughout several rooms and the grounds for dinner, so there were new faces to greet every time you walked into a room. I didn’t run into some people until the evening’s end, when everyone was waiting at the great common denominator: the line for the shuttle to get back down the hill.

Chris Wilder, the VMC Foundation’s executive director, made a really smart call (suggested, I’m told, by John and Sue Sobrato) to cancel the program and auction portion of the night so as not to interrupt the fun, lively vibe.

But I know what Wilder would have told the crowd if they had been herded into the estate’s grand ballroom: The lack of organized opposition to Measure A, the $840 million bond measure to seismically retrofit Valley Medical Center, doesn’t mean the hospital’s supporters should be complacent. The crowded November ballot means getting positive word out about the measure is more important than ever.

*The one above features Saratoga City Councilmember and Santa Clara Family Health Foundation Exec. Director Kathleen King, Heffernan Insurance’s Joseph Talmadge, TBI Development’s and VMC Foundation Chair Leah Toeniskoetter, and County Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Movie Review: The Bucket List

Starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, I figured this Rob Reiner-directed flick would be well-acted, but shallow. Wrong! A poignient film with lots of good messages, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Oh – except for what we pro movie reviewers call a “continuity error” right near the beginning. Continuity errors make it difficult to “suspend disbelief” in the “plotline” and often have us reaching for the “eject button” in favor of “Monty Python reruns”. Fortunately, I powered through it.
What was the error? Nicholson’s caracter is a hospital owner who insists on two-bed rooms for patients, which he sees as a way to save money or something. But here’s the thing: Folks who run hospitals in this day and age know full well that the future is private, single bed rooms!
And guess why? It’s better for the patients, AND, better for the hospital! Single bed rooms offer more privacy, ease of visitation and better rest…but they also offer better control of infection, and higher utilization, since you don’t have to worry about male/female issues, adult/child issues, and a host of other reasons that your humble movie reviewer is just learning about.
SO, Nicholson’s caracter would never insist on shared bed rooms…single bed, private rooms are more efficient any way you look at it. So, if Measure A passes on the November ballot, Valley Medical Center will begin construction on a new patient bed tower – and yes, they will be private suites, unlike some of the older parts of Silicon Valley’s largest hospital.
Ah, you thought I’d never work Measure A into this post, didn’t you. Silly you. Anyway, now you have a good movie to rent this Memorial Day weekend, and another reason to support Measure A. Doesn’t that feel good?

Valley Medical Center: When old was new…

Friends, I just had to share this fantastic photo of Valley Medical Center’s “new main” hospital. New, of course, in 1965. That’s when we’re quite sure this was taken. You car buffs can probably tell me if that’s correct.

What I can tell you for sure is that for 50 years, starting in 1960 and continuing today, this building has helped serve Santa Clara County’s health care needs. It saw to the training of one in four doctors who practice in Silicon Valley. It saw the patient population served by VMC go up hundreds of percentage points. Hundreds!

Fifty years is a good run for a huge hospital building, especially in earth quake country. Health care technology has advanced at a mind-boggling pace, and it’s time to replace this old structure. The state mandates it, and the fault lines around us call for fast action. Measure A can make it happen, and it’s replacement should last far longer than 50 years, providing generations in our community with life-saving services, delivered by the best MD’s, RN’s, techs and volunteers anywhere.

Oh yeah…and if we don’t, this community is in big trouble. http://www.vmcmatters.com/ can tell you more. Thanks to the VMC Historical Society for this great photo – more to come, everyone!

When all around you is collapsing…

…your hospital better not.

Judy is my neighbor, and her life was saved by Valley Medical Center when her house crushed her in the Quake of 1989. It seems strange to call Judy “lucky”, but that’s how she feels looking back on the hours after the second floor of her Los Gatos home landed on top of her as she tried to escape.

Judy is my neighbor, and her story is so compelling that we wanted to capture it on film. It’s wrong to say this is a low-budget production, because that would imply that we had SOME kind of budget. So, this likely won’t win us an Academy Award – but if they gave Oscars out for saving lives, my neighbors – and the trauma team at VMC – would deserve one.

The point is this: We don’t know when the next life-threatening earthquake will hit, but we know it’s coming. Parts of Valley Medical Center need to be replaced because they don’t meet seismic standards for a quake much larger than the one in 1989. And Judy knows that if VMC had not been there for her, she wouldn’t be here today. Period.

Please watch this short video (send it to your personal email if your employer blocks YouTube) and then visit http://www.vmcmatters.com/ to learn about Measure A on the November ballot.
Then ask yourself the question I opened with: When all around you is collapsing, shouldn’t your hospital remain at the ready?

Sunday’s Mercury News: Telling the story of VMC

Today’s Mercury News has done it, yet again. The alert reader of this blog is used to seeing us point out that the Newspaper of Silicon Valley does us proud…seems like every week there’s at least one feature on why WE ALL NEED VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER.

How about two at once? First, today’s lead editorial describing the crisis of Santa Clara County having so few hospital beds…and how much worse it could get. The Merc reminds us how we “lost San Jose Medical Center’s 302 beds in 2004, when the corporate owner realized it could not afford to rebuild or retrofit the facility to meet state seismic standards. If Los Gatos Community Hospital’s 143 beds disappear next spring, the shortage during a disaster could be serious.”

They go on to describe the $840M bond measure to bring VMC to seismic compliance – Measure A, of course. Read the whole thing here – it’s an excellent editorial.

Second, a super front page story on childhood obesity, and how the family unit is the key to kids eating healthy. Kudos to Dr. Dan Delgado and his Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center, funded in part by the VMC Foundation and our generous donors like the Myra Reinhard Family Foundation, Kaiser, and others. Check it out here…it’s a reminder that VMC is not just about making you well when you’re sick: It’s about keeping you healthy in the first place.

And keeping VMC here, open, with all 524 licenced beds intact, is crucial for the health of Silicon Valley. Spread the word!

Relying on cuts alone will devastate our health care system

Earthquakes are a real threat. Yet, there are other ways that Santa Clara County’s health care system could fall apart.

In Today’s Mercury News, Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System CEO Kim Roberts puts it like this: “It is no exaggeration to say that Valley Medical Center is the cornerstone of the county’s health care system. Without it, our county health care system would collapse.

“I’m not being dramatic. it would, in fact, collapse.”

Not convinced? Read her Special to the Mercury News…because facts are facts.

Medical care in our community is absolutely at risk, and whether we’re discussing seismic safety or Schwarzenegger’s proposed draconian cuts, WE ALL have a role to play in solving this crisis.

Did you feel the quake?

Yes – we had a small earthquake early this morning in San Jose. Yet another reminder of the discussion, growing louder every day, about how we must safeguard our community’s largest hospital – Valley Medical Center – in case the next one is NOT a small earthquake.

Seismologists agree with we who grew up here: It’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”.

Please read today’s Op/Ed piece in the Mercury News by our own Leah Toeniskoetter, Chair of the VMC Foundation Board of Directors…it makes the point far more eloquently than I could. It starts like this:

Last month’s devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan province, in which thousands died and more than 270,000 were injured, has once again focused California’s attention on our own vulerability to this type of tragedy.

Please read on by clicking here. Thanks, and by all means, spread the word.

Some very important updates – read on!

Friends, it’s now official: Santa Clara County voters will get a chance to save Valley Medical Center in November. “Measure A” was enthusiastically brought to life two days ago by our county board of supervisors, who hope that voters will pass this bond measure.

If they do, it will raise $840,000,000 to replace VMC’s seismically unsafe buildings, which would bring us in line with California law. This will save our trama center, our burn center, and over HALF of our 574 beds.

If they don’t, we’re all in a bit of a pickle.

More on this later, but the other big news that came that day is that County Executive Pete Kutras has announced his retirement, effective Halloween this year. For those of you who know Pete, you know how passionate he is about Valley Medical Center and how supportive he’s been over the years.

If you share that passion and would like to try your hand at running a county, send your resume. Just kidding. Here’s more on Pete – and the new “Measure A” – from the SJ Mercury News:

County Executive Kutras stepping down
By Deborah Lohse
Mercury News
Article Launched: 06/24/2008 07:12:02 PM PDT

County Executive Pete Kutras, a fixture of Santa Clara County government for more than three decades, announced Tuesday he was retiring on Halloween.

Supervisors and county officials were quick to praise Kutras, 59, known for his droopy mustache, love of the county and unapologetic, unpolitical and sometimes unbending style.

The news surfaced during a busy board meeting Tuesday as supervisors voted on three key issues: They put an $840 million bond measure on the November ballot to upgrade Valley Medical Center; approved spending $1 million to enhance the county fairgrounds despite its uncertain future; and moved forward with a controversial plan to add 24 beds to the juvenile rehabilitation facility William F. James Ranch in Morgan Hill.

The board unanimously backed the bond measure, touting it as a way to raise hundreds of millions of dollars toward the $1.4 billion cost of fortifying the Valley Medical Center against earthquakes as required by state law. About 6 percent of the bond money would be used to build urgent care centers in downtown San Jose.

Voters will be asked in November to approve the bonds, which would be repaid through increased property taxes. If passed, homeowners with median-priced homes of $650,000 would see their property taxes go up about $90 a year, proponents said. But without the bond and extra tax revenue, they argued, the county would have to close more than half its urgent-care beds and the trauma centers.

The proposal will require approval from two-thirds of voters in November to pass.

The increase in beds for the James Ranch passed on a 3-to-2 vote, and will bring capacity to 84 youths at a time. Proponents say the new beds are needed because the county’s Juvenile Hall is bulging with kids. Many of those youths are waiting for space to open at the ranch, which supporters say emphasizes “pro-social values” rather than punitive treatment.

But dissenters Blanca Alvarado and Pete McHugh had hoped to persuade the board to consider focusing on other alternatives, such as prevention or intervention programs that keep kids out of jail.

Amid the weighty decisions, the news of the departure of Kutras – county executive for the last five years – was considered a blow.

“It will be a long time before we can find anyone who can match his love of the county, and his skills,” said an emotional Alvarado.

County union leader Brian O’Neill said Kutras has been open and straightforward with members. “We really treasure that,” said O’Neill.

Supervisor Ken Yeager said he grew to appreciate Kutras’ straightforward style. “Pete was able to get away with it because it’s a big organization and he loved what the county’s mission was all about. You didn’t questions his motives.”

Kutras said he doesn’t plan to look for a job in his retirement, but may volunteer or get involved with the community in 2009.

Before that, he said, “I’m going to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m going to clean my garage.”

Contact Deborah Lohse at dlohse@mercurynews.com or (408) 295-3983.

One big step closer to saving VMC…

Folks, June 11 was a day to make you proud to live in Santa Clara County…or make you wish you did. All five county supervisors voted to place an initiative on the November ballot that, if passed, would raise the money to re-build Valley Medical Center!

The alert reader will remember that VMC has seismically-unsafe portions that account for half its beds – a big problem even if state law didn’t mandate that we replace them…which it does. Did you miss the Editorial in last Sunday’s Mercury News? Read it here, now…

All done? Great. So today, the county supervisors made it clear: This is crucial, we MUST save VMC, and the voters should, in November, support this measure which will raise $840,000,000 in bonds to rebuild the oldest parts of our fantastic public hospital. Like the editorial said, this is a dire situation.

Our county elected officials and county executive are leading on this, and there is one more public hearing on the matter coming up on June 24. If you’re interested in coming, and want more detail, I’d be happy to talk your ear off on the matter: email me at echristopher.wilder@hhs.sccgov.org and I can give you the facts – and hopefully, get you as excited about this milestone as I am. How would you like to live in the community recognized nationally as America’s BEST public hospital?

That choice is coming, and today we’re one step closer. The alternative? WAY too scary to contemplate.