New Nine-Month Study Seeks to Understand COVID-19 in Pregnancy among Minorities

Posted on Oct 26, 2020 in Health Equity, Scroll Images

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Little is known about COVID-19 in pregnancy and particularly whether it disproportionately impacts minorities. Now researchers with Northern California-based Sutter Health have launched a study to help shed light on the prevalence of COVID-19 in patients about to give birth. By testing for antibodies, the team hopes to determine whether exposure to the SARS-CoV2 virus differs by race, ethnicity or other factors.

Researchers with the not-for-profit healthcare system’s Advancing Health Equity program are leading the nine-month study, called the Maternal Covid-19 Antibody Race and Ethnicity (CARE) Study. Among the first of its kind in the U.S.,* Sutter’s Maternal CARE Study aims to increase understanding of whether and how COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy differs by race and ethnicity. The study will look at maternal health indicators including number of weeks of gestation, method of delivery (vaginal or C-section), length of stay and postpartum depression, among others.

“Sutter Health is a recognized national leader in healthcare quality and we consider health equity to be a component of quality. We believe the Maternal CARE Study is a first step in understanding the health equity gap for pregnant patients of color,” says Sutter Health Chief Medical Officer Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., and one of the lead investigators for the study. “The more caregivers learn how the spread of COVID-19 affects pregnant women of diverse races and ethnicities, the better we can care for these patients and the more lives we can save through targeted interventions and solutions,” says Lockhart.

According to Alice Pressman, Ph.D., M.S., director of Sutter’s Center for Health Systems Research, and a lead investigator of the study, “Sutter Health is ideally suited to conduct the study because of our diverse patient population and the fact that about 32,000 babies are born across our network each year.”

The Northern California-based health system cares for one of the most diverse patient populations in the country, with 54% of patients self-identifying as non-white. Sutter’s integrated network of 3 million ethnically, economically and geographically diverse patients is a microcosm of the rest of the nation.

Sutter’s Maternal CARE Study began enrolling participants in July 2020 and will continue through March 2021.

“The information we glean from the Maternal CARE Study could potentially give us significant insight into COVID-19 and how exposure impacts diverse groups during pregnancy,” says Pressman. “The hope is through greater understanding of COVID-19, we can get ahead of the disease and save lives.”

Straightforward Process for Gathering Samples

The process is straightforward for pregnant Sutter patients who consent to join the study. When a pregnant woman comes to the hospital to give birth, a small extra blood sample is collected during the required routine blood tests at admission. The blood sample is then tested for antibodies which show whether a person has had COVID-19 in the past.

Precision Medicine and the Sutter Health Biobank Make the Maternal CARE Study Possible

Gregory Tranah, Ph.D., director of Precision Medicine at Sutter and a lead investigator of the study says, “One key to running a relatively large study like the Maternal CARE Study is the ability to properly collect, store and analyze biological samples. Sutter is prepared to handle these requirements thanks to our adoption of the precision medicine medical care model and having our own biobank.”

Says Tranah, “We anticipate the data from the study will lead us to useful insights that improve and provide more equitable care for pregnant women of color across the country.”

*A University of Pennsylvania study of nearly 1,300 women over a three-month period earlier this year found that Black and Latinx pregnant women in Philadelphia are five times as likely as their white counterparts to have been exposed to COVID-19.

CPMC’s HELP Program for Older Adults Receives Top Designation from AGS

Posted on Oct 22, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Expanding Access, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

CPMC becomes fifth U.S. medical center to achieve elite ‘Center of Excellence’ status

California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco is now one of only five organizations in the United States to achieve the American Geriatric Society (AGC) CoCare: HELP™ Center of Excellence designation for its Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). CPMC was recently awarded this elite status after demonstrating the highest level of best practices in geriatric care.

“I am so proud of our dedicated team at CPMC for all their hard work in building a world-class geriatric care program,” says hospitalist and geriatrician Wendy Zachary, M.D., who directs CPMC’s Acute Care for Elderly (ACE) unit and is the HELP physician-champion. “This accreditation from the American Geriatric Society validates and strengthens our mission to provide patient-centered, advanced care for older members of our community who are particularly medically vulnerable–especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Watch this video about CPMC’s ACE unit.

Targeted Interventions Lead to Better Outcomes for People Ages 70+

The AGC CoCare: HELP™ program is designed to prevent both delirium and functional decline in patients 70 years and older. CPMC’s HELP program uses an interdisciplinary team (Advanced Practice Nurses, specially-trained Elder Life Specialists, and trained volunteers) to integrate principles of geriatric care into standard nursing and medical care at all three CPMC hospital campuses in San Francisco, including the ACE unit at the Mission Bernal Campus, as well as the Van Ness Campus and Davies Campus.

Geriatric syndromes include conditions typical of aging such as delirium, incontinence, falls, pressure injuries, and functional decline. CPMC’s HELP program works to prevent these geriatric syndromes in the hospital setting by helping re-orient patients to their surroundings through conversation and social support, assisting with range-of-motion and breathing exercises, walking, offering companionship during meals, implementing a schedule, and more.

Benefits of HELP at CPMC include:

  • Helps maximize independence and physical functioning of high-risk patients (age 70+)
  • Improves overall quality of hospital care for older patients, including improvement in hospital outcomes and satisfaction with care
  • Helps decrease the length of stay for patients by an average of 1- 1.5 days
  • Helps reduce hospital readmissions
    • Van Ness Campus’ HELP program saw a decrease in readmissions by 11% in 2020 Q1, 17% in 2019, and 24% in 2018
    • Mission Bernal Campus’ HELP program prevented more than 30 readmissions in 2019
  • Helps reduce falls for older patients by as much as 50% at the Van Ness Campus and Davies Campus (2019)
  • Provides cost-effective care, with reduced overall hospital costs by as much as $2 Million across each of the three campuses in 2019

“The HELP program is making a meaningful difference in changing the course of lives for elderly patients and their loved ones, and I am truly grateful for our staff, volunteers and support from our philanthropic donors who helped make this elite recognition possible,” said Warren Browner, M.D., CEO of CPMC.

Mission Bernal Campus Hub of Geriatric Care in San Francisco

While CPMC’s HELP program is carried out across all its three campuses, its Mission Bernal Campus is home to the medical center’s comprehensive ACE unit and one of only three accredited Geriatric Emergency Departments in Northern California.

“These differentiators of specialty care for older adults and this recent acknowledgement from the AGS further highlights CPMC’s commitment to geriatric care and cements our Mission Bernal Campus as a hub of geriatric patient care in San Francisco and the broader Bay Area,” says Vernon Giang, M.D., chief medical executive of Sutter’s CPMC.

Musical B-I-N-G-O Brings Moments of Levity for One Hospitalized Elder

Posted on Oct 22, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, People, Quality, Scroll Images

Callie Cowart, a full-time board-certified music therapist at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco uses music to heal.

Cowart recently offered her therapy sessions to an older patient undergoing care at CPMC’s Mission Bernal Campus Acute Care for Elderly (ACE) unit. Cowart explains that the patient had many recurring hospitalizations over the span of four months this year.

“She and I worked together originally to use music to provide a competing stimulus to pain, which she unfortunately experienced a lot of during her time here,” said Cowart.

A B-I-N-G-O Playlist to East Anxiety & Pain

As Cowart and the patient got to know each other, the patient would look forward to sessions with “her Callie” as an energy booster and motivator.

“One morning I read in the physical therapist’s notes that prior to shelter-in-place this patient would frequent a local BINGO hall, but she’s not been able attend since the start of the pandemic. Since I knew her favorite songs, I surprised her in our next session with a customized BINGO card with each square having a different song title,” said Cowart.

To give the full effect, Cowart cut out strips of paper with the matching song titles, placed them in a bag, and used the strips as her BINGO balls that the patient could pull out. Once a BINGO “ball” was drawn, the two would sing and play together.

Music Therapy at CPMC

The Music Therapy Program at CPMC offers patients and their families the opportunity to receive therapy services from a board-certified music therapist, at no cost to the family. Music therapists are seen as an integrated part of the patient’s multidisciplinary care team and work closely with doctors, nurses, child life specialists and other therapists as part of care for the patient’s whole self.

The Sound of Music on Health

According to an article published on Harvard Health, a growing body of research attests that music therapy is more than a nice perk. It can improve medical outcomes and quality of life in a variety of ways.

For example, music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody.

Sessions that Strike the Right Chords

Cowart says that the patient was an excellent handheld shaker player and developed a sort of fan club among the ACE unit staff for her spunky personality.

“She told me time and time again that this musical intervention gave her an increased sense of social support and mood/energy boosting during her hospitalizations at ACE because visitors had not been allowed in the hospital during COVID,” shared Cowart.

“Having something and someone to look forward to in a place that can sometimes be scary or associated with negative memories and emotions can prove to be very important,” she adds.

As for the patient, thankfully she has not had to return to the ACE unit and appears to be doing well, which is music to Cowart’s ears.

Landed to Expand Homeownership Assistance Program to Sutter Health’s Essential Professionals in Healthcare

Posted on Oct 16, 2020 in Innovation, People, Scroll Images

Pilot marks first expansion of Landed’s down payment program and homebuyer education services into healthcare sector

.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, Landed and Sutter Health announced a pilot program to expand Landed’s homeownership assistance program to the healthcare sector. Landed, a personal finance company aimed at helping essential employees afford to buy homes, will bring new homeownership options to staff and physicians of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group, respectively, as well as employees of Mills-Peninsula Medical Center.

The pilot program with Sutter Health is Landed’s first expansion into the healthcare sector, which comes on the heels of the company’s recent milestone of helping 500 educators nationwide access homeownership over the last five years through down payment assistance and other homebuying services.

“Now more than ever, we need to uphold essential healthcare workers as they uphold us on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic by making it easier to buy a home in the communities they serve,” said Alex Lofton, co-founder of Landed. “We’re thrilled to work with Sutter Health as our first healthcare partner, who like us, knows firsthand how challenging the expensive Bay Area market can be to retain good talent in these critical, essential professional jobs.”

Landed’s down payment program invests alongside employees working in healthcare and education to help them reach a 20% down payment. Landed’s funds, up to $120,000 per household, come in the form of an equity investment, meaning that homebuyers share in a portion of the gain – or loss, if any – of the value of the home once the partnership is ended — typically by sale or refinance. Landed also offers access to a network of agents and lenders, free homebuyer guidance and resources to help make informed buying decisions.

As part of its 2019 “Live Well, Work Well” project, Sutter Health explored options that might help staff purchase homes near their workplace—thereby decreasing commute time and helping employees live in the communities they serve. Landed’s decision to offer its program to healthcare workers at Sutter has potential to positively impact Bay Area communities now and in the future. For example, hours saved on the road gives more time for clinicians and staff to rest, recuperate and recharge. Additionally, Landed’s assistance could help a pediatrician live in the community he or she serves and increase the possibility that families have the same provider for their children for their entire youth.

Catherine A Martin, D.O., MPH

“I’m really excited about the potential of this down payment assistance program. I chose family medicine because I want to care for my patients from cradle to college. A program like this could help me achieve my goal of putting down roots in this community,” said Catherine A. Martin, D.O., MPH, from Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group who cares for patients in Watsonville. Read Dr. Martin’s story.

Jill Ragsdale

“Our teams are living our values every day, supporting numerous patients and families,” said Jill Ragsdale, Sutter Health’s senior vice president and chief people and culture officer. “We understand the importance of caring for our employees so that they may care for others. Sutter Health is responding in creative and compassionate ways to help employees feel supported—especially in a time with many unknowns. We believe helping alleviate some of the stress associated with aspects outside of work can ease team members’ peace of mind and enhance their well-being. We are very pleased Landed has agreed to offer its innovative support program to our valued staff.” Read an employee story that demonstrates why it’s important that our staff can put down roots in the communities they serve.

Sutter Health, like other healthcare systems in Northern California, faces recruitment and retention challenges in markets with a high cost of living and lack of affordable housing. Facilitating access to programs like Landed that enable employees to live where they work further enhances the health of the diverse communities Sutter serves. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017-2018 housing was by far the largest expenditure category for households in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. area, accounting for 39.4% of the household budget, as compared to the 33% U.S. average.

Since its founding in 2015, Landed has helped hundreds of educators purchase homes in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Honolulu, Seattle, Portland (Ore.), Washington DC, and Boston metro areas. Hospitals and care centers across Sutter Health’s not-for-profit, integrated health network support the delivery of safe, high-quality, affordable care to more than 3 million Northern Californians each year.

Sutter’s Samuel Merritt University Earns Top 10 California Nursing School Recognition

Posted on Oct 14, 2020 in Affiliates, Uncategorized

Samuel Merritt University’s (SMU) School of Nursing has emerged as one of the Ten Best Accredited Nursing Schools in California for 2020, according to Nursing Process, a nationwide organization that assesses nursing education.

Nursing Process identified the top 10 list after an evaluation of 220 nursing schools across the state. Rankings are based on academic quality, licensure exam rates, affordability and reputation.

“SMU has phenomenal faculty, students, staff, and community partners. We work collaboratively to develop and implement excellent experiences for our students,” School of Nursing Dean Lorna Kendrick said of SMU clinching the tenth spot on the list. “Our curriculum is constantly evaluated and updated to make sure our students are receiving an exemplary education. We are preparing our students in hospitals and community settings where they not only learn hands-on skills, but, more importantly, how to incorporate compassion and responsive care for all.”

SMU, an affiliate of Sutter Health located at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, has educated healthcare professionals in California for more than a century. The school offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant and podiatric medicine.

In addition to classroom learning, SMU has integrated simulation-based learning into its programs for the past decade. In the 5,500-square-foot Health Sciences Simulation Center, students learn and practice clinical skills on computerized manikins that realistically mimic breathing, eye movements and pulse sounds. Specially trained actors play patients with specific health needs in the simulations.

Visit Samuel Merritt University to learn more about this top 10 recognition.

Mammography Goes Mobile

Posted on Oct 9, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Expanding Access, Scroll Images, Women's Services


The Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, part of Sutter Health’s not-for-profit integrated network of care, has launched a new mobile mammography van to provide convenient access to screening mammography services for underserved women and help improve early detection of breast cancer.

“Finding breast cancer at its earliest possible stage is critical to survival, and early detection through regular mammograms remains the best defense against the disease,” says oncologic surgeon Eileen Consorti, M.D., medical director of the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Program. “As a breast cancer survivor, this cause is very personal to me. The mobile mammography van will provide screenings to hundreds of women each year, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured.”

Beginning this month, the 40-foot van will travel to community-based health care clinics in the East Bay and surrounding communities to provide mammography services to underserved women. The van will eventually travel to senior centers, houses of worship, health fairs and businesses once the COVID-19 threat lessens, broadening access to critical breast health services while providing the same high-quality care as patients who come to Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center locations.

“Access to affordable and convenient breast cancer screenings can be lifesaving. Our mobile mammography unit will help our team bring advanced technology to patients in our community that most need it,” says Alta Bates Summit Medical Center CEO David Clark.

The new mobile mammography van is equipped with 3D mammography (digital breast tomosynthesis) and also offers a comfortable waiting area as well as a private changing and exam room.

The van is made possible by a grant from Peter Read, co-founder of Grocery Outlet in honor of his wife Carol Ann Read who passed away from breast cancer, and a Sutter match grant.

Read has worked collaboratively with Alta Bates Summit administrators and physicians to raise funds to update breast screening equipment in the East Bay and provide for the needs of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer for many years. He has also funded educational events to raise breast cancer awareness within Latino and African American communities.

Although the pain of losing Carol Ann will never go away, Peter Read is comforted by the impact his philanthropy has made. “This investment in Alta Bates Summit gives me great personal satisfaction,” he says. “I am excited about reaching even more women with the mobile mammography.”

This World Mental Health Day, Let’s Celebrate the Creativity of Our Young People

Posted on Oct 9, 2020 in Mental Health, People, Scroll Images

A message from John Boyd, Sutter’s CEO of System Mental Health & Addiction Care:

World Mental Health Day is always an opportunity to reflect on our well-being, both as individuals and as a society. After the unprecedented difficulties and upheavals of 2020, it should also serve as a challenge. We can no longer minimize or overlook the impact of individual and collective trauma, and we must work together to ensure a more supportive, empathetic and human future. Central to that project is reimagining “mental health” as “human health”—it’s fundamental to who we are, how we connect with others and how we understand the world around us. Making this shift in thinking a reality must start with a focus on young people.

As I’ve written about before, my own childhood was shaped by experiences of trauma, stigma and shame. Sadly, these same experiences are far too common among our youth, and the events of the past year have only further intensified the impact. Too often, the heaviest burden falls on our most marginalized communities, including people of color and neurodiverse students. With schools across the country facing difficult questions about whether and how to safely re-open, it’s important to center students’ developmental needs in addition to their educational needs.

It goes without saying that young people, particularly adolescents, place a great deal of value in their friendships and peer relationships. There is a deep biological and psychological basis for this—adolescents are hard-wired to seek out friendships and form social bonds. They are also learning to assert their independence, challenge authority, and test boundaries (as any teacher or parent will attest!). School and extracurricular activities provide critical outlets for these fundamental needs, and unfortunately many public health guidelines—physical distancing, avoiding large groups—are in tension with the developmental needs of our young people. But we can learn a lot about how we can solve these problems from young people themselves.

One of the most heartening aspects of the past year, despite its difficulties, has been the many stories of creativity, hope, and resilience from young people. The developmental processes I mentioned above are also great drivers of creative thinking. What may look like boredom or impatience from the outside can also be an opening for a novel, innovative idea.

We’ve seen that spirit of discovery and creativity as young people continue to raise their voices in response to ongoing police violence around the country. Others have used technology in surprising ways to stay connected with friends despite many new obstacles. Young artists are also finding ways to create through diverse media, providing a vital outlet for self-expression at a difficult time in a young person’s life. No matter what the future has in store, we can always count on young people to surprise us.

In that spirit of creativity, Sutter Health is reimagining youth mental health through human-centered design. We have a assembled a diverse team of clinical experts, social workers, designers and youth advisors to understand the lived experience of young people as they transition from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. The interplay between the ups and downs of everyday life, developmental psychology and living with a mental health condition presents unique challenges for young people at this age. That’s why it’s so critical that we take a human health approach to reimagining the experience of young people living with mental health conditions.

We’re all facing more constraints than ever in 2020, and it’s our responsibility to keep exploring and imagining new ways to meet these challenges. We should inspire our young people to do the same—their resourcefulness and empathy gives me hope for the future. Our creativity is one of the things that makes us human. Let’s use that creativity to be healthier, too.

How an Integrated Health System Improved Care for Patients During the Pandemic

Posted on Oct 6, 2020 in Quality, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sutter Health’s network of 22 hospitals has reduced the stays for COVID-19 patients from an average of 20 days to just eight days today, thanks to a coordinated response deployed by the integrated healthcare system.

It is one of the ways to show the power of an integrated network in responding to this health emergency. Care teams across the Sutter Health network give patients high-quality care whether at a medical center in San Francisco or Sacramento or a rural hospital in Amador County or Lake County.

Some other key examples of the effectiveness of Sutter Health’s integrated network include:

  • The ability to increase care capacity by 200-300% in the midst of the pandemic
  • Expanding telehealth services to shift from serving 20 to 7000 patient visits per day
  • Doubling the capacity of remote electronic intensive care units so patients could access 24/7 critical care specialists
  • Reallocating crucial resources to get personal protective equipment and ventilators where they were needed most
William Isenberg, M.D.

“We made investments very early on in the beginnings of our network so that we could best support the hospitals, care centers and other health services in our communities,” said William Isenberg, M.D., chief quality and safety officer for Sutter Health. “That planning has helped us in ways we could never have imagined during the pandemic, as well as during some of the wildfires that have touched parts of our Northern California service area.”

Sutter Health serves one of the most demographically and geographically diverse regions in the nation, which means the healthcare system works to identify and respond to the different needs of different communities. An integrated network is able to quickly respond and adjust to the needs in local communities.

Phillip Yu, M.D.

“Rural healthcare has historically faced unique challenges, like location, capacity and supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic has only placed more pressure on these communities,” said Phillip Yu, M.D., chief medical executive and administrator of Memorial Hospital Los Banos. “Being part of an integrated network, however, our rural-based or remote area hospitals have the necessary resources to meet the needs of residents.”

An integrated network also supports an easier sharing of best practices, which can help improve clinical outcomes. For instance, care teams across Sutter were able to minimize the need for ventilators in COVID-19-positive patients by using other appropriate therapies. Consistent meetings and briefings between hospital clinical leaders and those within Sutter Health’s Emergency Management System helped provide the timeliest information and developments. Hospital clinical leaders then could quickly turn around and share these findings and approaches with their own hospital incident command centers and teams on the ground.

Abhishek Dosi

“Our mission has always focused on enhancing the well-being of people in the communities we serve,” said Abhishek Dosi, CEO of Sutter Solano Medical Center. “We meet our mission when we collaborate with teams across our network. These efforts have made an even greater impact during this remarkable point in time–helping improve patient outcomes and slow the spread of the virus. While there are still many unknowns with the pandemic, our network has the structure and our teams have the experience and expertise to continue serving the needs of patients and families.”

Advanced Breast Imaging Now Offered at Sutter Delta Medical Center

Posted on Oct 5, 2020 in Affiliates, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Wellness, Women's Services

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Delta residents now have the option of staying in the community and still enjoying access to advanced three-dimensional (3D) mammography.

Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch offers patients access to advanced screening and diagnostic breast imaging, known as 3D tomosynthesis or tomo, to improve the early detection of breast cancer.

“Bringing state-of-the-art mammography imaging technology, like our new 3D tomosynthesis suite, to the local community is central to our mission here at Sutter Delta Medical Center. We serve a diverse population, and our hospital is proud to expand its offerings to help women in eastern Contra Costa County to better manage their health. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an ideal time to talk to your physician about whether 3D tomography is the right option for you,” said Sutter Delta CEO Sherie Hickman.

What are the advantages of 3D Mammography?

“3D tomosynthesis mammography is a tremendous advancement in breast cancer screening over traditional (two-dimensional) 2D mammography,” says John Van Uden, M.D., medical director of Sutter Delta Medical Center’s Diagnostic Imaging Services. “Instead of single, flat two-dimensional images of the breast, 3D mammography obtains a scrollable 3-D set of images in each orientation. This greatly enhances our ability to distinguish normal breast tissue from a breast cancer.”

Kyla Yee, M.D., a Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation OB/GYN based in Antioch agrees, “3D tomo offers a significant advantage over traditional two-dimensional mammography. With this advanced technology, we’re often able to find cancer when it’s still extremely small. And we know that when we are able to detect and treat cancer at its early stages, patients can have much better survival rates.” Studies have shown that adding 3-D tomo to regular screening mammograms can help detect more cancers in dense breast tissue. Says Michele Bergman, M.D., a Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation OB/GYN based in Antioch, “3D tomo can provide better cancer detection, fewer call backs and greater peace of mind for patients.”

And despite these diagnostic improvements, says Dr. Van Uden, the exam involves approximately the same very low-dose of X-ray to obtain the images, and no additional inconvenience or discomfort for the patient.

How does 3D tomography work?

During a 3D tomo mammogram, an x-ray arm moves in an arc over the compressed breast capturing multiple images from different angles. These digital images are then reconstructed or “synthesized” into a set of 3D images by a computer.

Sutter Delta’s 3D tomo machine is housed in a brand new suite at the hospital, offering patients and referring physicians in eastern Contra Costa County local access to advanced technology in the arsenal to detect breast cancer early.

Safety is the Number One Priority

Sutter Delta, like all Sutter imaging centers, is taking steps to protect patients and staff. These steps include:

  • Mandatory Masking – Staff, patients and visitors must wear masks at all times.
  • Isolation – Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is isolated from waiting areas, patient rooms, entrances and spaces the general population uses.
  • Cleaning – Our teams have increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Screening – Everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before entering our care.

Remember, catching up on preventive care that may have been postponed during the pandemic, such as a mammogram or a colonoscopy, is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.

Click here for more information about 3D mammography and imaging mammography at Sutter Delta or call (925) 756-1146.

Lost Your Insurance? Resources to Help with Health Insurance Disruption

Health insurance coverage can be disrupted by wage or job loss, but there are options that provide access to important cancer screenings, even if you’ve lost your normal source of coverage.

In California, the Every Woman Counts program covers mammograms and cervical cancer screening for women with no or limited insurance who meet other eligibility criteria. To learn more, patients can call (800) 511-2300.

Other options include extending employer-based coverage through COBRA and CalCOBRA, shopping for plans and applying for premium assistance through Covered California, or applying for and qualifying for Medi-Cal. Charity care and financial assistance options may also be available. You can learn more about these options by visiting our coverage options page.

Fact vs Fiction: Medical Expert Dispels Six Flu Vaccination Myths

Posted on Sep 28, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness

Separating flu vaccination fact from fiction can be challenging in this age of information overload. But it’s critical to have the facts straight because influenza and COVID-19 are separate viruses –so we run the risk of contracting both at the same time. That’s why it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot this year.

Jeffrey Silvers, M.D., Sutter Health’s medical director of Pharmacy and Infection control, dispels six common flu vaccination myths to help you and your loved ones stay healthy this flu season.

Myth #1: “My flu shot gave me the flu.”

Fact: Dr. Silvers says, “You can’t catch the flu from flu vaccine because the influenza viruses in the vaccine are dead, and therefore they’re not infectious.”

Dr. Silvers says sometimes people think the vaccine has given them the flu because they get sick soon after being vaccinated. He explains it takes about two weeks after you’ve received the flu vaccine for antibodies to develop in your body and provide protection against flu. “So, if you come down with the flu a few days after you receive a flu shot, you were probably infected with the flu before you got the shot or before your immune system had a chance to build up its defenses,” he says.

Even when they get a flu shot, people occasionally may still get the flu, not because their immunity wasn’t built up before they were exposed to it, but because they caught a strain of flu that wasn’t in the flu vaccine they received. This can happen because the strains of influenza virus that are included in the vaccine each year, there are typically four, may not exactly match the strains circulating in the community. Each year, infectious disease experts select the strains they believe will be prevalent in the U.S based on their observations of the most recent flu season in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, they’re not always able to predict which strains will be most prevalent in the U.S.

Even if the flu vaccine isn’t a perfect match for the strains in circulation during a given flu season, receiving a flu shot is still be beneficial. People who are vaccinated against the flu and still come down with the virus typically experience milder symptoms than those who skip the shot.

Myth #2: “I never get the flu, so I don’t need the vaccine.”

Fact: According to the CDC, nearly a quarter of those infected with the flu virus didn’t even know they were sick because they had such mild symptoms. The problem with that, says Dr. Silvers, is asymptomatic people can still spread the flu virus to others for up to a week. Getting a flu shot helps protect you, your loved ones and the larger community.

Myth #3: “Getting the flu isn’t a big deal.”

Fact: The flu is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and death, especially for people at high-risk such as newborn babies, people with chronic medical conditions and the elderly.

Remember, says Dr. Silvers, “If you get the flu, even if it’s a mild case and you don’t have symptoms, you could still pass it along to someone for whom getting the flu is a big deal, even deadly, like a grandparent, a newborn, or someone who has a weakened immune system—such as a person who is undergoing chemotherapy.”

Myth #4: I’m young and healthy, so I don’t need to get vaccinated for the flu.

Fact: The CDC recommends that nearly everybody 6 months and older get vaccinated for the flu. That’s because the flu is a contagious disease that can lead to serious illness, like pneumonia, as well as missed work or even hospitalization for otherwise healthy people.

Myth #5: I can’t get a flu shot because I’m pregnant.

Fact: The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get flu vaccinations because pregnant women are at a higher risk for serious complications from flu. Flu may also be harmful for a developing baby. Getting the flu shot while you’re pregnant even helps protect your baby from the flu for months after birth because moms pass antibodies to their babies before they’re born. And that’s important, says Dr. Silvers, because babies younger than 6 months can’t get the flu vaccine and are more likely to suffer serious complications from the flu.

Myth #6: I got vaccinated for the flu last year, so I don’t need it again this year.

Fact: You must get the vaccine every year in order to protect yourself and others from the flu. Why? Dr. Silvers explains, “The immune protection you get from a flu shot declines over time and flu viruses are constantly mutating.” These mutations are why the flu vaccine is updated every year.

The bottom line? For the best protection, nearly everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.

Okay, I’m convinced. Where can I get a flu shot?

Flu shots are available by appointment at your doctor’s office. Same day flu shots are available by appointment at Sutter Walk-In Care facilities. Click here for more information and flu vaccination resources.

Birth Never Takes a Holiday—Even During a Pandemic

Posted on Sep 24, 2020 in Affiliates, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Scroll Images, Sutter Davis Hospital, Women's Services

Nurse-Midwives Continue to Care for Moms during Pregnancy and Birth

Jessica Nagel, CNM. Photo: Birth Fusion/Jennifer Anderson Birth Photography

Many workers have been sidelined by the pandemic, but for nurse-midwives, life –quite literally— goes on.

“People still need us, pandemic or not,” says Jessica Nagel, a certified nurse-midwife for Sutter Medical Group in Davis.

Midwives the world over embody the caregiving ideals of compassion and calm under pressure. In designating 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the World Health Organization could not have honored a more appropriate group at this not-so-calm time — nor could the American College of Nurse-Midwives in naming Oct. 4-10 National Midwifery Week.

In the United States, midwifery has evolved haphazardly from an unregulated home practice to the nursing-based model of today, with national standards and professional certifications and licensing similar to those for nurse practitioners. The profession now plays a vital role in the delivery of women’s healthcare, not just during pregnancy but throughout a woman’s life span.

“Midwives have become a valuable part of our care teams,” says Annette Fineberg, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with Sutter Medical Group in Davis. “I’ve learned so much from the midwives I’ve worked with over almost 25 years. The collaboration between midwives and obstetricians is far more than the sum of its parts, and we all benefit.”

When Nagel was a college junior majoring in child development in the early 2000s, midwifery was not on her radar.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” she admits. “But I always enjoyed my classes in pregnancy and prenatal development.”

Recognizing her interests, Nagel pivoted to nursing school, working in a birth center and ultimately training in midwifery through Kentucky-based Frontier Nursing University. In 2009, she joined Sutter Medical Group in Davis, where she provides prenatal care at Sutter Davis Women’s Health Clinic and assists deliveries at Sutter Davis Hospital.

Kristen Ayer, a certified nurse-midwife and obstetrics/gynecology nurse practitioner for Sutter-affiliated Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Santa Cruz, stumbled into midwifery.

Kristen Ayer, CNM

“When I was pregnant with my first son in 1980, I decided to have my baby at home with a midwife and became fascinated with pregnancy and birth, which led to my interest in midwifery as a career,” she says.

Under the guidance of seasoned midwives, Ayer studied normal pregnancy and birth and began apprenticing at home deliveries. After completing an apprenticeship, she decided to go to nursing school to become a certified nurse midwife.

Ayer completed her midwifery education at the University of California, San Francisco, in 1993 and has practiced in Santa Cruz County ever since. She estimates she’s delivered 3,000 to 4,000 babies in her nearly 30-year career.

Ayer and Nagel find their greatest job satisfaction in supporting women.

“The joy in my work is starting with someone who’s scared, and then, after spending time with them, seeing them walk out feeling empowered,” Nagel says. “They feel comfortable and brave and strong.”

Listening is key to that process, Ayer says.

“It’s a tremendous service to listen to women deeply, to connect with them and help them have the kind of delivery they want,” she says. “The value for patients is having someone who’s gentle and thorough and communicates well.”

Midwifery care looks a bit different in the age of COVID-19. Nagel and Ayer can no longer offer in-person group prenatal sessions, where pregnant women and their partners gather to learn and socialize. Ayer says group care and some office visits are transitioning to a virtual platform. Prenatal checkups look different, too.

“Now we do one-on-one checkups just with Mom,” Nagel says. “No more bringing in other kids to listen to the heartbeat, and now the partners are on Facetime in the room. There’s definitely a lot more use of technology and telehealth.”

Pandemic restrictions have produced at least one unexpected blessing. After giving birth, many moms return home feeling less exhausted because they haven’t had the pressure of extra people in the labor room and visitors dropping by later.

“Now, you can have only one healthy support person,” Nagel says. “The one-person rule has created some very intimate experiences for the woman and her partner. Women don’t feel they have to get presentable afterward, and they can both just take their time. They can relax and get to know their baby.”

Learn More about Nurse-Midwife Services at Sutter Health

At many Sutter hospitals, you have the option to choose a certified nurse-midwife. Sutter’s certified nurse-midwives deliver babies and can provide comprehensive prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.

Read on for more information on our certified nurse-midwife services.

COVID-19 and the Flu: Time to Arm Yourself with a Flu Shot

Posted on Sep 17, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

This fall, we could face a flu season like no other. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible to become sick with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. You don’t want to risk being infected with both because as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people infected with COVID-19 and flu may be more likely to be hospitalized with severe and sometimes deadly disease.

Getting a flu shot this season may also help conserve potentially scarce health care resources like personal protective equipment (PPE), and reduce the burden on healthcare systems as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For these reasons, it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine this year,” says Bill Isenberg, M.D., Sutter Health’s chief quality and safety officer. “As we await a vaccine for COVID-19, we very strongly encourage people to get flu shots to boost their immunity and protect themselves and the people they love from the flu.”

“Even without the added threat of COVID-19, getting a flu shot is one of the most important things you can do to help lower your risk for getting sick with the flu, avoid suffering through days or weeks of illness and help prevent spreading the infection to those around you, at home, at work and in the community,” says Sutter Health’s medical director of Pharmacy and Infection Control, Jeffrey Silvers, M.D.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for flu, and typically around 50,000 die from it. A flu shot is important even if you’re staying home more—or working from home—because you still face potential exposure to the influenza virus, which you can then spread to others.

When should you get the flu vaccine?

“Timing is important,” says Dr. Silvers. “The CDC recommends people get vaccinated for influenza before the flu begins spreading in the community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and begin to provide protection.”

In the U.S., flu typically begins circulating in October. That means the ideal time to get vaccinated for flu is late September through early October.

“Vaccination is still beneficial as long as flu viruses are circulating. If you haven’t been vaccinated by Halloween or even Thanksgiving, it can still be protective to get vaccinated through December or later,” says Dr. Isenberg. “The influenza season usually peaks in January or February, but sometimes the virus is still circulating in the community as late as May.”


How can you get a flu shot?

  • The process to get a flu shot will be different this year because of COVID-19.
  • Vaccination at your Sutter-affiliated doctor’s office is by appointment only.
  • Existing patients can schedule appointments through the patient portal My Health Online or by phone beginning September 17.
  • Sutter Walk-in Care offers same day appointments for flu shots, whether you are an established Sutter patient or not.


Who should get this year’s flu shot?

  • For nearly everybody, getting an annual flu shot remains the first and most important step to help prevent the spread of the flu—you don’t want to get the flu and COVID-19.
  • Getting the flu shot is especially important for people in high-risk groups: pregnant women, elderly, children under five and those with other health conditions.
  • The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get a flu shot every year.
  • The CDC recommends a flu shot for all women who are pregnant during flu season. (Pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray vaccine.)

Make sure kids are up to date on vaccinations

Dr. Isenberg says it’s also a good idea, before flu season is in full swing, to make sure children are up to date on their vaccinations including chickenpox, Diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTaP), Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and Polio.

“Now is an ideal time to visit your child’s pediatrician, before the annual flu kicks in and pediatricians’ offices are inundated with sick children,” says Dr. Isenberg.

To find a Sutter primary care physician, click here.

Is it safe to go to the doctor’s office or Sutter Walk-In-Care?

Sutter Walk-In Care centers and Sutter-affiliated doctor’s offices have taken several steps to help minimize spread as the pandemic continues. These measures include mandatory masking for patients and visitors, performing extra cleaning and disinfecting, and screening employees before each shift.

Protect yourself and your family. Get a flu shot.

Project Connects Clinics Serving Most Vulnerable with Health Systems, Specialists

Posted on Sep 16, 2020 in Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Health Equity, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Pandemic underscores value of seamless connection. More than 2 million patient records shared with participating providers.

Coordination between health care providers can be crucial for patients’ health – and it’s even more important while caring for them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A newly completed electronic health record system is enabling primary care providers from Community Health Center Network (CHCN) health centers to better coordinate patient care, improve health equity, and manage population health for the vulnerable groups they care for in the East Bay. The project electronically connects the eight community health centers of the CHCN with local health systems and specialists.

The new system – powered by OCHIN Epic Electronic Health Record (EHR) and funded through generous grants from Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente– allows CHCN health centers to reliably and confidentially share patients’ electronic health records (EHR) with participating providers.

With more seamless collaboration between health centers, primary care providers, hospitals, and specialists in Alameda County, more than 270,000 patient records are now digitally accessible. Through this state-of-the-art EHR technology this is helping provide high-quality health care for the area’s most vulnerable residents.

“This new integrated system ensures that patients will have a seamless experience, while receiving the best possible coordination of their care,” said Ralph Silber, CEO of CHCN. “We’re already seeing the positive impact and transformative potential of the OCHIN Epic EHR, as it’s deployed across our network.”

First implemented at Axis Community Health, OCHIN Epic EHR is now available at all eight of CHCN’s community health centers with the last health center, La Clínica, launched in April.

“We were really pleased to be able to complete this deployment for CHCN, despite the pandemic, by offering full support for a virtual go-live at La Clínica,” said OCHIN CEO Abby Sears. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure frontline providers and public health authorities are able to exchange real-time health information and can respond quickly to the needs of their communities.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, health centers had to quickly adapt to caring for patients virtually. OCHIN Epic allowed CHCN health centers to quickly begin telehealth and video appointments so patients could continue receiving high-quality health care.

“OCHIN Epic is a powerful system,” said Sue Compton, CEO of Axis Community Health in Pleasanton, Calif. “We’re just beginning to explore its full capabilities, but the portal already offers more engaging features for our patients and more robust charting features for our providers, including both medical and Integrated Behavioral Health providers. It has strengthened our capacity to meet the complex needs of the patients we serve.”

The OCHIN Epic EHR also provides CHCN health centers with tools for data reporting and population health management, and offers a patient portal called My Chart, which facilitates patient communication.

To date, over 2 million patient records have been shared between CHCN health centers’ OCHIN Epic EHR and hospital/specialist EHRs. With full implementation, the system supports over 500 primary care, dental, and behavioral care providers who serve over 270,000 patients across CHCN’s network of care.

“Sutter Health is a longstanding partner of CHCN and its member clinics. We are delighted to expand our partnership through this vital initiative to improve care coordination between health care providers and to deliver comprehensive, quality health care for underserved communities of the East Bay,” said Emily Webb, vice president Bay Area External Affairs for Sutter Health. “Being connected through technology will support improvements in care for vulnerable patients at an especially critical time when the need is so great in our communities.”

“As a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve community health, Kaiser Permanente is pleased to support this important work,” said Kevin Hart, senior vice president, Strategic Development and Technology, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “We are investing and partnering in our communities to improve health care quality and access; helping build out the EHR among our safety net partners is key to this.”

The OCHIN Epic EHR is available at CHCN’s community health centers including: Asian Health Services, Axis Community Health, Bay Area Community Health, La Clínica, LifeLong Medical Care, Native American Health Center, Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, and West Oakland Health.

Sutter’s Electronic ICU Helps Hospitals Handle Influx of Coronavirus Patients

Posted on Sep 9, 2020 in Innovation, Scroll Images

COVID-19 is bringing new relevance to Sutter’s longstanding electronic intensive care units (eICUs) and to telemedicine. The integrated healthcare network’s two eICUs, one in San Francisco and one in Sacramento, enable it to provide hospitalized critical care patients, including COVID-19 patients, in both rural and urban hospitals with the safest, most advanced medical care—as well as expanding the system’s critical care bed surge capacity during the pandemic.

Tom Shaughnessy, M.D. and medical director of Sutter’s Bay Area eICU, says the program’s goal hasn’t changed much since its earliest days: “Making sure the sickest patients across the system’s geographically diverse footprint get access to specially trained nurses and doctors 24-hours a day,” he says.

Sutter’s innovative eICU program began in 2004 and the first of its kind on the West Coast.

Expanding Critical Care during a Pandemic

eICUs allow critical care doctors and nurses to check in on patients remotely using cameras, microphones, alarms and other monitoring tools. This approach not only helps protect on-site physicians, critical care nurses and other professional staff at the patient’s bedside, it also conserves precious personal protective equipment (PPE) and helps provide backup to caregivers who may be stretched thin at both rural and urban ICUs. Electronic ICUs have also helped increase critical care bed capacity in the event of a COVID-19 patient surge.

Read more on CNET.com about how Sutter’s eICU is helping the integrated network handle the influx of patients during the pandemic.

“If you choose to live in a rural community, it doesn’t mean your health should suffer because you don’t have access to the resources that you need,” says Vanessa Walker, D.O., a pulmonary critical care physician and director of the eICU for the Valley area of Sutter Health.

“Sutter’s eICU program has been especially beneficial to nursing staff at our smaller hospitals. [In this pandemic], they’ve had to take a crash course on managing incredibly complicated patients. Our eICU nurses have been there to help, whether it was for a second signature for medications to prevent further exposure or as a practical guide on how to place a patient in a prone position. The teamwork between the eICU and the bedside has been phenomenal,” she says.

Pre-dawn Cheers and Applause Buoy Spirits of Weary Firefighters

Posted on Sep 4, 2020 in Carousel, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, People, Scroll Images, Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center, Santa Cruz, Uncategorized

The town of Aptos is typically quieter than neighboring Santa Cruz, but last Tuesday that tranquility was broken by shouts of gratitude and applause for firefighters battling the CZU Lightning Complex fires – all organized by Sutter’s Lisa Haux.

“We made so much noise they could hear us across the highway,” Haux said.

Nella, age 8 and Clara, age 5 of Santa Cruz show
off the banner they made for the firefighter tribute.

The pre-dawn event that drew more than 100 community members was spurred by equal parts sincerity and serendipity, said Haux, a compliance officer with Sutter Health. “As part of the Sutter family, I’ve seen the salutes that our frontline healthcare workers have received from first responders – including fire, police, sheriff and ambulance units – thanking our nurses and doctors for their bravery and dedication to duty in the face of COVID-19. Those tributes were so meaningful to us, I thought we could do the same for the firefighters.”  

A small town has no secrets, and Haux learned which hotel was housing most of the out-of-town firefighters and that the end of their shift varied day to day, depending on firefighting conditions. “So I decided to organize a surprise early morning send-off, to lift their spirits at the start of their shift,” she said.

Haux quickly realized that firefighters – like healthcare workers – start work early. To catch the firefighters before they headed to base camp, the community needed to gather in the hotel parking lot, with their signs and balloons, by 5:45 a.m. “I honestly expected maybe 20 people would show up, given how early it was, so I was blown away by the response.”

The crowd was five times larger than Haux’s expectation and even drew reporters from the Santa Cruz Sentinel and KTVU. “When we started it was still dark outside, but we held our banners high as the sun slowly rose. It was awe-inspiring to see the turnout and see how heartfelt the appreciation was from our community to these brave professionals, risking themselves for strangers.”

Crews from across California filled the two dozen fire trucks that pulled out that morning, flashing their lights and waving back in thanks.

Stephen Gray, chief administrative officer for Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center of Santa Cruz and operations executive of Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz said that wildfire season is something we know all too well in Northern California.

“Several parts of our network, including our employees who live and serve in these communities, have been personally impacted,” Gray said. “We’re so happy to express our appreciation for the efforts of the firefighters to keep us safe, which helps us continue our mission of serving others.” 

A week later Haux still delights in how her community showed their spirit, saying, “Fire is a horrible way to bring out comradery, but it does show that people really do want to help each other, and we are all in this together.”

Colon Cancer Up Among Younger Age Groups; Screening Key to Early Detection

Posted on Sep 4, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Scroll Images, Wellness

Actor Chadwick Boseman’s death from colon cancer at age 43 came as a shock. Following his passing, Boseman’s family shared that he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer four years earlier. Many headlines captured the public’s collective sentiment—Colon cancer? But he was so young!

Michael Abel, M.D., chair of surgery at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and colorectal surgeon, says of the news, “When you look at a 39-year-old male in his prime who is coming in with GI symptoms and not feeling well, colon cancer would not be at the top of the list. That needs to change.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says the rate at which younger people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer is rising. Data shows the disease’s case rates have been increasing since the mid-1980s in adults ages 20-39 years and since the mid-1990s in adults ages 40-54 years. On the upside, data shows case rates among individuals 65 and older are decreasing.

“While the medical community doesn’t know why these rates are climbing in younger populations, physicians are now paying closer attention to this cancer,” says Dr. Abel.

Colorectal Cancer Facts

According to the American Cancer Society:

• Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S.

• About one in 23 men and one in 25 women will develop colon or rectal cancer at some point during their lifetime.

• It is estimated that there will be 104,610 new cases of colon cancer and 43,340 new cases of rectal cancer in the U.S. this year.

• The rate of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is higher among the Black community than among any other population group in the U.S.

For more information about colorectal cancer, visit here.

New Thinking on Screenings

In 2018, the American Cancer Society lowered the recommended screening age for people with average colorectal cancer risk, i.e. no family history, to age 45. “More aggressive screening is the best thing we can do to help prevent colorectal cancer and helps allow those who are diagnosed with cancer to have better outcomes,” says Dr. Abel.

For individuals with a family history of the disease, meaning a first degree relative or parent was diagnosed, a physician will likely recommend getting screened as early as age 40.

Black Community at Increased Risk of Developing Colon Cancer

Black people are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed. According to the National Cancer Institute, even when African Americans are diagnosed with early stage disease, they have significantly worse survival rates.

“Earlier and more aggressive screening in this group can help bridge this gap,” says Dr. Abel.

Primary Care Doctors Paying More Attention

A patient’s primary care doctor is typically his or her first line of defense in knowing if symptoms warrant further examination.

“Providers should consider other potential causes of a symptom like rectal bleeding, beyond assuming its hemorrhoids, as an important step in diagnosing what could be a more concerning issue. The physician can then refer the patient to a specialist who will perform a more thorough screening or schedule a colonoscopy,” says Dr. Abel.

“Colorectal cancer can be preventable, and if detected early, curable,” he says.

For ways to reduce your colon cancer risk, visit here.

CPMC’s Colorectal Cancer Center of Excellence Program

In 2019, Sutter’s CPMC was recognized by the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC) as a leading Center of Excellence. To earn this three-year accreditation, CPMC met 19 standards, including the establishment of a rectal cancer multidisciplinary team, which includes clinical representatives from surgery, pathology, radiology, radiation oncology and medical oncology.

Read more about CPMC’s accreditation here.

For more information, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. To find a Sutter primary care physician, click here.

21 Sutter Hospitals and Medical Foundations Earn Recognition as Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality

Posted on Sep 3, 2020 in Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Twenty-one affiliates within Sutter Health’s integrated, not-for-profit network earned recognition as an “LGBTQ Health Care Equality Leader” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization. The designation was awarded in the 13th edition of HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI).

The HEI recognizes facilities that meet key criteria, including foundational elements of LGBTQ patient-centered care, LGBTQ patient services and support, employee benefits and policies, and LGBTQ patient and community engagement.

“We are dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality care that is free from discrimination and affirming of gender identity and sexual orientation. We are equally committed to sustaining a supportive work environment where our employees and clinicians can reach their full potential,” said Jill Ragsdale, Sutter Health senior vice president and chief people & culture officer. “This honor is meaningful for our teams because it shows how we are living our values each day. We are proud to care for patients in one of the most diverse regions in the U.S. It is our mission to respect and serve all.”

The 21 Sutter Health affiliates earning a spot on the 2020 HEI Index include:

The 21 Sutter Health network affiliates recognized join a select group of healthcare facilities nationwide named as Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality. A record 765 healthcare facilities actively participated in the HEI 2020 survey. In addition, the HRC Foundation proactively researched key policies at more than 1,000 non-participating hospitals.

“From the previously unimaginable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the horrific incidents of racial violence targeting the Black community, the events of the past year have brought about so much pain and uncertainty. Yet, even during this moment of profound unrest, we are seeing more of our humanity and resilience come to life. For me, nowhere is that more true than through the tireless dedication of our health care providers and the intrepid support and administrative staff members by their sides that show up every day to ensure this life-saving work continues,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “The health care facilities participating in the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) are not only on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also making it clear from their participation in the HEI that they stand on the side of fairness and are committed to providing inclusive care to their LGBTQ patients. In addition, many have made strong statements on racial justice and equity and are engaging in efforts to address racial inequities in their institutions and their communities. We commend all of the HEI participants for their commitment to providing inclusive care for all.”

For more information about the HEI, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/hei.

Can COVID-19 Spur Change in Mental Health?

Posted on Sep 2, 2020 in Mental Health, Scroll Images

Mystery still surrounds COVID-19. How will it impact the upcoming flu season? Will younger generations eventually experience more severe symptoms?

COVID-19 has also brought attention to matters important to the here and now, like the broader need for mental health support, especially in times of crisis. A recent report in Psychology Today notes that one-third of U.S adults have reported clinical anxiety and depression symptoms related to this public health crisis. Professionals are concerned that suicide rates will greatly increase over the next few months, and they’re calling for change in how we care for and talk about mental health.

John Boyd, PsyD.

“We need to create organizations, healthcare systems and communities where it’s ok for our young people and others to openly talk about needing additional mental health support,” said Sutter Health’s Mental Health & Addiction Care CEO, John Boyd, PsyD. “That means bringing human design back into mental health and addiction care. At Sutter Health, we believe mental health is human health, and we are studying new ways for youth to manage mental health in their everyday lives.”

Hear more from Dr. Boyd on this topic in the Healthcare Executive Podcast, a program by the American College of Healthcare Executives.

No Sprint, Lacing Up for Pandemic’s Mental Health Marathon

Posted on Sep 1, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness

The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging our mental health in ways we could have never predicted, and some people may feel they’re beginning to run on empty as far as ways to cope with all the change and loss.

“Coping as a primary strategy no longer works. It’s time to try something new,” says Holly Anton, an integrative therapist with Sutter’s Institute for Health & Healing. “Adaption is now the long-term objective.”

Rather than grieving for the way of life you may have lost with the pandemic, Anton recommends finding ways to create a meaningful life in the here and now.

Where do you want to put your energy? What deserves your focus? How can you make the most out of today? You can choose how you relate to the circumstances.

Importance of Maintaining a Routine

Structuring your day with activities and goals makes it predictable and gives individuals a sense of being in control of their environment,” says Anton.

On a basic foundational level, Anton recommends people eat healthy foods and get exercise. “You want your body tired at the end of the day so it’s ready for sleep. Put devices away at least two hours before bed and give your mind a chance to wind down with your body.”

Read more of Anton’s advice on ways to mentally adapt in this San Francisco Chronicle article.

Beyond COVID-19: Making Telehealth More Accessible & Equitable

Posted on Sep 1, 2020 in Innovation, Scroll Images

COVID-19 has provided us with many important lessons, but among the most significant for Sutter Health is how valuable expanded telehealth has been in reaching traditionally underserved communities in new and meaningful ways.

Sutter serves one of the most demographically and geographically diverse regions in the nation. Through our not-for-profit mission we work to ensure every patient gets the care they need, when and where they need it, regardless of their circumstances or ability to pay. We are committed to finding innovative ways to provide all of our patients with high-quality, accessible and affordable healthcare.

Like most U.S. health systems, the policy changes enacted to expand telehealth options to address COVID-19 made it possible for us to significantly expand our telehealth services. In our case, video visits increased by 32,000% – yes thousand – with patient satisfaction ratings right on par with in-person visits. As incredible as they are, what these numbers don’t tell you is how impactful these policy changes have been for vulnerable populations who otherwise may struggle to access the treatment they need.

Read this full article by Sutter Health President and CEO Sarah Krevans on the American Telemedicine blog.

Hungry People Fed through Food Waste Reduction Pilot

Posted on Sep 1, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Eden Medical Center, Innovation, Memorial Hospital, Los Banos, Memorial Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, People, Scroll Images, Sutter Amador Hospital, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, Sutter Davis Hospital, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Sutter Solano Medical Center, Sutter Tracy Hospital

35,000 meals donated in first seven months of project

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –In its first seven months, a pilot project involving 14 Sutter hospitals reduced food waste and fed the hungry by donating nearly 35,000 meals to 17 local nonprofits. The effort comes at a critical time as increasing numbers of people experience food insecurity due to the pandemic-induced economic downturn.

Last January, 10 hospitals in Sutter Health’s integrated network launched a collaboration with nonprofit Health Care Without Harm to implement the program, which is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) through California Climate Investments. Over the summer, an additional four Sutter hospitals joined in Sutter’s efforts.

“From our earliest days, Sutter Health’s network has provided access to high-quality, affordable medical care in our facilities – but we’ve also been deeply invested in the health and wellbeing of our broader communities,” says Chief Medical Officer Stephen H. Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., executive sponsor of Sutter Health’s Environmental Stewardship program. “The teams behind this project with Copia and Health Care Without Harm are putting our values into action by leveraging innovation to not only reduce our environmental footprint, but also help feed community members in need.”

The work is powered by a technology platform designed by San Francisco-based Copia – a zero waste and hunger technology platform that allows food service employees to measure and prevent food waste while seamlessly donating all unsold or unserved edible excess food. Hospital food services workers measure daily food waste and submit their edible food donations in one streamlined process through Copia’s software application on mobile tablets. Copia’s mobile app then automatically dispatches drivers to pick up and deliver the food to local non-profits feeding food insecure populations.

And local really does mean local in this case – the average distance donated food traveled from the hospitals to someone who needed it was 3.4 miles.

In its first week in the program, Sutter Delta Medical Center recovered nearly 140 pounds of surplus food from the hospital—enough for 116 meals for Love a Child Missions, which serves homeless women and children in Contra Costa County, and Light Ministries Pentecostal Church of God, which serves meals to needy families in Antioch.

“This is an exciting partnership,” says Sutter Delta’s assistant administrator Tim Bouslog. “We’ve always had a vested interest in sustainability at our hospital, and the positive impact on the community during these difficult times makes this a great step forward.”

Another program benefit? The food donations efforts have helped Sutter reduce carbon emissions by 185,000 pounds and saved 15 million gallons of water!

Says Maria Lewis, director of Food and Nutrition Services at Sutter’s Eden Medical Center, “Eden’s first donation provided 45 meals to The Salvation Army in Hayward. This one donation not only consisted of 55 pounds of perfectly edible food, but also saved 241 pounds of CO2 emissions. We are humbled to be able to support our community, as well as help preserve our environment in the same process.”

“Over the first six months of this pilot project, we have gained valuable insight into how to contribute to community health, reduce waste and be good stewards of our own resources,” says Jack Breezee, regional food and nutrition services director for Sutter’s Valley Area. “I can only look forward to what we will learn over the pilot’s remaining year, and how we can build on these successes to serve our patients and communities.”

“Food waste among hospitals is a solvable problem,” says Komal Ahmad, founder of Copia. “If every hospital in the U.S. partnered with Copia, we could provide more than 250 million meals each year to people in need and save hundreds of millions of dollars in purchasing and production of food. Copia is thrilled to partner with Sutter Health to lead the healthcare industry in filling the food insecurity gap and building community resilience, especially during a time when insecurity has never been higher.”

Participating Sutter hospitals are Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Eden Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, Memorial Hospital Los Banos, Memorial Medical Center, Sutter Amador Hospital, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, Sutter Center for Psychiatry, Sutter Davis Hospital, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Sutter Solano Medical Center and Sutter Tracy Community Hospital.

Stay on Top of Your Heart Health During COVID-19, Part II

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

In another post, we provided information on how to read your blood pressure and what medical conditions may result from having prolonged high blood pressure. In this article, we offer tips from Michael X. Pham, M.D., M.P.H., chief of cardiology with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco on how to reduce—or maintain—your blood pressure.

Better Diet, Better Heart Health

To lower one’s risk of high blood pressure, Dr. Pham encourages people to limit their sodium and eat a heart-healthy diet. Canned foods, condiments, deli meats, salad dressings and sauces are some of the biggest sodium culprits. Instead, make meals using garlic, lemon juice, herbs, spices or seasonings with no salt added. Do not add salt to prepackaged or frozen meals, as they are already loaded with sodium.

What goes on our plates at mealtime also offers insight into how healthfully we’re eating. “Mentally divide your plate into four quadrants. Two quarters (or half) should be fruits and veggies. One quarter should be proteins (lean fish, chicken or beans), and the remaining quarter should be a whole grain or starchy vegetable (brown rice, sweet potato),” says Dr. Pham.

Dr. Pham says that staying hydrated with water is good. People should avoid sugary drinks and alcohol as much as possible.

Get Those Steps In

Exercise is also key in maintaining a healthy heart. For this reason, it’s important to walk outside every day—but check air quality levels first.

Dr. Pham recommends a goal of 7,000-10,000 steps daily. “If you can’t get in a big walk all at once, break it into shorter walks throughout the day.” With increased community spread of COVID-19, he recommends walking early in the morning or early in the evening when there are fewer people out, and, if possible, be conscious of physical distancing and wear a mask. For those who cannot go outside, take frequent standing breaks and do laps around your house or yard.”

Your Heart & COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with moderate to severe hypertension may be at increased risk of COVID-19 complications.

“Hypertension makes it harder to fight off infections. Regular check-ups allow your provider to help manage your condition and provide a proactive plan if your blood pressure gets worse,” says Dr. Pham.

Know your numbers. An at-home blood pressure monitor, available at your local drugstore or online, can track your blood pressure readings in between checkups. Dr. Pham suggests bringing your at-home monitor to your next in-person appointment to help ensure its readings are accurate and reliable.

Award-Winning Cardiac Care

In August 2020, ten hospitals across Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network of care received recognition by the American Stroke Association for providing a high level of stroke care as part of the 2019 Get With The Guidelines® awards.

Additionally, 20 hospitals in the Sutter system received recognition from the American Heart Association for consistently applying the American College of Cardiology guidelines when treating patients with heart failure. Read more about these recognitions here.

Options For Care

The heart is one of your body’s most essential organs. Don’t take it—or caring for it—for granted.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care or to make an appointment today, Sutter’s care teams are ready to serve you in person or by video visit.

For more on Sutter’s heart disease prevention programs, visit here.

Stay on Top of Your Heart Health During COVID-19, Part I

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Scroll Images, Wellness

The pandemic has understandably transformed many of us into housebound creatures, oftentimes moving less and eating more.

“It’s created the perfect storm for developing high blood pressure. For those who are already hypertensive, their blood pressure can get out of control,” says Michael X. Pham, M.D., M.P.H., chief of cardiology with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

People may be exercising less, can be generally feeling more stress, and may lack the normal outlets to decompress, including time with family and friends, travel, attending sporting events or going to the movies.

“People are also eating less healthy,” says Dr. Pham. They may be ordering takeout more often or eating processed foods because they last longer and require fewer trips to the store.

But there’s hope for our hearts! Dr. Pham says healthy eating and exercise can help prevent, manage, and stave off high blood pressure. “Even small changes can make a difference,” says Dr. Pham.

Blood Pressure Basics

Blood pressure readings have two numbers—systolic and diastolic. For example, a blood pressure number would be written 118/78 mm Hg. The top number (systolic) accounts for the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic), accounts for the pressure between heart beats.

A person will be diagnosed with high blood pressure if their systolic blood is 130 or higher and their diastolic is 80 or higher. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg or lower is considered normal.

“If a patient’s blood pressure is high or borderline, it’s a warning sign,” says Dr. Pham.

High Blood Pressure Puts Your Heart at Risk

A person’s blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day, but, if it stays high for a long time, that person may have the medical condition of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Hypertension can cause heart disease or kidney disease—and may lead to heart attack, stroke or even death.

“High blood pressure doesn’t usually cause symptoms—it’s a silent disease. Most people don’t know they have it until they go to their healthcare provider for a routine visit,” says Dr. Pham.

Safe Care Sites

For hypertensive patients, regular blood pressure checks allow your care team to monitor your treatment plan and the effectiveness of your medications. For those whose blood pressure is under control, preventative care is still important.

Sutter Health’s integrated network has convenient care options available to help you stay on top of your health.

In-person: Sutter care sites have implemented safety measures to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. These include, but are not limited to: extra cleaning, screenings before entry, and mandatory masking.

Online: Sutter care sites also offer convenient access to video visits for those who don’t want to come into an office environment and don’t need direct contact. Video visits allow your doctor to see, hear and talk with you as they would during an in-person visit.

Video Visits by Flashlight: Telehealth Keeps the Doctor ‘In’ Even When the Power is Out

Posted on Aug 25, 2020 in Carousel, Expanding Access, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Transformation, Uncategorized

When the next heat wave causes power outages or the next round of wildfires prompt evacuations throughout Northern California, chances are the global COVID-19 pandemic will still be unfolding. Under any or all of these conditions, we want to remind patients how and when to seek care, even during displacement or power loss.  

First: Make Your Smart Phone Smarter with the My Health Online App.

There is no question that mobile phones have become essential to our lives, and that reality has been underscored during the current emergency. Your phone may already receive alerts, including air quality reports, evacuation announcements or planned power shutoff notices, but is your phone optimized for your personal health needs?

If you haven’t already, we encourage Sutter patients to download the My Health Online smart phone app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. The My Health Online smartphone app helps connect you with your care team – even if you lose power or are displaced – provided you have wireless or mobile internet access and a charged phone battery.

“When we created the My Health Online patient portal we knew we would need a mobile phone option, but I don’t think we realized how important it would be in the context of natural disasters,” said Albert Chan, M.D., chief of digital patient experience at Sutter Health. Within the app you can send a message to your care team, view lab and most test results, securely access health records and schedule and complete a video visit.

“While we previously saw the app as a convenience, we now know that it’s a necessity; in fact we have a dedicated support team at (866) 978-8837 to troubleshoot any issues that patients have activating the app,” said Dr. Chan.

Second: Know that Severe Weather Can Cause Symptoms to Worsen, Quickly.

The smoke from wildfires, the heat in late summer and the stress of evacuation or a power outage can compromise your immune system and put stress on your body. “People who already have heart or lung-related illness, and some who don’t, may need personalized medical care to manage through this period,” said Chan. Video visits can often help doctors determine the severity of symptoms, provide medical advice and guide someone to in-person care as needed; providing reassurance in a very uncertain time.

“Bottom line, if you experience new or worsening symptoms we encourage you to schedule a same-day video visit with your doctor or another provider in the Sutter network – don’t ignore your body’s signals.”

You can also use the “symptom checker” that is integrated into Sutter Health’s website and My Health Online patient portal. Originally launched in February 2019, the self-led symptom checker is a kind of online survey that helps patients decide whether to engage in self-care or to seek care, if they need an in-person appointment or a video visit, and if they need to be seen now or soon.

As always, call 911 or go directly to the nearest hospital emergency department if you are experiencing chest pain or having difficulty breathing.   

Third: Don’t Let an Evacuation Erode Your Health.

“Often, when people are ordered to evaluate they are in such a great rush that they leave medications, medical equipment, or medical instructions behind,” said Chan. “We recommend preparing a ‘go bag’ for each member of the family with medications and any needed medical supplies, just in case.”

But if you have to evacuate without medications, remember an often- overlooked value of video visits is their role in enabling physicians to authorize new prescriptions or call in short-term refills of existing medications to pharmacies near a patient’s temporary relocation spot. “We will do everything in our power to assist with your medication or medical device needs, so please remember to reach out as soon as you are somewhere safe.”

Employees Rate Sutter as one of the Best in Latest Forbes Poll

Posted on Aug 24, 2020 in People, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Employees across Sutter Health hold the network in high regard, according to the latest list by Forbes. In its second annual ranking of America’s best employers by state, Sutter Health was listed as one of California’s top employers.

“Sutter Health appreciates our entire workforce and how they help enhance the health and well-being of our communities,” said Jill Ragsdale, chief people and culture officer for Sutter Health. “Our teams live our values every day. With caring and compassion, they support patients and families, as well as each other.”

Using anonymous surveys, Forbes and market research company Statista verified the best-liked organizations by employees. Determining factors included potential for development, working conditions, diversity, salary, etc. Employees were also asked to rate on a scale from 1-10 whether they would recommend working for their employer to others.

This ranking takes special significance this year. Surveys took place from Oct. 2019 – May 2020, a portion of time that included the COVID-19 pandemic hitting stateside. Healthcare providers were facing challenges not seen before in their lifetimes. In response, Sutter identified resources that helped compassionately support the needs of staff. These creative solutions include offering temporary lodging around hospitals where staff may be relocated to support, retraining for staff asked to care for patients in other parts of the network, child care options close to work, self-care and mental health support, and remote work help.

Sutter Health was recently named one of 22 healthcare systems on Forbes’ 2020 list of “America’s Best Employers for Women.” Sutter ranked on Forbes list of California employers in 2019, too.

Sutter Health is more than 60,000 people strong, thanks to our network of clinicians, employees and volunteers. Grounded in our not-for-profit mission, our team members partner to provide access to high quality, affordable care for more than 3 million Northern Californians through our network of hospitals, medical foundations, urgent and walk-in care centers, telehealth, home health and hospice services.

How to Stay Safe from Double Whammy of Smoke and COVID-19

Posted on Aug 20, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

With wildfire smoke settling in every Northern California community, and with COVID-19 still a major health concern, Dr. William Isenberg, Sutter Health’s Chief Quality & Safety Officer, has two words of advice on the best way to avoid the associated health risks: Stay inside.

“With COVID-19, we have sheltered in place and limited our public interactions, and with the smoke in the air, sheltering in place is even more important,” Dr. Isenberg says. “Stay home, close the windows and doors, try not to let the outside air in. Those are the optimal recommendations to keep everyone safe during this unprecedented combination of a deadly pandemic and wildfire smoke, not to mention the heat of summer.”

Especially at risk of lung issues from the smoke are children, the elderly, those with underlying respiratory and heart issues, and pregnant women. “Inhalation of this wildfire smoke can cause premature labor,” he said. But he reiterated that prolonged exposure to all this smoke can cause queasiness and heart attacks to even those who are not high risk.

Dr. Isenberg offers the following precautions during this time of poor air:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible, limiting opening of doors and windows.
  • Use air conditioning in your homes and vehicles, if you have it. Malls, if open, are great places for people without their own air conditioning at home.
  • Do not run fans that move smoky outdoor air inside, such as whole-house fans. If your home is equipped with an automated venting system, make sure you turn it off.
  • Keep wellhydrated. Dr. Isenberg recommends drinking a minimum of 8 ounces of water eight to 10 times daily.  
  • Use your maintenance puffers/inhalers if you have asthma, emphysema or other respiratory diseases, and carry your rescue puffer/inhaler with you if you leave your home.
  • When out in public, make sure you wear your cloth or surgical mask. While these won’t protect you from the small smoke particles, they do help in controlling the coronavirus.

Air Now also has information about how to protect yourself from wildfire smoke, along with a chart that pinpoints the Air Quality Index of your town.

For further information, listen to this podcast from Capital Public Radio, which features an interview with Vanessa Walker, D.O., a Sutter Health pulmonologist.  

COVID-19 and Wildfire Smoke: Doctor Answers Masking Questions

Posted on Aug 20, 2020 in Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images

OAKLAND, Calif. –Wildfire season is suddenly upon us and thick smoke from multiple wildfires around Northern California, coupled with hot weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to some confusion about masks: when to wear them and what type is best.

Now Ronn Berrol, M.D., medical director for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s emergency department in Oakland, offers tips to help you and your loved ones stay healthy in the Q & A below and in this KTVU interview.

Q: It’s so hot and smoky out! Do I need to wear a mask?

A: Yes! It’s important that everyone who can medically do so continues to wear a mask when they are in public to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Between the heat, the smoky air and COVID-19, the virus still poses a significant risk.

Q: Does it matter what type of mask I wear? Will a homemade mask protect me or do I need an N95 mask?

A: With respect to COVID-19, for most people it’s probably more important that you wear a mask whenever you are in public than the type of mask you wear. This is because the COVID-19 virus is transmitted to others by droplets that people produce when they exhale—and especially when they cough, laugh, sing or speak loudly. By wearing a mask, you help protect the people around you.

If you have a lung condition such as asthma, emphysema or COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), that makes you more susceptible to wildfire smoke, the type of mask you wear becomes more important. This is because tiny particulates and chemicals in the smoke can cause inflammation or difficulty breathing. And homemade cloth masks or surgical masks are not very effective at filtering out harmful particulates and chemicals from the smoky air. To filter out these particulates, an N95 mask is preferred. However, N95 masks can be more difficult to breathe through and lead to more overheating when it’s hot out.* So my advice is to stay indoors, keep doors and windows closed and use air conditioning and an air purifier, if you have them. I also recommend changing your home’s air filter and running the air conditioner in your car on recirculate so you’re not pulling outside air in.

Q: What else can I do to protect myself from the heat and the smoke?

A: It’s always a good idea to keep hydrated –when you are well-hydrated, your body can better respond to infectious challenges and the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs are better able to protect your body from environmental insults like smoke particulates. If you have asthma, emphysema or other respiratory illness, use your maintenance inhalers as directed by your doctor and be sure to carry your rescue inhaler with you if you do have to leave your home. Contact your doctor if you experience symptoms such as asthma, difficulty breathing or chest pain.

Read more about wildfire smoke and its effect on lung health here.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

*Important note: Some N95 masks have valves in them that vent exhaled breath without any filtration. Though they may be helpful to filter out wildfire particulates, these vented N95 masks will not provide protection for nearby individuals in the event the wearer has COVID-19.

Air Quality + COVID-19. What Does This Combo Mean for Our Lung Health?

Posted on Aug 20, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Wellness

SAN FRANCISCO – Wildfires burning across Northern California coupled with extreme heat and dryness has the air quality in the unhealthy range. All of this is sparking concerns for people with respiratory issues, especially those with COVID-19. Dr. Vinayak Jha, a pulmonologist affiliated with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center, says the best way to protect ourselves from the virus and poor air quality is to stay indoors and wear a mask or face covering when outside.

Jha says elderly people, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels. With smoky air blanketing much of the Bay Area and the Sacramento and Central Valley regions, these at-risk populations should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.

Know before you go: View a list of Sutter Health facilities temporarily closed due to the effects of wildfires in Northern California.

Signs Wildfire Smoke May Be Affecting You

Breathing in wildfire smoke can have both immediate and long-term health impacts. In the short term, wildfire smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a dry scratchy throat and irritated sinuses. Elevated particulate matter in the air can also trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema or COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Contact your provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Repeated coughing
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Wheezing
• Chest tightness or pain
• Palpitations
• Nausea or unusual fatigue
• Lightheadedness

What happens when a virulent virus is added to the mix? In a recent article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Jha explains that people are already concerned about catching the COVID-19 virus and becoming ill. And the situation becomes more complicated when smoke from wildfires is combined with the unusually high temperatures we’ve experienced in Northern California. This trifecta is not ideal for those with respiratory conditions.

Jha says the early science is revealing. “There are growing reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. that the more air pollution there is, the more COVID deaths and cases there are. There’s some reason for concern that wildfire smoke, besides being bad for people in general, may affect people’s susceptibility to getting the virus, too.”

Recovering from COVID-19? Living with a respiratory illness? Here’s what you should do if wildfire smoke becomes a problem.

As this fire seasons heats up, Jha recommends COVID-19 patients keep in close contact with their health care providers and avoid exerting themselves, especially if they are at the beginning of the illness.

“Continue to socially distance, and continue to wear a mask in public,” says Jha. He encourages people to check the Air Quality Index (here), check their own home air purifying system to make sure the filters are clean, and have a plan in case you need to leave the area.

Pulmonary Care

In the Sutter Health network, pulmonary specialists have deep expertise in treating acute and chronic lung conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, emphysema and pneumonia. They offer treatment for interstitial lung disease, advanced COPD, pulmonary nodules and pulmonary hypertension.

In light of COVID-19, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation stood up respiratory care clinics (RCCs) to prepare for increased patient demand. These exam experiences keep potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care, make an appointment today. Our care teams are ready to serve you, either in person or by Video Visit.

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.

Clearing a Path to Care

Posted on Aug 13, 2020 in Innovation, Scroll Images

When Sutter Health adapted its operations to continue caring for patients while responding to COVID-19, it meant leaning heavily on its integrated network and technology and innovation teams.

During a recent Sacramento Business Journal podcast, Albert Chan, M.D., M.S., Sutter Health’s chief of digital patient experience and Chris Waugh, Sutter Health’s chief innovation officer discussed the rapid expansion of virtual care and telehealth to help support patients and improve their experience.

Albert Chan, M.D.., M.S.

“Our telehealth expansion was originally planned for 2021 and estimated to take 18-24 months. But in response to COVID we rolled out that expansion within six weeks,” said Dr. Chan. “We trained thousands of new physicians on using the technology … and saw a 32,000% increase in telehealth visits in just two months.”

But it’s not just an increase in virtual appointments that drives Sutter’s innovation-focused dynamic duo, it’s the important access that telehealth offers to a wide range of patients who otherwise might not have received the care needed.

Chris Waugh

“We had [patients] who would not have used this technology previously, now willing,” said Waugh.

Dr. Chan shared the story of a patient in rural Northern California who was concerned after finding a lump. Dr. Chan was able to diagnose the lump as a hernia and instruct him on how to recover at home — all through the safety and convenience of a video call.

“Normally, this patient would have had to come in person for an appointment, and he lives a four-hour round-trip from the facility he would need to get to,” Dr. Chan said. “Patient access has been truly transformed … and this is especially important for our remote and rural areas.”

Dr. Chan says the goal is to take a thoughtful approach to implementing technology and look at every step in the patient journey to make it simpler and more efficient. He emphasized that the aim with telehealth is to create better health outcomes at a lower cost.

And better health outcomes are made possible by what Waugh calls the ability of technology to “reduce friction” — or obstacles to accessible care.

“Whenever we can use technology to make the experience more human, not less, therein lies the silver-lining” said Waugh. “We want to create a more human exchange from beginning to end — between the healthcare system and the patients they’re serving — with the goal of creating better relationships and therefore better [health] outcomes.”

Parents, Be Kind to Yourself as the School Year Gets Underway

Posted on Aug 12, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness

Many parents and guardians of school-age children are buckling up for back to school while simultaneously trying to balance their own work-from-home lives.

In an interview with CBSN, Lisa Giovannetti, an integrative psychotherapist with Sutter’s Institute for Health & Healing (IHH), lays out the psychological impact of the extended lockdown on parents and guardians. She describes how parents can help identify and manage big emotions for themselves and their children. She also addresses burnout and asks parents to acknowledge they can’t do it all— and thinking that they can isn’t being fair to themselves. After all, managing everything amid this pandemic is no picnic. It’s unfamiliar territory and parents and guardians are learning as they go.

Watch the full interview here.

To help parents and guardians out, Giovannetti discusses how to role model coping skills for kids and teens. She looks at building in structure for the whole family and setting realistic goals that can be amended since no day is going to be perfect.

“We want to acknowledge that bad days are going to happen, that’s part of life and expected during a stressful time. We want to look at how we can move forward compassionately. To mentally gear up, parents should aim for routine but also lots of flexibility,” says Giovannetti.

How To Keep Your Kids Safer in the Water

Posted on Aug 10, 2020 in Affiliates, Eden Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation

As parents scramble to find ways to keep their kids active during the pandemic, water safety is even more important

ANTIOCH, Calif. –When the weather’s hot, it’s natural for kids to be drawn to water — a pool, lake, river or ocean. Water is sparkly and refreshing, a place to have fun.

But now more than ever, experts are warning parents and families to be sure to take the right safety precautions around water.

Late summer and early fall raise special concerns in the Bay Area—especially in the inland areas like the Delta and the Tri-Valley, where warm weather is typical as late as October. Because of the pandemic, community centers that once offered supervised swimming pools may be closed. And schools are again providing instruction remotely, so kids are spending more time at home and possibly more time around a swimming pool or taking end-of-summer-vacation trips to rivers, lakes and other natural bodies of water. Add to this that many parents are working from home and may be distracted, and the potential for danger increases.

“Many people think about pools as fun and not necessarily as a hazard, but I always ask parents what steps have you taken to keep your child safe around the pool,’’ said Geri Landman, M.D., a pediatrician based in Berkeley with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation (SEBMF), part of the Sutter Health integrated network of care.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children 1 to 4 years of age, and at least one in five drownings are children ages 14 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

William Francis, M.D., an emergency room doctor at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, said he has treated several children for water-related injuries since the pandemic started.

“There’s an explosion of above-ground pools and spas, and part of that is because people start to look at what they can do around their house and there’s a rush to install equipment,” Dr. Francis said. “We have to remember that when a pool is installed – either above ground or in the ground – children need to be supervised 100 percent around water.”

Pediatricians with SEBMF say they counsel parents on safety measures and may also remind them that accidents around pools, even drowning, are a reality.

“Counseling is important during well-child visits and it’s important to remind parents it doesn’t take much for a child to for a child to drown,” said Susan Adham, M.D., an SEBMF pediatrician based in Antioch. “If necessary we remind parents that this continues to happen in our communities. Kids can get into trouble so quickly.”

To help kids stay safer in the water, clinicians at Sutter Health recommend:

  • When young children are in or around water, an adult should be supervising at all times. If adults are in a group, appoint a “water watcher’’ who will pay close attention to the children, and avoid distractions like talking on a cell phone or drinking alcohol.
  • Pam Stoker, a trauma injury prevention specialist at Sutter’s Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, encourages parents to follow a protocol for active supervision that includes:

    Attention – focusing on your child and nothing else because anything that takes your attention away increases your child’s injury risk.

    Continuity – constantly watching your child. For example, don’t leave your child by the pool to go inside and get a towel.

    Closeness – stay close enough to actually touch your child. If you are out of arm’s reach of your child, your ability to prevent injury goes down significantly. While it is impossible to actively supervise your child 24 hours a day, it is important to do so during activities that are high risk to your child’s safety.
  • Pools should be fenced on all sides with a 4-foot fence that kids cannot climb. The fence should have a gate with a lock that kids can’t reach.
  • When using inflatable or portable pools, remember to empty them immediately after use. Store upside down and out of children’s reach.
    Consider installing a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.
  • Don’t rely on water wings or noodles as flotation devices. They are fun toys but no substitute for a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. A life jacket is particularly important in natural bodies of water that may be murky because the bright color stands out and is an effective way to locate children.
  • Teach children to swim. They can start swimming lessons as young as 1 year.
  • Learn CPR. Check for resources on first aid training at a local fire department, American Red Cross or American Heart Association.

Care Coming into View

Posted on Aug 4, 2020 in Innovation, Scroll Images

Arleen Beviacqua-Enriquez

Arleen Beviacqua-Enriquez noticed two things about her body in the fall of 2019. First, an irregular mole, which the 65-year-old had already developed a trained eye to spot. Its irregular edges told a familiar tale. Moles are a hereditary condition passed down for generations in her family.

The second? A lump in her breast.

Beviacqua-Enriquez set the mole aside in her mind to focus on what she felt in her heart was the more critical issue: the lump. Working with the support of her Palo Alto Medical Foundation primary care doctor, Rebecca Ashe, M.D., Beviacqua-Enriquez went in for a diagnostic mammogram where it was confirmed she had breast cancer in November 2019. Surgery followed in December. The turn of the calendar—and the ushering in of a new year—brought the beginning of chemotherapy in January 2020.

Beviacqua-Enriquez remained focused on her breast cancer treatment for the next several months even as COVID-19 tore through the U.S. While the world grappled with the implications of this global health crisis, she navigated through her own. Despite being immunocompromised—not to mention feeling fatigued and vulnerable—her care team kept her medically necessary treatment on schedule. Once May finally arrived, she could see the finish line to her chemo.

But now that mole. It had started to tell a different story. It grew ugly—jagged, inflamed, painful. It bled.

“I knew I had to get back into the saddle about that dermatology appointment,” she said.

Rajiv Bhatnagar, M.D.

When she first contacted the dermatology office in May, Beviacqua-Enriquez learned the first in-person appointment wasn’t until September. Rajiv Bhatnagar, M.D., a dermatologist with Palo Alto Medical Foundation, suggested a video visit, which could happen as soon as the next day. Video visits have increased at an astonishing rate across Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network since the outbreak of COVID-19 in California—providing a safe and convenient option for care. She accepted a video visit for the upcoming Monday. While she admits she isn’t the most tech-savvy person, she has familiarity with the format. Beviacqua-Enriquez, who works in sales for the airline industry, often conducts meetings with her colleagues via video.

In preparation for the visit, Dr. Bhatnagar suggested Beviacqua-Enriquez send pictures of her moles. The digital photo upload option was a new feature aiming to enhance the virtual care experience. She took nine photos from various angles, and after a few clicks, the images were securely off through the online patient portal.

“It’s a good feature,” she said.

When Dr. Bhatnagar previewed the images that Sunday before, plans dramatically shifted. He examined the photos and knew immediately that Beviacqua-Enriquez needed treatment. The video visit was cancelled. Instead, Dr. Bhatnagar spoke with a dermatological surgeon and oncologist, and arranged for the patient to come in the next day for an excision of her melanoma.

“Once you get past the shock, you learn to trust,” she said.

“We very rapidly learned how to deploy video and other telemedicine visits across every specialty within Sutter Health’s network, and saw immediately, as in Arleen’s case, how impactful this can be,” said Dr. Bhatnagar. “We’re continuously learning and improving upon how we deliver both traditional and telemedicine care. Access has taken on new meaning, and we know it can only help enhance outcomes and the overall care experience.”

Beviacqua-Enriquez continues her healing journey this summer. The native Northern Californian, along with husband and college-age son, will remain close to home. When the timing is right, they will hit up some of their favorite walks and trails around the peninsula.

Their quality time together is precious and not taken for granted. While Beviacqua-Enriquez’s video visit may have never happened, it opened the door for her to get immediate care she needed—to make these moments with her family a reality.

“These are changing times. Our lives will not be the same as before COVID. It’s changed everyone’s perceptions on many things,” she said. “You have to be open to different techniques and processes. We have to have other options and thank God we have it.”

Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19: What to Know and How to Prepare

Posted on Aug 2, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Wellness

SAN FRANCISCO – For people who experienced breathing and respiratory problems brought on by previous years’ wildfire smoke, a San Francisco health expert cautions that these individuals should be extra vigilant with their health while COVID-19 is among us.

In an article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Vinayak Jha, M.D., a pulmonologist affiliated with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), says that people are already concerned about catching the virus and becoming ill. Having respiratory problems combined with air pollution from wildfires is not an ideal situation.

“There are growing reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. that the more air pollution there is, the more COVID deaths and cases there are,” says Jha. “There’s some reason for concern that wildfire smoke, besides being bad for people in general, may affect people’s susceptibility to getting the virus.”

Jha says breathing in wildfire smoke can cause shortness of breath, coughing and sore throat, and that having the coronavirus may worsen symptoms.

Recovering from COVID-19? Living with a respiratory illness? Here’s what you should do if wildfire smoke becomes a problem.

As the fire seasons heats up, Jha says COVID-19 patients should keep in close contact with their health care provider and avoid exerting themselves, especially if they are at the beginning of the illness.

“Continue to socially distance, and continue to wear a mask in public,” says Jha. He encourages people to have precautions in place now, before the wildfire season hits: know how to check the Air Quality Index, check your own home air purifying system to make sure the filters are clean, and have a plan in case you need to leave the area.

Pulmonary Care

In the Sutter Health network, pulmonary specialists have deep expertise in treating acute and chronic lung conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, emphysema and pneumonia. They offer treatment for interstitial lung disease, advanced COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), pulmonary nodules and pulmonary hypertension.

In light of COVID-19, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation stood up respiratory care clinics (RCCs) to prepare for increased patient demand. These exam experiences keep potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care, make an appointment today. Our care teams are ready to serve you, either in person or by Video Visit.

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.

Doctor Warns Delaying Care Is Not Without Risk

Posted on Jul 28, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Scroll Images

OAKLAND, Calif. –A Bay Area physician is warning people that delaying critical or preventive care because of fears of COVID-19 could have detrimental effects on their health.

Junaid Khan, MD
Junaid Khan, MD

In an interview with KPIX 5’s CBSN, Junaid Khan, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of cardiovascular services at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, says some concern about coming to hospitals or care centers during a pandemic is understandable, but delaying care should be balanced against the need to maintain good health.

“What we’re concerned about is some patients are afraid to come to the hospital and delaying care for serious problems such as heart attacks, stroke and even lung cancer,” says Khan. “Putting off care for chest pain or trouble breathing could lead to serious health consequences, like irreversible heart damage.”

Khan says patients should feel reassured because hospitals in the Sutter Health integrated network of care are taking extraordinary measures to help keep patients safe, from increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting spaces, to testing all hospitalized patients, screening employees for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before each shift, restricting visitors and requiring masks.

Learn more about the precautions Sutter hospitals and care centers are taking to help protect everyone’s health.

Preventive Care is Crucial

But it’s not just emergency care that’s critical, says Khan. “We want patients to get their regular preventive care including cancer screenings, treatment for chronic conditions like asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes, as well as vaccinations. Some parents are putting their kids at risk by skipping vaccinations and that is worrisome —we don’t want a measles outbreak.”

Read more about why preventive care like vaccinations is critical for kids.

People who are concerned about coming in for preventive care should call their doctors’ office or schedule a video visit, says Khan. “Start there,” he says, “then you’ll know if you need to come in for an in-person visit.”

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.

Sutter Hospitals Honored By U.S. News & World Report

Posted on Jul 28, 2020 in Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, California Pacific Medical Center, Memorial Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Quality, Scroll Images, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Sutter Roseville Medical Center

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Three hospital campuses within Sutter Health’s not-for-profit, integrated network of care achieved recognition today as among the best hospitals in California for 2020-2021 from U.S. News & World Report. The annual rankings rate top hospitals in the state and in major metropolitan regions according to their performance across 26 adult specialties, procedures and conditions.

Sutter hospital campuses ranked among the top 50 in the state include:

California Pacific Medical Center – Van Ness Campus* (High-performing in five procedures/conditions and four specialties)
Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento (High-performing in six procedures/conditions and one specialty)
Sutter Roseville Medical Center (High-performing in five procedures/conditions)

Coming just outside of the top 50 were Alta Bates Summit Medical Center – Summit Campus in Oakland and Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, both ranking at 51. Both hospitals had high-performing rankings in three procedures/conditions.

Three Sutter hospitals are among the top 10 hospitals in the San Francisco metro area, including Alta Bates Summit Medical Center – Summit Campus, California Pacific Medical Center – Van Ness Campus* and Mills-Peninsula Medical Center. Additionally, two Sutter hospitals are among the top 10 hospitals in the Sacramento metro area, including Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento and Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

Seven additional Sutter hospital campuses earned recognition today as “high performers” in at least one adult specialty, condition or procedure, including:

• Alta Bates Summit Medical Center – Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley (High-performing in two procedures/conditions)
• Alta Bates Summit Medical Center – Summit Campus in Oakland (High-performing in three procedures/conditions)
Memorial Medical Center (High-performing in two procedures/conditions)
• Mills-Peninsula Medical Center (High-performing in three procedures/conditions)
Stanislaus Surgical Hospital (High-performing in one procedure/condition)
Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital (High-performing in one procedure/condition)
Sutter Delta Medical Center (High-performing in two procedures/conditions)

“Safety and quality are in our DNA,” said Bill Isenberg, M.D., chief quality and safety officer for Sutter Health. “Recognitions like these honor our network’s doctors, nurses, clinicians and employees who compassionately care for patients and their families across Northern California.”

Sutter Health’s not-for-profit network set out to build a truly integrated system—one that offers comprehensive patient services and quality health programs tailored to the diverse communities it serves. Today, Sutter Health cares for more than 3 million patients throughout its Northern California network of physicians, hospitals, home health providers and other services. Its coordination and focus on standardizing best practices reduce complications in care, lower hospital readmission rates and bring down the total cost of care.

“For more than 30 years, U.S. News & World Report has been helping patients, along with the help of their physicians, identify the Best Hospitals in an array of specialties, procedures and conditions,” said Ben Harder, managing editor and chief of health analysis at U.S. News. “The hospitals that rise to the top of our rankings and ratings have deep medical expertise, and each has built a track record of delivering good outcomes for patients.”

The U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals survey ranked hospitals according to risk-adjusted survival and readmission rates, volume, patient experience, patient safety, quality of nursing care, physician surveys and other care-related indicators.

For more information and complete rankings, visit U.S. News & World Report.

*Many of the services recognized had originally been performed at California Pacific Medical Center – Pacific Campus and are now located at California Pacific Medical Center – Van Ness Campus.

Seven Months of Coronavirus. Here’s What We’ve Learned Treating COVID Patients.

Posted on Jul 24, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

SAN FRANCISCO – The novel coronavirus has been with us since January 2020—and California is still in a continuation of the first wave. As the pandemic drags on, the medical community has acted as a sponge, absorbing knowledge of how the infection is best treated from each new case.

Vernon Giang, M.D., chief medical executive of California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit integrated network of care, shares four learnings CPMC clinicians have discovered since they began treating some of the nation’s first COVID-19 cases in March.

Constantly Refining the Approach to Treatment

COVID-19 symptoms differ based on the severity of disease. Fever, cough, and shortness of breath are more commonly reported among those who are hospitalized with COVID-19 than among those with milder cases of the disease.

“Early on, the thinking was to put patients with compromised lung function on a ventilator,” said Giang. “We’re managing patients much better now with high-flow oxygen. This is an incredible advance to keep patients surviving COVID-19 without bearing the risks of intubation.”

Additionally, Giang says, “Treatment of COVID patients has become more focused over the last few months because we’ve learned what drugs are effective against the disease.”

For instance, clinicians have learned that hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine isn’t effective against COVID-19. Rather, the anti-viral drug remdesivir is producing much stronger outcomes.

Increased & Faster Testing Means Early I.D. of Positive Patients

CPMC, like all hospitals in the Sutter network, test hospitalized patients for COVID-19, including those preparing for an upcoming surgical procedure.

“Testing is a very important part of controlling the spread of COVID-19. If we can get increased rapid testing down and make it widespread, we can help decrease the community spread of this virus. Testing in a hospital setting is important, too, as it enables staff to separate positive patients away from others, thus reducing exposure,” says Giang.

Sutter hospitals have also adopted cohorting, or grouping together, COVID positive patients on the same floor, which reduces the risk of spread and the need for additional PPE.

Clinical Progression Timeline

Giang shares that there is a strong correlation between patient infection rates and large public gatherings.

“We’re on a four- to six-week cycle,” he said. “People in early June were asking, ‘Why isn’t the death rate and hospitalizations rising?’ but we’ve learned it’s because the infection cycle takes time.”

An example of this timeline is when the country began opening over Memorial Day (May 22-25, 2020).
Giang explains that it took a couple of weeks after the holiday (COVID’s 2 to 14-day incubation period) for individuals to contract the virus and, in some cases, get sick enough that their symptoms required medical attention. In week’s three and four (or more), around mid-to-late June, we began seeing people hospitalized and pass away from the virus in increased numbers because the virus had taken its toll on their bodies.

Additionally, he confirms that patients with chronic diseases or conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, have a much greater chance of succumbing to COVID-19 because their bodies are already at a physical disadvantage, making it harder to fight off the disease.

Masking Works

According to Giang, we’ve learned there are significant portions of the population, particularly young people, who are asymptomatic or show no COVID-19 symptoms.

“What we’re seeing now is a surge in cases across the U.S. There are a number of reasons for this increase, including folks who are tired of being cooped up and returning to daily activities as if COVID didn’t exists. Some of it is from the fallout of people thinking they’re invincible and like it can’t happen to them.”

He continues, “We know that diligent masking works to help to slow the virus’ spread.”

Since March 2020, all Sutter hospitals, as well as Sutter outpatient and Walk-In Care facilities, have enacted 24-7 masking for all employees and patients. The Sutter network has also restricted visitors in these facilities.

“We’ve been able to effectively keep on top of community spread [within CPMC],” he said. “Now that we’re seeing a patient surge, we need to continue to be prudent about masking and how we connect and carry on about our everyday lives. Social Distancing and cleaning your hands frequently are also important. Things are opening up, but that doesn’t mean this virus is over.”

The Learning Never Stops

CPMC physicians, like those in teams across Sutter network, are constantly refining their approach to care in treating COVID-19 patients.

“A lot of people we’re seeing are recuperating. We’re learning everyday about how to be more effective with our treatment and we’re sending people home.”

Breast Cancer Survivor’s Tale of ‘Consistent, Compassionate Care’ — Even During COVID-19

Posted on Jul 23, 2020 in People, Scroll Images, Sutter Medical Foundation, Women's Services

ELK GROVE, Calif. – Pamela Randall’s breast cancer journey began with her diagnosis in June 2018.

Pamela Randall

Her physician—Joyce Eaker, M.D., who recently retired from Sutter Medical Group—called her after the cancer removal surgery with the pathology report. That’s when Randall, a global workforce consultant who lives in Elk Grove, Calif., learned the road ahead would be difficult, including a double mastectomy, 10 rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation.

“It was like she was talking to a family member,” Randall says. “What she told me was, ‘I didn’t want anyone else to call you with this news.’ I’d never heard of a doctor with that kind of commitment. She was someone to lean on, someone who was reassuring and kind.”

Mastectomy & Treatment

To help manage her appointments and clinician communications, Randall relied on My Health Online, Sutter’s online patient portal, and the medical staff who cared for her. Dr. Eaker performed her double mastectomy, while Lynne Hackert, M.D., performed the first step in her breast reconstruction, placing the tissue expanders at the time of her mastectomy.

At Sutter Cancer Center, Randall’s Sutter Medical Group oncologist, Nitin Rohatgi, M.D., “was reassuring, clear, comforting, direct and knowledgeable,” she says.

For Randall, the hardest part of the journey was undergoing daily radiation, five days a week for five weeks. But she says her Sutter Medical Foundation radiation oncologist, Carlin Hauck, M.D., understood the emotional strain and connected her with Sutter’s integrative health specialists, who taught her meditation and breathing techniques to use before every treatment.

Randall’s radiation treatments ended in May 2019. She had to wait a year before reconstructive surgery due to tissue damage caused by the radiation.

Reconstructive Surgery During COVID-19

Seeking medical treatment in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic meant taking extra steps to continue her care.

She met by video visit with her California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) reconstructive surgeon, Gabriel Kind, M.D., who would perform her DIEP flap procedure. In a DIEP flap procedure, tissues and blood vessels are taken from the abdomen to repair areas of the breast tissue that have been severely damaged.

On instruction from her CPMC team, Randall, her son and her boyfriend received COVID tests and isolated themselves before her July 6 surgery. At CPMC’s Davies campus, where Randall’s nearly 10-hour surgery was performed, staff requested that she go to pre-op alone, without her boyfriend, to minimize any possibility of exposing patients to COVID.

“They weren’t taking any chances,” Randall says. “They were keeping COVID out of their facility. That gave me the confidence to give my boyfriend a kiss and go up alone.”

After the surgery, she spent five days in the hospital recovering. Now Randall feels like she’s getting better day by day.

During her time at CPMC, she says, several nurses confided in her that they’d had the same procedure done.

“They said, ‘I was where you are. You’re doing great. You’ve got this. You’re in good hands.’

“And I was, all the way through.”

Paying it Forward: Alta Bates Summit Virtual Food Drive Raises $13.4K

Posted on Jul 17, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

OAKLAND, Calif. –The outpouring of support from East Bay communities for the staff and physicians of Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center during the pandemic has been humbling. Community members from Oakland and Berkeley have donated cases of personal protective equipment and hot meals for staff, mailed letters of gratitude, and local first-responders even organized a mile-long healthcare hero parade –all demonstrating the community’s support for frontline healthcare workers.

To return the gratitude and give something back to the people who most need it right now, Heidi Voellger, RN, assistant nurse manager for the Alta Bates Summit emergency department in Oakland, organized a virtual food drive for the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB). Together, thirteen departments at the medical center raised over $13,400 to help provide much-needed food for struggling community members.

“When the COVID-19 emergency took hold, we experienced a 1,000 percent increase in calls to the food bank’s emergency food helpline – more than half were from households that had never reached out for help before,” said Suzan Bateson, executive director of Alameda County Community Food Bank. “Communities impacted hardest by this emergency are in places where we’re already serving. Months into our emergency response effort ACCFB and its Network of Member Agencies continue to respond to unprecedented need and we are bracing for a prolonged response. Our partners will be critical for the duration of this crisis, and beyond, and we’re extremely grateful to Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center for stepping up to nourish neighbors – especially now.” 

“I know the sense of community, family, and comfort that food can provide, and I believe that nourishing the body can also nourish the soul,” says Voellger. “We love this community and have been supported by them for years. Now is the time for us to pay it forward and share a little love!”

How One Infectious Disease Doc is Navigating Day-to-Day Activities Amid COVID-19

Posted on Jul 15, 2020 in Scroll Images, Uncategorized

We’re all learning to live in this new normal as it seems coronavirus might be among us for longer than we’d like. With cities, counties and states approaching their reopening strategies differently, many are confused about which everyday practices are risky or safe. We interviewed Gary Green, M.D., an infectious disease doctor practicing at Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods, about how he’s approaching ordinary activities like having friends over and getting his hair cut. Here’s what he had to say.

Gary Green, M.D., infectious disease specialist

Q: When and where are you wearing your mask these days?

Dr. Green: A good way to answer this important question is when do I not wear a mask. I have been wearing a regular surgical mask nearly all the time: walking inside or through any work or public building, including the grocery store and gas station. I wear a mask when I am close to any other individuals besides my immediate family, inside or outside. The only instances where I don’t wear a surgical mask is when I am alone in my car or office, or when I am exercising outside alone or distanced from others.

Q: Are you having people over to your home right now? Why or why not?

Dr. Green: We are not having any visitors over to our house right now because state and local physical distancing recommendations are still in place. A few friends and neighbors have dropped by to say hello, but we keep the conversation outside, brief, and all persons are wearing masks. Lots of FaceTime with friends and family.

Q: You’re an avid cyclist. How have you adapted your rides since the virus began?

Dr. Green: I’m wearing a lightweight neck-gaiter that I pull over my nose and mouth when I am close to others. If I’m out riding with one or two friends, we keep greater than 10 feet distance.

Q: You have adult son and teenage daughter. What are you telling them about COVID-19 safety and how to stay healthy?

Dr. Green: Staying healthy and uninfected is very important. We are careful to encourage social distancing and avoiding any crowded or public mixing with our kids’ friends or neighbors.

For the first time, I am grateful for the iPhone and iPad, as they communicate virtually with their friends and rarely get restless or get cabin fever. We do so much more as a family. My son and I might play chess or billiards, and as a family we have been binging many Netflix series and movies. It’s been a delightful and sweet time at the house, and when the kids get cabin fever, we try to do an outdoor event such as a family hike.

Q: How are you managing haircuts these last few months?

Dr. Green: There are a few things I really like to do: get a haircut, mow the yard, and wash my car. I was missing the haircut routine, and for the first two times, my wife cut my hair outside in our garage. She did a great job! Last week, I made an appointment and the stylist and I wore masks the whole time. Even with precautions, there is some risk even in this public setting. Consider asking what precautions your salon or barber shop are taking before you go.

Q: What’s your best guess about when we may have a vaccine?

Dr. Green: There are a lot of variables so we can’t know for sure. According to a June Los Angeles Times article, there are approximately 160 vaccines for COVID-19 in the research pipeline worldwide right now. Between two and four COVID-19 research vaccines in the U.S. are heading into phase 3 trials, the step just before FDA licensing and approval. This is lightning speed for vaccine research and development. The vaccine process often takes years or even decades, it is being compressed into months.

Q: COVID-19 has brought many challenges. Are there any silver linings?

Dr. Green: The amount of collaboration I have seen in the medical and scientific community has been astounding. Out of necessity, we are advancing our technology and our production in diagnostic testing, new treatments, and enforcing prevention strategies. As an infectious disease specialist, I have deepened my working knowledge of immunology to a much greater degree. In all these collaborative community and international efforts, I hope that we are deliberate and certain to share our advances and our fortunes with communities and countries that don’t have the access to medical care like we do.

How a Rural Hospital Treated a COVID-19 Patient 120 Miles Away

Posted on Jul 2, 2020 in Expanding Access, Innovation, Memorial Hospital, Los Banos, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

When Sutter Health’s Memorial Hospital Los Banos had a critically ill patient test positive for COVID-19, there wasn’t an ICU room for her. The small community hospital’s four ICU beds are located in the same large room separated by curtains, and this patient needed to be isolated.

A private room was made available, but there was a problem: It was not equipped with the Sutter eICU telehealth system that allows 24/7 critical-care physician coverage from a central hub 120 miles north in Sacramento. But, as part of its preparations for a COVID-19 patient surge, Sutter Health had just deployed a new system that allowed its eICUs to more than double its capabilities. The patient in Los Banos was the first to be cared for using the new system.

Sutter, a national pioneer in electronic ICU (eICU), has for years ensured critically ill patients in both large cities and small towns have 24/7 access to an expert team of doctors specially trained in their care. From central hubs in Sacramento and San Francisco, these doctors monitor patients in ICUs many miles away using live interactive video and remote diagnostic tools to instantly assess critical changes in a patient’s condition and provide expert critical-care physician support and supervision for the hospitalists, specialists and nurses who provide the hands-on care.

Sutter Health has more than 300 ICU patient rooms at 18 hospitals, each one outfitted with interactive video cameras, but in a matter of a month, Sutter designed and deployed specialized units that enable the eICU’s critical-care physicians to care for upward of 1,000 coronavirus patients without having to travel from hospital to hospital and using in-demand PPE. As part of its COVID-19 surge planning, each hospital set aside other patient rooms that don’t have the eICU video technology installed, and Sutter’s eICU team created and deployed 82 iPad stands across its network to bring these specialized critical care teams to those patients, too. Including the patient in Los Banos.

“The challenge was to come up with a plan for our eICU to provide care for a surge in patients across Northern California,” said Dr. Tom Shaughnessy, medical director of Sutter Health Bay Area eICU. “We are now able to meet the need of a patient surge by giving the same comprehensive, quality care whether a patient is in one of our ICU beds or a converted room.”

With the assistance of the eICU team through the mobile units, the patient in Los Banos recovered from the novel coronavirus. Now rural hospitals throughout the Sutter network are prepared for patients who need to be isolated and still have 24/7 critical-care physician coverage, and Sutter’s larger hospitals are prepared for a future patient surge of any type that requires all-hours critical-care coverage.

“We have nurses and physicians providing some of the best bedside care in the country, and the eICU allows us to come in and provide advanced specialized support as they care for patients,” said Dr. Vanessa Walker, medical director of the Sutter Health Valley Area eICU. “This is critical in the care for those suffering from compromised lung function due to a virus such as COVID-19. Now with these additional mobile units, we are well prepared to meet a surge of patients from this current crisis or any other that may come in the future.”

Vanessa Walker, D.O., cares for a patient through the eICU system in Sacramento

Domestic Violence: Tips for Staying Safe during COVID-19

Posted on Jul 1, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

If you or your family are in immediate danger call 911

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –As the COVID-19 crisis continues, many people are spending more time than ever in their homes. With shelter-in-place orders, tensions and anxiety are high for everyone, and this presents a potential risk for domestic violence.

It’s not always easy to identify when you or someone close to you is in an abusive relationship, and the signs of domestic violence may be different in each relationship. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, physical or psychological.

“Just because there may not be physical abuse, does not mean that it is not abuse,” says Dean R. Sobcoviak, chief protective services officer for Sutter Health. “Verbal abuse, psychological abuse and bullying are all real abuses, and the effects can be just as, or possibly even more damaging than the visible wounds that are obvious from physical abuse.”

Signs of unhealthy, abusive relationships include:

• Physically aggressive with you

• Physically aggressive toward other people or animals

• Abusing alcohol or drugs

• Controls all the finances

• Denies there are any problems

• Isolates you from others

• Verbally abusive

• Possessive, jealous and unpredictable

Recognize these signs in yourself:

• Feel controlled and manipulated by your partner

• Are unable to make your own decisions

• Don’t feel safe in your own home

• Feel watched, even at work

• Feel humiliated, dismissed and helpless

Safety and Self-Care Strategies

If you identify as someone in an abusive relationship, reach out for help:

1. Consider creating a safety plan that includes ways to remain safe while you are in the relationship, planning to leave or after you leave.

2. Continue to stay in frequent contact with your support network, such as family, friends and co-workers.

3. Recognize that there are many resources available and reach out for help:

  • If you or your family are in immediate danger call 911
  • Anonymous, free and confidential support and resources:

o National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

o National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

o California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

  • Whether by phone, video chat or in-person, talk to your doctor about what options exist. Your doctor can provide you with a referral to a licensed, professional therapist.

Workplace Support: If you feel comfortable sharing, let your boss know. Ask if your employer offers additional services for employees in your situation. Not every employer offers additional services, but informing them may help keep you safe while on the job.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order: This is a court order that helps protect you from abuse or threats from your spouse or intimate partner. To explore the option of a domestic violence restraining order, contact your local District Attorney’s office or courts.ca.gov/selfhelpdomesticviolence.htm. Filing is free.

Therapy: Work with a counselor or therapist to build your emotional strength to leave, and to process the trauma afterward.

Asking for help can feel difficult or dangerous in situations like this, says Kim Narvaez, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Sutter Health. “A counselor or therapist will recognize the turmoil you are going through,” Narvaez says, “Just know that you are not alone, and you have the right to be safe.”

Remember your life is valuable. Get help and remove yourself from the situation as soon as safely possible.

If you feel you or your family’s life or safety are in immediate danger, call 911.

Sutter Tracy Community Hospital Named to the Fortune/IBM Watson Health™ 100 Top Hospitals List

Posted on Jun 30, 2020 in Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Annual list recognizes excellence in clinical outcomes, operational efficiency, patient experience and financial stability

TRACY Calif.—Sutter Tracy Community Hospital today was named to the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals list. This is the second time Sutter Tracy has earned this honor, with its first recognition taking place in 2015. The annual list was unveiled on Fortune.com.

IBM Watson Health has identified the top hospitals from a rigorous evaluation of 3,134 short-term, acute care, non-federal hospitals in the U.S. The annual list recognizes excellence in clinical outcomes, patient safety, patient experience, operational efficiency and financial stability. Truven Health Analytics, now an IBM Watson Health company, first established the list to help identify best practices that may help other healthcare organizations achieve consistent, balanced and sustainable outcomes.

“We work to understand and best serve the diverse needs of our community,” said David M. Thompson, CEO of Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, who has been with the medical center for 30 years. “Patient outcomes and patient experience go hand in hand. Our teams are extremely focused on exceeding the expectations of our patients and families while delivering safe, high-quality care.”

Sutter Tracy Community Hospital is the area’s only full service, acute care hospital, and serves more than 100,000 people in the Tri-Central Valley region. The hospital is part of Sutter Health’s not-for-profit, integrated network, which serves as a more user-friendly system by helping patients achieve healthier outcomes via greater access to quality programs and services at a lower total cost.

In 2016, Truven Health AnalyticsTM, the originator of the 100 Top Hospitals list, named Sutter Health and Sutter’s Valley Area – which includes Sutter Tracy – two of the nation’s top five performers among large healthcare systems. Other recent recognitions for Sutter Tracy include an Elite Plus Honor Roll award for stroke care in 2019 by the American Stroke Association and an “LGBTQ Health Care Equality Leader” in 2019 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals recognition demonstrates Sutter Tracy Community Hospital’s ongoing commitment to prioritize patient-centered care, particularly during this very challenging and unprecedented time. According to IBM Watson Health, as compared to similar hospitals, the hospitals included on the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals list had better results on key clinical and operational performance indicators. These include survival rates, patient complications, healthcare-associated infections, 30-day mortality and 30-day hospital-wide readmission rates, length of stay, throughput in emergency rooms and ratings from patients.

“Hospitals, health systems and the dedicated clinicians and staff who work at these organizations have emerged as true heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are grateful to be able to recognize these extraordinary leaders at this time,” said Kyu Rhee, M.D., MPP, vice president and chief health officer, IBM Watson Health. “From small community hospitals to major teaching hospitals, organizations on this list demonstrate a relentless commitment to high value, patient-centered care and innovation. It is clear that the COVID-19 crisis will be a catalyst for reinvention, and we believe these top-performing hospitals are positioned to emerge stronger and smarter out of this crisis.”

For more information, visit http://www.100tophospitals.com/.

3 Reasons Not to Skip Well-Child Visits

Posted on Jun 29, 2020 in Pediatric Care, Scroll Images, Wellness

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – A lot happens within a child’s mind and body as they grow. Their personalities emerge, their moods shift, and their bodies mature. With so much rapid change, its important they get on a path to being and staying as healthy as possible, and well-child visits can help ensure this happens. While these visits may have been postponed in recent months, now is the time to check back in.

“Well-child visits help track children’s health and development, address parents’ questions or concerns, and provide recommended immunizations to prevent illness,” says Tara Scott, M.D., program director of the Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital Family Medicine Residency program.

Read on for reasons why scheduling your son or daughter’s well-child visit should be high on your list and the precautions Sutter care centers are taking amid COVID-19:

Physical Development

The physical part of a well-child exam may include checking your child’s blood pressure, vision, hearing, height and weight. Are they overweight? Underweight? A doctor will help address these concerns. The doctor may also listen to your child’s lungs, feel their abdomen and check their reflexes.

It’s during this part of the exam a doctor may also ask about sleep, exercise and their social circle.

“Over the course of a child’s life from birth to 18, they may have between 15 and 20 well-child visits, with more taking place in their early years and then annually or every other year as they get older,” says Scott. “Well-child visits are more than an annual physical, however.”

Mental Health & Development

Just as important as physical growth is mental growth.

“Many mental health problems occur early in life and may disrupt a child’s developmental processes,” says Scott.

During well-child visits, doctors may ask open-ended questions that assess a child’s mental and emotional state. Questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up,” “Tell me about what you’re looking forward to this fall,” “What are your favorite subjects in school,” or “What are you and your friends doing over summer break” may reveal a lot about what’s happening inside your child or teenager’s mind.

In times like a pandemic, where a lot of change is happening very quickly, a doctor may be able to uncover early signs of mental health problems that require specialized care. They may also be able to identify common signs of anxiety or depression and put in place interventions to help alleviate your child’s symptoms.

Vaccinations

Regular well-child visits are the time when important and recommended immunizations are given.

The measles vaccine, for example, is first administered between 12 and 15 months, with the second dose given between four and six years old. Measles are actually more contagious than COVID-19. Once a community measles immunization rate drops below 90 percent vaccinated, outbreaks can happen. In 2014, California dropped below this rate and experienced a measles outbreak, and another one in 2019.

According to Dr. Scott, “Keeping up with current recommended vaccinations keeps children safe from other illnesses that may be even riskier than COVID-19.”

Now is the time to schedule well-child visits. Even if your child is feeling OK, preventive care is very important.

Our Current COVID Precautions

Sutter care centers, including doctors’ offices, have implemented specific measures to help protect patients. These steps include:

Mandatory Masking – Staff, patients and visitors must wear masks at all times.
Isolation – Those with COVID-19 symptoms are treated in separate spaces.
Cleaning – Teams are performing cleaning and disinfecting.
Screening – Everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before entering care sites.
Contact-Free Check-In – Skip the front desk and check in from your mobile device at some locations through Hello Patient, a new feature on My Health Online.

How to Stay Safe with Rising Heat and COVID-19 Cases

Posted on Jun 26, 2020 in Carousel, Pediatric Care, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento

Temperatures are rising in Northern California, and so are confirmed cases of COVID-19. How do you keep safe from both? Stay home, says an emergency medicine physician with Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.

“Our recommendation for the heat is stay inside and exercise intelligently; that’s kind of what we would say about COVID-19. They overlap,” said Arthur Jey, M.D. “Because it’s so hot, we’re not going to want to go out anyway, so it’s a good excuse to stay home with your family.”

With communities opening up and more area residents wanting to take advantage of the great outdoors and other opportunities, Dr. Jey pleads for folks to keep their masks on … or at least handy. Popular activities in the region include walking and hiking, which are great ways to get some fresh air and exercise at the same time. Won’t wearing a mask make you even hotter?

“When you’re outside, walking and hiking, and there’s no one around, you don’t need to wear the mask,” he said. “But you don’t know when you’re going to come close to someone, so keep your mask close by. I am always wearing a mask around my neck or it’s in my pocket. As soon as someone approaches, I put it on. … When there are people around, my mask is on all the time.”

During an interview with the media, Dr. Jey gave some other tips on how to avoid heat-related illnesses, from heat rashes and sunburns to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Those most susceptible to the heat illnesses include toddlers who can’t communicate that they’re suffering, the very old, and those who have to work in the sun, including farm and construction workers.

What and How Much to Drink

If you are out in the sun, Dr. Jey says the best thing to do is drink a lot of fluids. He recommends good, ol’ plain H2O. Not ice-cold water that can cause cramps, but cooled water. He also recommends sugar-free electrolyte drinks, which are good ways to replenish those essential minerals when working out. Avoid alcoholic beverages along with sodas and sports drinks that contain sugar.

“Make sure you’re smart about what you drink,’ he said. “Alcohol is going to dehydrate you. Really heavy sugared water, like Gatorade, is going to dehydrate you. Electrolyte waters with low or no sugar, fantastic. Water, fantastic.”

He also says it’s not important to count how much fluids to take in, but rather to sip consistently and continually, not a lot at one time. “Everyone asks me how much to drink. Many medical professionals say drink eight to 10 glasses a day. But really, just try to drink well.” He said to take sips at least every half an hour while out in the sun. His counsel: “Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take a drink.”

He also recommends that those going outside wear light, loose clothing and a hat. “I tend to wear baseball caps a lot, but they aren’t the best choice. The ones that you really want are the wide-brimmed ones, like the fishing hats, that cover the back of your neck. We’ve all been sunburned there before.”

What to Do When You’re Feeling the Heat

“There’s a whole continuum of heat-related diseases,” Dr. Jey says, and they progressively worsen as you’re exposed longer to the hot weather.

1.       Heat rashes, which is a reddening of the skin.

2.       Sunburns, which can be very painful.

3.       Heat exhaustion, when you’re still sweating, but you’re feeling a little woozy or nauseous. Your urine at that point is a darker yellow.

4.       Heat stroke.

“This is when it gets scary,” Dr. Jey says. “You stop sweating and your thinking slows down, and you feel horrible. You look like you’re having a stroke; that’s why it’s called heat stroke. I’ve seen people come in completely confused, acting like they’re almost drunk, that’s when you really get scared. The way you prevent that is that you don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking water.”

He says when heat stroke is happening, the first step is to get out of the heat and let someone know you’re not feeling good. That’s why toddlers who aren’t talking yet are very susceptible to heat illness, because they can’t verbalize how they’re feeling.

Next step: “Get some water in you. Don’t chug it, don’t drink a whole gallon of it. Just sit down in the shade or some air conditioning and sip some water. And, if you don’t get better, then come see us at Sutter.”

Dr. Jey said, even during this pandemic, don’t be afraid to go to the emergency room when you are in a medical emergency, whether it’s heat stroke, a real stroke, or any other kind.

“We get concerned that you push things off too far,” he said. “Our nurses and physicians here work really hard to make sure that we keep you safe. … So if you start feeling problems with temperature, problems with the heat, or for that matter, trouble breathing, come see us. Don’t be scared. We have a separate area for those who we think might have COVID-19. Especially now when we’re starting to have another uprising of it. We’re very cautious of it. But I don’t want that to stop people from coming in when they have other illnesses.”

The Sacramento Bee posted one of Dr. Jey’s interviews on heat illnesses. Click here to watch it, and notice his mask is around his neck for when someone comes close!

Juneteenth: A Day for Celebration, Education and Connection

Posted on Jun 18, 2020 in Health Equity, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Juneteenth is the oldest-known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 declared all slaves free, it was not until two and a half years later, on June 19,1865 that Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas and informed slaves that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished. The news kicked off widespread celebrations across the state.

Sutter Health joins in the celebration of this historic event, but the realities of today are sobering.

One hundred and fifty-five years later, racism still exists in our country and freedom for Black Americans remains elusive. The killing of George Floyd is an example of the systemic racial injustice Black Americans have endured for centuries in the U.S.

“Sutter Health affirms that Black Lives Matter and encourages us all to speak up and raise our voices against racism and to advocate for systemic change,” says Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer and executive sponsor for Sutter’s Multicultural Inclusive Resource Group.

Sutter Health President and CEO Sarah Krevans says, “Our Sutter values compel us to speak out against inequity in healthcare and injustice and racism in our society. Within Sutter, our organization has an unyielding commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, and we work to embed it into our culture. We know there is more to be done and are committed to it.”

Sutter takes pride in caring for one of the most diverse patient populations in our nation. Dr. Lockhart is leading a national effort to advance health equity and address health disparities that exist for patients in healthcare across the country. “We know that inequities exist in healthcare and we’re focused on being a national leader to address those disparities and improve healthcare for all. To the extent we are able to make a difference, we have a moral obligation to do so.”

It’s Time to Get the Care You’ve Been Waiting For

Posted on Jun 18, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness, Women's Services

OAKLAND, CALIF. — California is slowly reopening, but like so many unknowns with COVID-19, it’s unclear how long our return to routine will last.

“A surge in virus spread and infected patients could occur this fall or winter,” says Bill Isenberg, M.D., chief quality and safety officer for Sutter Health. “If this happens, and overlaps with the normal flu season, there could be a significant strain on healthcare services.”

With this in mind, medical experts agree that if you had an appointment postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, now is the time to reschedule it.

Norma Lester-Atwood, RTRM, is a mammographer at the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, so she’s well-versed in the importance of catching breast cancer early. Lester-Atwood is typically right on schedule for her own mammogram, but this spring, shelter-in-place orders delayed her mammogram by two months. As soon as she could, she had the screening procedure and she’s glad she did, because her mammogram and a subsequent biopsy revealed a Stage 0 (non-invasive) tumor in one of her breasts. After a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, Lester-Atwood feels she is well on her way to recovery.

“As a mammographer, I’ve always told my patients that it’s important to come in every year for a mammogram because I’ve seen patients who developed fast-growing tumors between screenings,” says Lester-Atwood. “And now because of my personal experience, I’ve seen the other side of the coin and I have even more reason to encourage patients to get their regularly scheduled mammograms.”

Timing is Everything
As Lester-Atwood’s experience shows, timing is everything when it comes to staying healthy. Getting cancer screenings at the recommended intervals can help spot early signs of abnormal cell division or tumor growth before it turns into advanced cancer.

Public health department-mandated cancellation of elective procedures and many routine appointments earlier this year caused many screenings to be delayed, which may, unfortunately, have serious repercussions for some people.

Because of the importance of cancer screenings to maintaining good health, Sutter-affiliated clinicians track annual completion of mammograms, says Isenberg. “We estimate that of every 200 mammograms, one patient’s is suspicious for breast cancer and needs further attention. Because so far to date 4,000 – 5,000 people have postponed mammograms, that means approximately 20-25 cancers may have gone undiagnosed.”

The 0.5 percent detection rate for mammograms is roughly the same for colon and cervical cancer screening, says Isenberg, so similar undiagnosed cancers are likely for these diseases. “Mammograms and screenings for other cancers such as skin or prostate cancer, as well as preventative care are all important to keep on top of,” he says. “And although we often think of cancer as a disease that people get at a later stage in life, cancer can strike at any age. In fact, some hormone-sensitive cancers grow more rapidly in younger patients, so having regularly scheduled Pap test or mammograms can be lifesaving.”

“Some women don’t realize that mammograms are needed regardless of your family history, because most women with breast cancer have no family history or other identifiable risk factors,” says Harriet B. Borofsky, M.D., medical director of breast imaging with Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in San Mateo, Calif., part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit integrated network of care.

Screening for colorectal, prostate and lung cancers are also vital. “Simply put, screening saves lives,” says Borofsky. “Delayed screenings can postpone detection of cancer, which may translate into needing more intensive treatment and a more difficult path for patients.”

Taking Steps to Protect Patients and Staff
Catching up on care is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. All Sutter imaging centers have resumed some level of cancer screening services, or are preparing to resume soon, and each has taken steps to protect patients and staff from exposure to viruses. These steps include:

Mandatory Masking – Staff, patients and visitors must wear masks at all times.
Isolation – Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is isolated from waiting areas, patient rooms, entrances and spaces the general population uses.
Cleaning – Our teams have increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in all spaces.
Screening – Everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before entering our care.
Contact-Free Check-In – Skip the front desk and check in from your mobile device at some locations through Hello Patient, a new feature on My Health Online.

These protocols apply to all visits to our outpatient care centers, including scheduled office visits, radiology, lab and walk-ins to Urgent Care.

Resources to Help with Health Insurance Disruption

Health insurance coverage can be disrupted by wage or job loss, but there are options that provide access to important cancer screenings, even if you’ve lost your normal source of coverage.

In California, the Every Woman Counts program covers mammograms and cervical cancer screening for women with no or limited insurance who meet other eligibility criteria. To learn more, patients can call 1(800)-511-2300.

Other options include extending employer-based coverage through COBRA and CalCOBRA, shopping for plans and applying for premium assistance through Covered California, or applying for and qualifying for Medi-Cal. Charity care and financial assistance options may also be available. You can learn more about these options by visiting sutterhealth.org/coverage-options.

PPE Donations: Like Mother, Like Daughter

Posted on Jun 17, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, People, Safety, Scroll Images

Jiaqi Yu

OAKLAND, Calif. –It’s not quite the family business, but 15 year old Jiaqi Yu has definitely learned how to make connections and obtain much-needed PPE like masks and shoe coverings by watching her mom, Minfen Ding, RN.

Minfen Ding, RN

In April, Yu’s mother facilitated donation of 13,000 masks and other PPE to Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland where she works as an oncology nurse. Now Yu has helped make connections and facilitate the delivery of 20,000 masks to the hospital.

“I am very proud of Jiaqi. She cares about the safety of our staff and is able to advocate for our hospital,” says Ding.

The College Preparatory School ninth grader says she was inspired to facilitate the donation of masks by watching her mom’s efforts to gather PPE to protect her colleagues.

“I believe that every medical worker on the frontlines deserves the best equipment,” says Yu. “They are all working hard to protect us, but they need protection too, and I wanted to do what I can to help them.”

Yu facilitated donation of the masks, which she secured from the Fountain Project Foundation, an East Bay non-profit working to help people with no health insurance obtain medical care.

Feeling Safe Amid Uncertainty

Posted on Jun 16, 2020 in Quality, Scroll Images, Sutter Davis Hospital

Stephanie Myers & Garry Douglas, Sweden 2019

Garry Douglas is one who can appreciate a journey. He made his way from just outside the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation near Mount Pleasant, Michigan, to Northern California in the early 1970s. He explored the majesty and mystery of national forests and grasslands through his job with the U.S. Forest Service. He travels the world with his wife, Stephanie Myers, to visit friends he’s made over the years. But nothing could have prepared Douglas for the journey he endured earlier this year: a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Douglas spent a week in Glasgow, Scotland, visiting a longtime friend before heading to Cambridge, England, for several days and then making the trek to London. He returned home to Winters, a small town in rural Yolo County, on March 16. He started to feel unwell a few days after returning, plagued by headaches and fatigue. After consulting with his physician, Carla Kakutani, M.D., Douglas visited an urgent care clinic where his flu test came back negative. His symptoms took a turn for the worse in the days ahead. The 68 year-old felt disoriented. Shaking with chills one moment, his temperature ratcheting up to 103 degrees the next. On March 30, he came to Sutter Davis Hospital’s emergency department and was eventually admitted.

For Douglas, his recollection of the journey pauses here for a moment. His exhaustion, coupled with the eventual sedation he went under in the intensive care unit, suspends time for him. But Myers picks up the tale – albeit secondhand. She wasn’t allowed to be with Douglas in the hospital because of the visitor limitations in place to limit the spread of coronavirus and protect patients and staff. Conversations with emergency department staff, and Carly Grovhoug, M.D., Myers’ primary care doctor, who works closely with Dr. Kakutani, act like the mile markers toward an unknown destination.

But the path eventually became clearer. The Sutter Davis ICU team was always responsive to her calls any time of the day to check on his status. Social worker Katie Tenerelli was also a “godsend” according to Myers.

“She talked through a lot of things with me, told me what he looked like,” she said.

Myers was eventually able to see him firsthand through the power of video visits with the help of staff as well. Initially, since Douglas was on a ventilator, verbal communication was limited at best.

“He could hear me, but he was out of it. I’d say, ‘Garry, open your eyes,” she said with a laugh.

A visit to Lake Superior, 2019

By the end of the second week, Douglas’ condition improved. He was growing more alert and eventually was removed from the ventilator. He always considered himself relatively healthy and active. But now his activity was limited to “belly band” exercises. Technically known as high-frequency chest wall oscillation, the procedure helps improve lung function. While connected to an airway clearance device, Douglas laid on his back with an elastic band around his abdomen that vibrated 25 minutes at a time. There were also the short-distance field trips—within his room—from the bed to the chair and back again.

“I was a total weakling since I hadn’t moved in two weeks,” he said.

But Douglas was moved by how the thoughtful gestures of Sutter Davis’ ICU staff continued. From the simplest acts of grabbing him coffee to hanging up photos from he and Myers’ wedding or some from their travels made him feel more comfortable, more at home.

Once Douglas was healthy and strong enough to go home, the entire Sutter Davis Hospital team pulled out all the stops. From the second floor on down to the first, through the lobby and even out the hospital’s main entrance, employees lined up for what seemed like miles to applaud his recovery and wish him well.

Douglas was taking his own victory lap to the cheers of adoring fans. It was a salute suited for a hero. And in the eyes of the Sutter Davis team, he was. At this unprecedented time with a lot of unknowns and unpredictability with the virus, he was just as much of a symbol of hope and perseverance to them as they had been for him.

Douglas and Myers are back at home now, adjusting to the new normal. Douglas had a fairly detailed after-care plan that included a home health care nurse and physical therapy visits twice a week coordinated through Sutter Care at Home. Plus, he had a series of other medications and vitamins to take. He is making progress every day and relishes the comforts of home, but reflects back fondly on those he met at Sutter Davis Hospital throughout this uncharted territory of COVID-19.

“It was such a good feeling…to me it just showed how caring they were,” he said.

Our Commitment to LGBTQ+ Patients, Families and Employees: A Message from Sarah Krevans

Posted on Jun 15, 2020 in Expanding Access, Scroll Images

Sarah Krevans, president and CEO of Sutter Health, shares the following message in light of the rule finalized on June 12 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that removes protections for gender identity and sexual orientation from the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act:

“Our commitment to our LGBTQ+ patients, families and employees is unwavering. We remain dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality care that is free from discrimination and affirming of gender identity and sexual orientation. Removing protection for gender identity and sexual orientation from the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act is in direct conflict with our values, and increasing barriers to healthcare during a pandemic is unconscionable. These changes will not impact the way we care for our patients, nor do they change our commitment to equitable, inclusive care for everyone we serve, including LGBTQ+ patients and families.

Additionally, I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision protecting the civil rights and legal protection of LGBTQ+ employees across the U.S. There’s no place for discrimination of any type in our country – including our worksites and in healthcare. Sutter Health is proud to operate in one of the most diverse regions in the U.S. It is our mission to respect and serve all.”

Feeling Anxious Because of COVID-19?

Posted on Jun 10, 2020 in Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – We are all worried about our health, safety and protecting our loved ones right now. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it’s more important than ever to protect our mental health and build resilience.

Recognize Anxiety Overload

“Anxiety is a signal from our brain that puts us on alert, mentally and physically, to both real and perceived dangers. It’s normal to feel anxious right now. But anxiety overload can cause physical symptoms and impact wellbeing,” says Kim S. Narvaez, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Sutter Health.

“Be aware of the signs,” says Narvaez. “These may include: restlessness, aches and pains, sweating, heart pounding, stomach problems, difficulty concentrating, feeling on edge, excessive worrying, irritability, obsessions, uncontrollable behaviors and fearfulness.”

Try Mindfulness to Help Manage Anxiety

Mindfulness is a useful tool that you can practice easily by paying close attention to yourself and your surroundings.

“The goal is to be present and notice what is going on within yourself,” says Narvaez, “Listen to how you are feeling, without any distractions or the need to do anything. This allows us to process thoughts and information calmly so we can move forward in a less reactive way.”

You can practice mindfulness in several ways. Click here to learn more about relaxation, breathing and meditation techniques.

Take time to reflect and ask yourself questions such as:

• Are my thoughts out of proportion to what is actually happening?
• Am I acknowledging my feelings?
• Am I giving myself enough credit for all the things that I am doing?

You can learn more about mindfulness and stress reduction on the Sutter Health website.

Reach Out for Help

Your mental health is important to your physical health and your overall wellbeing. Notice if your anxiety is escalating. If you want more help, contact your primary care physician who can provide you with a referral to licensed, professional therapists who can help with personal problems.

Critical Blood Shortage May Impact Hospitals

Posted on Jun 9, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

OAKLAND, CALIF. – Hospitals across the country are facing the potential for critical blood shortages as a result of blood drive cancellations during mandatory shelter in place orders. Blood donation may also be hampered by the changes blood banks have had to make to keep donors safe.

Now Ronn Berrol, M.D., medical director of the Summit campus emergency department at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, explains the impact of the blood shortage on hospitals in a recent interview with KTVU Fox 2.

Watch the video interview

For a while, the drop in blood donation wasn’t as problematic since there was a lower demand for blood as people obeyed shelter in place orders—the number of emergency surgeries and hospitalizations was reduced— and elective procedures were cancelled, says Dr. Berrol. But as people begin venturing out and hospitals resume urgent and elective surgeries, he says there is the potential for disruption or delays for blood-intensive surgical procedures such as complicated heart, cancer, gynecologic or orthopedic surgery because of the blood and blood product shortage.

The solution?

Dr. Berrol urges healthy people to contact their local blood bank to make an appointment to donate blood. He also counsels patience because, though the need for blood donation is urgent, there may be a delay of a week or two for an appointment since blood banks have had to reduce the number of appointments they can offer in order to implement safety measures like physical distancing and extra cleaning.

Contact the Red Cross or Vitalant to learn more about how you can donate blood in your community.

Clean Machines: How Disinfecting Robots are Helping the Frontlines

Posted on Jun 8, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

It’s not a scene from science fiction. But the battle is real against germs inside hospitals and care centers. And standing alongside healthcare professionals and cleaning crews on the frontlines? Disinfecting robots.

High-tech “clean machines” are more widely used than ever in healthcare—and have been an especially welcome in the arsenal against COVID-19. Integrated health networks like Sutter Health have had them in practice for several years, setting the stage for safety for patients and staff alike.

“Our UV robots help combat against C. diff, MRSA and multi-drug resistant organisms in the hospital,” said Brett Laurence, M.D., Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento’s chief of infection control. “The UV light rays disinfect high-touch surfaces and procedural areas to improve and ensure patient safety.”

Disinfecting robots are featured at California Pacific Medical Center, Memorial Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Sutter Roseville Medical Center and Sutter Tracy Community Hospital. They have even been used inside the Rural Health Clinic in Los Banos.

Sutter Health has taken other steps to make patients feel welcome and safe upon returning to network care centers, as well. In addition to increased frequency of cleanings, Sutter has adopted universal masking for staff and patients, set up temperature check stations and moved or marked furniture to promote physical distancing in waiting rooms.

“The health and well-being of our patients, employees and clinicians is a top priority,” said Sean R. Townsend, M.D., vice president of quality and safety at California Pacific Medical Center. “We are combining the power of science with sensible approaches all in the name of safety.”

Standing by our Values in Difficult Times: A Message from Sarah Krevans to the Employees of the Sutter Health Network

Posted on Jun 3, 2020 in Scroll Images

Last week our Advancing Health Equity Team published a study looking at disparities in treatments and outcomes in African American patients with COVID-19. The unequal burden of disease and disparate treatment is still a significant problem in our country, and Sutter Health is committed to being part of the solution. We have seen across the country, and in our own neighborhoods, the tragic impact to communities of color from the coronavirus, and then on May 25, we watched with horror and sadness the unjust death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Over the last several days, many peaceful protesters raised their voices to advocate for justice and equality, and we stand with them as they peacefully advocate for a just society where no one’s life is at increased risk because of racism or discrimination. We must also condemn the violence that has led to injuries and to the senseless death of a federal security officer in Oakland.

To our patients and communities, I want to affirm Sutter’s unwavering commitment to our values and our not-for-profit mission. Our integrated network strives every day to provide a safe, caring and compassionate place to work and receive exceptional care, regardless of gender, age, race, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious belief. We are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion throughout our organization and providing equitable health outcomes for all.

Senior Well-Being: How to Maintain Mental and Physical Health While Sheltering in Place

Posted on Jun 1, 2020 in Affiliates, Eden Medical Center, Scroll Images, Wellness

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. – As shelter in place restrictions are gradually eased this summer, people are still being advised by public health officials to stay home as much as possible and to maintain physical distancing. While some restrictions are loosening, the virus is still circulating in the community and it remains dangerous—especially for older people. Sheltering in place can help keep you safe, but for some it can have a downside too, leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness or even depression.

During the pandemic many older adults have found new ways to stay connected through technology, others may not have access to the internet at home or may not feel comfortable with video calls or social media platforms that could help keep them connected to friends and family.

What can be done? Recognizing feelings of isolation, loneliness or depression is the first step in alleviating them. Taking some simple actions can help make sheltering in place more tolerable.

James Chessing, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at Sutter’s Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, says, “Sheltering in place is certainly a major challenge, but still only a challenge, one of many that a senior has dealt with in his or her life. Framing it that way calls to mind the coping skills that were used to surmount past challenges, as well as the memory of having succeeded in dealing with other tough situations. While the current situation may certainly be different, the skills or coping devices used in the past may be applicable now. Remembering that feeling of success may give hope.”

Dr. Chessing’s tips to help older people stay socially connected while maintaining physical distance include:
• set up regular phone call check-in times with loved ones
• become pen-pals with a friend or relative
• take advantage of the pleasant summer weather and set up outdoor seating (spaced the minimum six feet apart) to enjoy face-to-face conversations
• get some training or coaching on how to set up a video visit or talk via FaceTime—try asking a your adult child or a tech-savvy teenage grandchild

Just as human connection impacts mental health, so too does physical health. It’s important to your mental health to maintain your physical well-being. One strategy to keep your physical health strong is to maintain a regular schedule, says Pamela Stoker, an injury prevention specialist with Eden Medical Center’s Trauma department.

“Maintaining a regular daily schedule can provide comfort, familiarity, and health benefits. We recommend creating a daily schedule with regular mealtimes, regular bedtime and wake-up, and regular exercise. Irregular meals and sleep can have a negative impact on your hormone levels and medication responses. An irregular schedule can also cause your blood sugar to fluctuate, which can lead you to make unhealthy food choices—like reaching for cookies when you’re tired. And changes in sleep patterns, like staying up late one night and going to bed early the next, can affect metal sharpness, lower your energy level, and impact your emotional well-being.”

“The good news is that regular exercise helps keep your body strong, protects you from falls, and improves your mood,” says Stoker.

Adding to the feelings of depression and loneliness can be the feeling of lack of control, says Dr. Chessing. Even before the pandemic, some older people may have struggled to maintain independence while accepting the help of family and friends. Well-meaning family and friends may try to be helpful by delivering groceries or handling other errands in order to keep you safe from the virus, but this help may cause feelings of discomfort. You may not want to rely on others too much and you may feel your independence is slowly being stripped away. It is important to discuss these feelings with loved ones; remind them of your strengths, while acknowledging your own limitations. As Dr. Chessing reminds us “having open communication will allow you to explore the facts and weigh the risks in order to make informed decisions about behaviors.”

In uncertain and distressing times such as these, you or someone you love may find that it’s not enough just to stay connected with others and maintain a regular schedule—you may find professional help is needed. In the extreme, feelings of depression, loneliness, and lack of control can lead to destructive behaviors like excessive drinking, violence or self-harm. That’s why Dr. Chessing recommends staying in close contact with your doctor and reaching out for help if you feel overwhelmed.

The hardest part may be asking for help, but help is available without judgement.

Call your doctor or call:
Friendship Line California 24/7, toll free: 888-670-1360. Crisis intervention hotline and a warm line for non-emergency emotional support for Californians over 60. The phone line is staffed with specialists to provide emotional support, grief support, active suicide intervention, information and referrals.
Crisis Support Services of Alameda County, 24/7, toll free, 1-800-260-0094. Additionally, Crisis Support Services of Alameda County has expended service to include friendly visits by phone for home-bound seniors.

Even as Communities Open Up, Keep Your Distance

Posted on May 27, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

It may have felt re-energizing to see and hear many Americans gathering at beaches, pools, parks and other public places this past Memorial Day weekend, but health experts caution others to not let their guard down.

“As communities across Northern California start to reopen, we need to remember that COVID-19 hasn’t stopped being infectious,” said Conrad Vial, M.D., chief clinical officer for Sutter Health. “We can’t undermine the physical distancing measures that have been implemented and the impact they have had on slowing the spread of the virus.”

Protecting Yourself, Loved Ones and Friends

Now more than ever, Northern Californians need to remain vigilant about their safety and their health. Bill Isenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Sutter Health’s chief quality and safety officer, shares these important reminders:

• Limit gatherings of any kind. Now is still not the time for parties or potlucks, but virtual gatherings continue to be a viable option.

• Be mindful of your physical space. Always practice physical distancing and stay at least six feet away from others.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Wear a face covering or mask when inside public buildings and businesses.

Respiratory Care Clinics: How Dedicated Exam Spaces Limit the Spread of Viruses

Posted on May 26, 2020 in Carousel, Expanding Access, Innovation, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

BAY AREA, Calif. – Its second nature for people to visit their doctor’s office or an urgent care center when they’re sick — or are worried they might be. In early March doctors across the Sutter Bay Medical Foundation prepared for patient demand at these locations by developing Respiratory Care Clinics (RCCs); an outdoor exam experience that keeps potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

“We always knew patients would have concerns that were serious enough to need an in-person exam, but not urgent enough for a trip to the emergency room,” said Kurt Vandevort, M.D., inter-regional medical director for the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group, part of the Sutter Medical Network. “As community-based providers this middle level of care is what we do best, so it was incumbent on us to find a way to keep providing it, safely.”

By March 16th the Sutter Bay Medical Foundation had established fifteen RCCs in cities across the Bay Area, each seeing patients with COVID-19 concerning symptoms (or who reported a potential exposure to the coronavirus), outside of a nearby medical building that needed to stay open and clean for patients with urgent or medically necessary needs unrelated to COVID.

A month into their operation reporters from The Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle took notice and wrote about these MASH-like clinics. Now, as Sutter Health resumes more routine patient visits, the RCCs will continue to separate patients with respiratory symptoms from those without, to reduce the risk of exposure to viruses, including the novel coronavirus. Read below to learn more about how the RCCs work and what to expect if you are directed to one.

Call First 

Sutter Health is focused on helping ensure patients have access to the right level of care to match their medical need, but we also understand that sometimes that’s hard for people to gauge. That’s why Sutter Health set up the COVID-19 Advice Line at 1-866-961-2889.

Staffed by a team of nurses from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., seven days a week, every caller is screened for symptoms linked to coronavirus. Callers are then directed to the most appropriate level of care based on the severity of their symptoms. Patients may be directed to self-monitor at home, to see a provider by video visit or to come to an RCC location where they can receive an in-person exam.

“By linking the RCCs to a pre-screening process (by phone or after a video visit) we can ensure patients coming to RCC do need to be seen in-person, and aren’t ill enough to go straight to the emergency room,” said Dr. Vandevort, who is also the medical director of the RCCs established throughout the Palo Alto Medical Foundation footprint. “When patients arrive at the RCC we also have some information about their chief concerns, thanks to notes entered in our electronic medical record.”

Different, by design 

A physical exam in a parking lot or garage is strange, but the safety that these setting offer is worth the weird-factor. “To protect patients, staff and the community we designed the RCCs to first and fore-most prevent transmission of any virus from a contagious person; that’s why most of them are outdoors and anyone who comes within six feet of the patient is in full personal protective equipment” said Dr. Vandevort. “At the same time we took great pains to try to make the experience similar to what patients are used to when they go to the doctor or urgent care.”

The outdoor RCCs all have a contact-free arrival process, allowing patients to drive-up and call a phone number to “check-in” for their appointment. At every stage of the visit the patient is distanced from others by either staying in their car or in a marked off space within an exam bay.

In addition to an initial temperature check, patients will have their lungs listened to with a stethoscope, have their blood oxygen saturation checked, have their medical history and medications reviewed, and may be tested for coronavirus or the flu if symptoms indicate they should be. Depending on medical need, patients will also receive additional tests and procedures, including imaging scans, blood draws, heart monitoring and more.

The few indoor RCCs are all in buildings, or sections of buildings, that can safely be separated from other areas where patients who don’t have respiratory symptoms are being seen. The indoor RCCs have implemented all the necessary transmission precautions to ensure that spread of a virus from patient to patient or patient to staff is prevented.

Not Just COVID Care

In addition to screening and treating respiratory complaints, the RCCs have filled another important role; addressing non-respiratory related issues reported by patients who have symptoms linked to COVID (fever, cough, shortness of breath). “Just because COVID-19 is here, that doesn’t mean that other illnesses and injuries go away,” said Dr. Vandevort. “One of the best things about the RCCs is that you are being evaluated by a physician who can treat a wide variety of minor illnesses or injuries, prescribe medications or make a dosage change to an existing medication, and otherwise address a whole host of concerns. It’s what we do every day, and in these safe settings, we can keep doing our job even for patients who may have a virus and be contagious.”

In the short time the RCCs have been up and running, doctors staffing them have made unexpectedly important diagnoses and delivered increasingly complex care. “We’ve seen and treated conditions ranging from an appendicitis, to a swallowed fish bone, to an infection requiring IV antibiotics. We’ve done a lot of good.”

Twice the Team 

It’s not easy to run two clinics (one regular and one RCC), simultaneously, just feet apart, but for the safety of our patients and providers that is what we’ve done. “We had to reassign doctors and nurses so we had coverage in both the RCC and the regular urgent care at the same time, some staff now act as a front-door attendants making sure that patients are directed to the right clinic based on their symptoms, and others are runners shuttling supplies between the two spaces.”

All this investment was made for one reason: to prevent the spread of illness. But the RCCs have had several secondary benefits too.

“We’re also helping to preserve hospital capacity by keeping patients from going to the emergency department unnecessarily.” You wouldn’t normally go to the ER for a fever, and the RCCs make sure our smart use of resources stays intact, even during a pandemic.

At the same time, the RCCs have helped refer patients to a higher level of care when that was needed. “Our job is to help stabilize people so they can safely return home, but when their symptoms are serious we help get them to the hospital.”

Study Shines Light on COVID-19 Racial Disparities

Posted on May 21, 2020 in Expanding Access, Research, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Differences in How People Access Care Contribute to Inequalities

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads throughout the U.S., evidence is mounting that racial and ethnic minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups are bearing a disproportionate burden of illness and death. Here in California, African Americans are about 6% of the California population, but make up 10.3% of COVID-19 deaths where race/ethnicity is documented.

To better understand how this issue impacts patients in Sutter Health’s network, and to help develop solutions, Sutter’s Advancing Health Equity team undertook a thorough data analysis of the not-for-profit system’s COVID-19 patients. The resulting study, published today by the journal Health Affairs, revealed that African American COVID-19 patients are 2.7 times more likely to be hospitalized than their Non-Hispanic White counterparts, and they tend to arrive at Sutter healthcare facilities sicker and with more severe symptoms.

The findings underscore the fact that race and ethnicity still play a pivotal role in determining how and when care is accessed. Despite having health coverage, African American COVID-19 patients may not seek testing and care until it is an emergency requiring hospitalization.

Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has ripped a Band-Aid off of the structural inequities that exist within our society – we must address these disparities right away because the cost of not addressing them is measured in human life,” said Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer at Sutter Health. “With lives on the line, we as a state can and should do better in connecting minority patients to culturally competent care – that is why Sutter Health has committed to advancing health equity and this study is just one part of our mission and work. We have a moral obligation to do so and must work together to meet this moment and lean into the opportunity to advance health equity for generations to come.”

The study, “Disparities In Outcomes Among COVID-19 Patients In A Large Health Care System In California,” was conducted using Sutter’s electronic health record (EHR) data to characterize COVID-19 tested and confirmed cases by key sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, including self-reported race and ethnicity, across the 22 Northern California counties served by Sutter’s network.

A number of factors uniquely position Sutter to offer early insights into the reasons for the disparities in health outcomes that have been noted nationally. As an integrated healthcare delivery network serving more than 3.5 million patients a year, Sutter had been studying healthcare disparities for close to three years when it became one of the first in the nation to treat patients with COVID-19. And Sutter’s integrated system-wide electronic EHR includes race/ethnicity data throughout its service area, which is one of the most diverse regions of the country.

Sutter Health also operates in an environment that is one of the closest to universal healthcare coverage of any state in the U.S., mitigating one of the known causes of healthcare disparities – unequal rates of medical coverage – and making other factors driving disparities more visible. But coverage is not the same as access, and the higher hospital admissions and mortality rates for African American COVID-19 patients in California revealed by the study illustrate that expanded healthcare coverage is not enough to resolve health disparities.

Kristen M.J. Azar

“The real value of the study lies not in the disparities it reveals but in its utility to inform our work to develop solutions that will address the equity gaps we are seeing with programs such as community outreach and engagement in at-risk neighborhoods,” said Kristen M.J. Azar, R.N., MSN/MPH, Sutter Health’s lead author for the study and research scientist within the Sutter Health Center for Health Systems Research. “This pandemic underscores the need to develop innovative solutions that are specifically tailored to address the unmet needs of those at highest risk.”

Sutter has extensive experience looking for and analyzing disparities within its own network and beyond.

The results of the COVID-19 study mirror the patterns Sutter observed in a 2017 study about African American patients with asthma and how they access care. The asthma study found 72% of patients drove up to eight miles to a hospital emergency department to access care, even though they lived within one mile of a primary care clinic. We observed they were doing so because of a lack of culturally competent care.

After reviewing the findings of the 2017 study, Sutter developed its Advancing Health Equity Adult Asthma Program. Since the program began in April 2017, nearly 600 African American patients suffering from asthma attacks have been connected to a respiratory therapist to participate in the asthma program. As a result, very few have returned to the emergency room. The asthma program serves as a model for trusted outreach, education and treatment in a public health crisis – and how they can reduce health disparities.

Provider organizations like Sutter Health are on the front lines and, while not able to address all of the complex societal factors at issue, can play a unique role in developing solutions. For example, as part of its commitment to advancing health equity, Sutter developed a novel metric, the Health Equity Index (HEI), to identify and quantify disparities in outcomes across patient groups and develop targeted interventions to enhance equity. Through the HEI, our Advancing Health Equity team is taking major steps, like those detailed here, to build on the benefits of our integrated network of care to further health equity within the Sutter system and across the country.

Our health equity work and the findings of the study released today highlight the importance of community-based outreach and access to culturally competent care within the African American community, which hold the promise of reducing disparities. Additional research is needed to understand where healthcare disparities exist, what drives them, and what targeted interventions work best to address them. Sutter remains committed to continued advancement and leadership in this field.

How to Weather the Storm: Top Tips for Improving Personal Resiliency

Posted on May 20, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness


SACRAMENTO, Calif. –During tough times, the ability to bounce back from hardship comes in handy. But what if mental resiliency is not someone’s strong suit?

Urmi Patel, PsyD

Urmi Patel, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and director of clinical care for Sutter Mental Health and Addiction Care, defines resilience as “the ability to cope mentally and emotionally with trauma or difficulty, and quickly get back to a state of equilibrium.” And the good news is, according to Dr. Patel, “In general, people have the ability to grow their resilience. It’s not an innate capability, it can develop.”

So how does one develop more personal resiliency? In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, “Resilience: 15 ways to weather life’s challenges,” Dr. Patel offers her top tips for improving one’s ability to bounce back from adversity.

Additional Resources:

People who feel their emotional condition is serious should call their doctor or go to Mental Health America’s website, which offers tips and resources for people who feel stressed, anxious or depressed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: (800) 273-8255

TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ Youth in Crisis 24/7: (866) 488-7386

California Peer-Run Warm Line 24/7 for Californians Needing Emotional Support: (855) 845-7415

Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Welcomes New CEO

Posted on May 18, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Uncategorized

OAKLAND, Calif. – David D. Clark, FACHE, begins a new role as chief executive officer of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit integrated network of care, on May 18. Clark served as interim CEO at Alta Bates Summit for the past year.

David D. Clark

“David Clark is an engaged and tireless leader who quickly immersed himself into all levels of the medical center’s operations when he assumed the interim CEO role at Alta Bates Summit a year ago. Since joining Sutter, David has built a diverse, cohesive, and values-driven team focused on strategy development and deployment, community relations, and operations improvement with a focus on patient-centered care,” said Julie Petrini, president and CEO of Sutter Bay Hospitals.

Clark is an accomplished healthcare executive with more than 25 years of leadership, including 15 years as CEO in various hospitals and health systems spanning rural, urban, academic medical centers, and integrated health systems.

Prior to joining Sutter, Clark served in executive roles at three different integrated health systems: Intermountain Healthcare as regional vice president and CEO in Provo, Utah; Trinity Health as regional president and CEO in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and CHRISTUS Health as senior vice president/chief administrative officer in Corpus Christi, Texas. Clark has provided interim healthcare leadership, executive coaching and consulting for hospitals, health systems, physician groups, and other organizations. Before his interim CEO position at Alta Bates Summit, Clark was interim chief operating officer for El Camino Health in Mountain View.

Clark grew up in Chico, California. He earned an MBA in Health Organization Management from Texas Tech University and a B.S. in Finance from Brigham Young University.

Program Designed to Attract Docs to Rural Areas Receives Accreditation

Posted on May 15, 2020 in Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Scroll Images, Sutter Amador Hospital, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Uncategorized

The Sutter Rural Residency Program received a U.S. grant last year and this week was accredited and is ready to screen applicants. Leaders involved in the program include, from left, Dineen Greer, M.D., program director of the Sutter Family Medicine Residency Program; Sutter Amador Hospital CEO Tom Dickson; HRSA regional administrator Capt. John Moroney, M.D; Jackson Mayor Robert Stimpson; Sutter Valley Area Chief Medical Officer Ash Gokli, M.D.; former Sutter Amador CEO Anne Platt; and Robert Hartmann, M.D., longtime Amador County internal medicine physician and an instructor in the Rural Residency Program.

JACKSON, Calif. – Sutter Amador Hospital’s Rural Residency Program this week received accreditation from ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education), the organization responsible for accrediting all graduate medical training programs for physicians in the United States. This Sutter Health program is designed to bring more primary-care physicians to rural regions, which have been hampered throughout the country by a shortage of family doctors.

The ACGME accreditation allows the Sutter Health Rural Residency Program to begin screening and selecting residency applicants. Those selected – two each year for six total in the program – will complete core inpatient training in Sacramento during the first year, with their next two years on the campus of Sutter Amador Hospital and in community medical offices.

The goal of the Sutter Health program is to develop a sustainable, accredited rural training track in Amador County and to ultimately expand the area’s rural primary-care workforce. In Amador County, there is a high need for primary-care physicians (PCPs) in the area as the ratio of the population to one PCP is 1,760-to-1; the ratio throughout the state of California is 1,280-to-1, according to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps website.

“This is welcome news for Amador County, as it will provide an influx of bright, young physicians into our community to care for our families and should give us a steady supply of primary-care physicians for years to come,” said longtime Amador County internal medicine physician Robert Hartmann, M.D., who will be one of the instructors in the Rural Residency Program. “This is a major collaborative accomplishment between Sutter Amador Hospital, Sutter Medical Group physicians and the Sutter Family Medicine Residency Program.”

The Rural Residency Program was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which allows not-for-profit Sutter Health to expand its successful Sacramento-based physician residency program to Amador County as part of the federal agency’s efforts to provide better access to quality medical care in rural areas.

Since its inception in 1995, the Sutter Family Medicine Residency Program has graduated 139 physicians, all of whom passed their Board Certification assessments on the first effort. Currently there are 21 residents in the program, and the Amador County program will expand the program to 27 residents.

“We are working to strengthen the physician pipeline throughout our integrated network so our patients receive the same high-quality care no matter where they live,” said Dineen Greer, M.D., program director of the Family Medicine Residency Program. “We have combined a strong, dedicated core faculty, community preceptors, innovative curriculum and access to Sutter hospitals so that our residents develop the skills needed to be outstanding family physicians and leaders in their communities.”

The accreditation was welcome news for the state legislators who serve the Gold Country. State Sen. Andreas Borgeas said: “The physician shortage continues to be a prevalent issue in Amador County and many rural areas of California. I offer my sincere congratulations and gratitude to Sutter Health on the program’s latest achievement, and for its targeted effort to bring much-needed family practice physicians to our community. This is a significant step to help expand access to quality care for our communities in the beautiful, remote areas of our state.”

State Assemblyman Frank Bigelow echoed Sen. Borgeas’ sentiment. “Sutter Health has long supported hospitals in more rural regions of California and they understand how family doctor shortages can have a negative impact on a community’s health,” Bigelow said. “I am so pleased they are pursuing this program and continuing their investment in bringing needed primary care physicians to Amador communities.”

Drs. Greer and Hartmann expect the program to be successful in filling the need for well-trained, community-minded primary-care physicians in Amador County and the greater Mother Lode region.

“The medical students applying for this residency opportunity will enter the program with a strong desire to serve in rural communities,” said Dr. Hartmann, “so their career focus will be the health and well-being of families in our towns and smaller cities. This is great for the future of health care in our community.”

For more on the Sutter Family Medicine Residency Program, go to www.suttermd.com/education/residency/family-medicine

Guy Fieri Serves up Meals and Thank-You’s to Hospital Staff

Posted on May 15, 2020 in Scroll Images, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s bright smile and goatee may have been tucked behind a cloth mask while serving meals to medical staff at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, but make no mistake, his iconic bleached-out tips, tattooed arms, and jovial attitude were on full display.

For Fieri, a wildly popular Food Network show host and a resident of Sonoma County, giving back to hospital staff boils down to one local supporting fellow locals.

Dubbed the ‘Mayor of Flavortown’, Fieri’s lunchtime menu for staff did not disappoint. Out of his camo-colored Knuckle Sandwich food truck, he served up more than 600 meals to staff, including pulled pork sandwiches, penne pasta, grilled vegetables and hearty green salads.

Due to social distancing, Fieri could not hand off each meal face to face. Rather, unit managers came out to the truck collect the food boxes and t-shirts for their staff. To make it personal, Fieri autographed and wrote ‘good job’ on each box.

Fieri made the meal donation a family affair by including his wife, two sons and Knuckle Sandwich crew.

“This is for all those in there working hard day and night,” said Fieri. “This is for them.”

Fieri continues to use his celebrity for helping during the COVID-19 pandemic. He recently teamed up with the National Restaurant Association to raise more than $23 million for struggling restaurant workers across the country.

Nurses Give Blood—Encourage Others To Do The Same

Posted on May 15, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Scroll Images, Wellness, Year of the Nurse

SAN FRANCISCO – During 2020’s Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, front-line workers at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) continue to give back.

At the hospital’s Van Ness campus in San Francisco, healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses and staff, took part in a blood drive hosted by Vitalant.

The drive was open to all Sutter employees and held in a large conference room to allow for social distancing.

Interventional radiology technologist Lauren Hamilton said while donating, “I always try to give blood as often as I can. You can save multiple people’s lives in one donation.”

Nearly 60,000 units of red blood cells are transfused in patients across Sutter Health each year. Donated red blood cells do not last forever; they have a shelf-life of up to 42 days.

There is currently a national blood shortage due to COVID-19, which is why CPMC continues to host blood drives at least once a quarter.

“It’s incredibly important and a very easy way to give back to society,” beamed Hamilton, who has the universal Type O blood.

According to The American Red Cross, O negative is the most common blood type used for transfusions when the blood type is unknown. For this reason, it’s used most often in cases of trauma, emergency, surgery and any situation where blood type is unknown.

California Pacific Medical Center, part of Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network of care, has three campuses in San Francisco: Davies, Mission Bernal and Van Ness. CPMC’s state-of-the-art Van Ness campus hospital opened in March 2019.

First Responders Salute Eden, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation Healthcare Heroes

Posted on May 15, 2020 in Affiliates, Eden Medical Center, Scroll Images, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation

CASTRO VALLEY, CALIF. –It was a wonderful afternoon for a joyful first responder parade to salute and thank the dedicated Eden Medical Center and Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation nurses, doctors and staff working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Two mounted officers from East Bay Regional Parks, riding Domino and Guinness, lead off the parade. They were followed by dozens of first responders representing the Alameda County Fire Department, California Highway Patrol/Castro Valley, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, East Bay Regional Parks and FALCK Northern California ambulance.

In turn, about a hundred Eden and SEBMF nurses, doctors and staff members held handmade signs, waved and shouted their appreciation back to the first responders in a heartfelt show of mutual support.

Stroke and Heart Attack Rapid Response: Timing is Everything!

Posted on May 13, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

May is National Stroke Awareness Month

If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.

SAN FRANCISCO –Fear of exposure to COVID-19 shouldn’t keep you away from the emergency department – especially if you’re experiencing signs of stroke or heart attack.

Sutter emergency departments have COVID-19 precautions in place and the capacity to treat those in need. Safety measures include masking patients; keeping patients with COVID-19 symptoms away from common waiting areas, entrances and other patients; arranging for environmental service staff to perform extra cleaning and disinfecting; visitor restrictions (with a few exceptions) and requiring all staff to have their temperature taken before each shift. (Read more here.)

Each year, thousands of people come to Sutter emergency departments with stroke or heart attack symptoms.

David Tong, M.D., director of the Mills-Peninsula Medical Center Stroke Program and regional director of stroke programs for Sutter’s West Bay Region said in a recent interview with The Mercury News, that as a result of people avoiding hospitals for fear of exposure to the coronavirus, some things like CAT scans or MRIs may be easier to schedule now than they were six months ago.

Time is of the essence for treatment of strokes and heart attacks in order to forestall long-term consequences.

With Stroke, Time = Brain
“For strokes in particular, the faster you treat the patient, the better the outcome,” Tong says. “This is not the time to ignore important symptoms because you’re going to miss the opportunity for treatment. We have all appropriate emergency department and hospital protocols in place to keep patients safe.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke and how to respond is with the acronym F.A.S.T.:

F = Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
A = Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
T = Time to call 9-1-1: If a person shows any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.

With Heart Attack, Time = Muscle
Experts warn “time is muscle” with heart attacks. The longer treatment is delayed, the more damage can occur to the heart muscle – and the chances for recovery decrease.

According to Brian Potts, M.D., medical director of the emergency department at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s Berkeley campus, the most common symptom of heart attack for men and women is pain or discomfort in the chest or in other areas of the upper body (in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach). Other symptoms include shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort); breaking out in a cold sweat; nausea or lightheadedness.

“It’s vital to treat heart attacks as soon as possible. Our best-case scenario is a patient who comes to the emergency department as soon as symptoms begin. Many people rationalize away chest discomfort or jaw pain as a momentary digestion issue, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” says Potts. “If you’re in so much pain or discomfort that you’re wondering, ‘should I go to the emergency department?’ the answer is probably yes.”

Data Detectives Track the Pandemic

Posted on May 13, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Expanding Access, Innovation, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Quality, Research, Scroll Images, Transformation

Like a shadow lengthening at sunset or a dark cloud slowly obscuring the sun, the novel coronavirus has the potential to spread silently before positive tests confirm diagnoses in people infected with the virus.

To help get ahead of the curve and prepare Sutter’s integrated healthcare system to manage a potential surge in infections or a re-emergence of novel coronavirus later this year, Sutter leaders are collaborating with researchers and statistical analysts to track infection rates in the Sutter patient population and predict the course of viral spread.

Sutter researchers are experts in data analysis who leverage current and new methods aligned with Sutter privacy safeguards. Their work helps strengthen Sutter’s response to the pandemic. Here’s how:

1. TRACK THE VIRUS: Sutter Health Biobank
Sutter researchers are exploring ways to detect the novel coronavirus before it spreads further, by assessing exposure rates in Sutter’s patient population. This effort is led by Gregory Tranah, Ph.D., Scientific Director of CPMC and Director of Sutter’s Center for Precision Medicine Research.

The COVID-19 Seroprevalence and Surveillance Study will identify blood and serum samples from Sutter Biobank volunteer participants that show antibodies against the novel coronavirus. “Seroprevalence” means the level of a virus or other pathogen in a population, as measured in blood.

“Understanding the surge of infection rate and spread is an important part of preparedness. Epidemiological studies of emerging COVID-19 infections can help determine the burden of disease, develop better estimates of morbidity and mortality, and guide return-to-work and personal-safety decisions based on exposure history,” says Dr. Tranah.

The Sutter Biobank has been enrolling patient volunteers to give blood samples when a blood draw is ordered for clinical reasons. From early December 2019 through March 21, 2020 over 700 Biobank participants had blood samples drawn and archived.

“These samples provide Sutter with a unique opportunity to perform population-based surveillance of COVID-19 exposure when the virus began to spread in Northern California. They represent highly diverse patient data from Sutter’s integrated network. This is meaningful information that will allow us to determine the rate and timing of peak exposure and leveling of exposure rate,” says Dr. Tranah.

“Further, we can use the Biobank samples to find potential evidence of a resurgence of COVID-19 infection this fall. Earlier detection means we can plan for early containment of the virus.”

2. MONITOR VIRAL SPREAD: COVID-19 Surveillance
Researchers and statistical analysts at Sutter’s Center for Health Systems Research (CHSR) are collaborating with Sutter’s Enterprise Data Management, Informatics, Information Services and other operational departments to perform much-needed surveillance on the COVID-19 pandemic and provide insights to Sutter leaders.

Each morning, the CHSR team prepares reports for all Sutter hospitals on the number of patients who have tested positive or are suspected of being positive for COVID-19. They also track total hospital capacity and intensive care unit bed occupancy to help front-line staff with surge-capacity planning.

“Surveillance helps us understand how COVID-19 may be spreading amongst the patients we care for and our healthcare workers, and how we can prepare for potential surges in viral infection rates in the coming months,” says Alice Pressman, Ph.D., MS, Co-Director of CHSR.

Dr. Pressman and her colleagues at CHSR are developing the COVID-19 Universal Registry for Vital Evaluations (CURVE)—a centralized resource for research and quality improvement activities for COVID-19 disease surveillance and modeling, as well as health services and epidemiologic analyses.

“The registry will allow us to conduct research to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare system, Sutter patients, and our community of employees and healthcare workers,” says Dr. Pressman.

This registry develops the structure for the minimum necessary data to be used for each project, securely within the Sutter network. In turn, the knowledge gained can help to inform patient care and operations as Sutter continues to face COVID-19.

In support of Sutter’s Advancing Health Equity initiative, the CHSR team studied the demographics and clinical characteristics of COVID-19-infected individuals and their outcomes, which helped identify patient subgroups that may be more vulnerable to the disease. Early results indicate there may be inequities by sex, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

“Research during a pandemic is vital to determine which parts of our communities and sub-groups of patients are most affected, so that we can allocate resources and care for our most vulnerable patients,” says Dr. Pressman.

3. A MATHEMATICAL CRYSTAL BALL: Statistical modelling to help predict the future of viral spread
One of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is that scientists don’t fully understand the impact of the virus or its prevalence in our communities.

“One way to help answer these questions is through statistical modeling,” says Dr. Pressman. “We can use infectious-disease models as tools to help us predict the future of the novel coronavirus spread and the potential impact of social distancing and containment efforts on flattening the curve.”

Dr. Pressman and her team are collaborating with researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington to understand the models IHME has published for California state COVID-19 data. “We hope to apply these models to our system to help us allocate healthcare resources and make decisions about future containment efforts.”

Data crunching to help halt a pandemic:
Surveillance is the systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data. For surveillance of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, Sutter is using surveillance systems to monitor COVID-19 disease across the system. Surveillance and biobanking can help:
• Monitor the spread and intensity of COVID-19 disease
• Understand disease severity and the spectrum of illness
• Understand risk factors for severe disease and transmission
• Monitor for changes in the virus that causes COVID-19
• Estimate disease burden
• Produce data for forecasting COVID-19 spread and impact
• Improve patient care and help improve Sutter’s response to the pandemic

Preventative Services Get Back on Track

Posted on May 12, 2020 in Scroll Images

Providers and patients reconnect for healthcare support during COVID-19

As California begins cautious steps to resume day-to-day life in the state amid the ongoing concerns of COVID-19, essential services like healthcare are signaling changes of their own.

After weeks of planning, the Sutter Health network has begun expanding clinical services for preventative care and those with medically necessary, time-sensitive procedures and appointment needs in the locations supported by local guidance and public health orders.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot and reinforces that our health is precious. We need to do everything we can to protect it,” said Theresa Frei, CEO of Sutter Valley Medical Foundation. “As we begin our phased approach to reopening, we encourage people to take advantage of the summer months to focus on preventative services to promote their best health now.”

Medically necessary, time-sensitive procedures for many people include mammograms, colonoscopies and skin exams. These services complement other ongoing offerings including vaccinations and well-baby visits. Sutter’s expanded clinical services will also help patients with chronic or complex diagnoses like diabetes or high blood-pressure resume needed care that can’t always be managed from afar. Preventative care helps keep chronic health issues from becoming something emergent or acute.

Sutter Health has taken careful steps to make clinics safe and patients feel welcome upon returning to network care centers. Sutter has adopted universal masking for staff and patients, set up temperature check stations for staff, increased frequency of cleanings and moved furniture to promote physical distancing in waiting rooms. Patients with worrisome symptoms are seen in special clinics to where there are added safety measures for staff and patients.

Digital documentation and check-in options are also available for Sutter patients, which helps cut down on wait-times and get patients into exam rooms more quickly. EZ-Arrival lets patients provide and verify check-in information in the safety of their homes. Hello Patient uses GPS to detect when patients have arrived at a Sutter facility. Patients simply tap on the arrival button on their mobile device to indicate they are ready to be seen. Both services are available to patients who are signed up for Sutter’s online patient portal, My Health Online.

“This safety-first approach helps us support patient needs while allowing us to continually monitor personal protective equipment and testing capability to ensure we can provide care safely and remain prepared for a surge should the number of COVID-19 patients begin to increase again,” said Conrad Vial, M.D., chief clinical officer for Sutter Health. “We are confident that we can broaden our clinical services and still maintain surge readiness.”

Video visits remain an option for patients who have routine care needs. Urgent care clinics and hospital emergency departments across Sutter Health’s integrated network also are open and provide care beyond the pandemic. Clinical teams are trained and equipped to care for patients while protecting them along with staff.

“We know that patients who have medical problems that are not well-controlled, such as diabetes or hypertension, are more likely to fare poorly with any other infection including COVID-19. Regular attention to our well-being is one of the best investments we can make in ourselves,” said Lizz Vilardo, M.D., CEO of Sutter Bay Medical Foundation. “We are here to support our communities so they can safely and confidently reengage with their healthcare providers.”

Sheltering in Place May Not Keep You Safe from Falls: Tips to Protect Yourself at Home

Posted on May 11, 2020 in Affiliates, Eden Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

CASTRO VALLEY, CALIF. –According to the National Council on Aging, more than 75 percent of falls happen inside or near the home where people often feel safer and roam without thought to the safety hazards around them. With the current shelter in place orders keeping people home, focusing on fall prevention is even more necessary.

Kimberly Windsor, R.N., who is the trauma program manager for Sutter’s Eden Medical Center says, “Falls are the majority of traumas seen at Eden and a few minor changes can help you avoid a fall.”

Home Safety
Look around your home, paying attention to walkways, bathrooms, kitchen, and bedrooms.

For general use areas: keep the floor clear of clutter that can be a tripping hazard. Keep a phone within reach should you need to call for help (especially near the bed at night). Secure floor rugs with double sided tape or slip resistant backing.

Bathrooms: remember that towel racks are not grab bars. Grab bars should be properly installed near the tub/shower and toilet. Use nonslip strips or mats in and outside the shower. Avoid the water being too hot, which can cause dizziness or burns. Keep a towel close to avoid losing your balance when reaching.

Kitchen: place frequently used items within reach. Putting things within reach will help you avoid relying on a step stool or chair that you can easily lose your balance on. If you use a step stool, make sure it has a handle for safe usage. Remove any rugs or floor mats that are not secured to the floor with nonskid tape or rubber backing. Clean up spills immediately—kitchen floors can be slippery and dangerous when wet.

Bedroom: make sure there is a nightlight to light the walkway or a light within reach of the bed should you need to get up at night.

Minor changes in your home environment will help you avoid falls. Other adjustments can also help: make sure you eat properly, limit alcohol consumption, take prescribed medications only as directed, and get enough exercise.

Exercise
Remember that exercise is important to keep your body strong and prevent falls. If you feel comfortable walking around outdoor in your neighborhood, make sure to watch for cars and follow all traffic signals while crossing streets. If you prefer to stay home, you can find ways to exercise like marching/walking in place, following along with an exercise show on television, or putting on music and dancing around your newly clutter-free floors!

During these times of shelter in place, safety is on everyone’s mind. With a few simple changes and care you can take the steps to be safe in your home to prevent falls.

The Future is Now: Video Visits Explode in Light of COVID-19

Posted on May 11, 2020 in Expanding Access, Innovation, Scroll Images

Whether at home or in the hospital, patients getting the support they need


“It is transformative—I don’t think we’ll ever go back to practicing medicine in the same way we did B.C. — before coronavirus.”

Albert Chan, M.D.

SACRAMENTO –In what may herald a cultural shift in how patients and their doctors interact, video visits have increased at an astonishing rate across Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network of care since the outbreak of COVID-19 in California. According to Albert Chan, M.D., Sutter Health’s chief of digital patient experience, video visit volume has grown by 350-fold since the pandemic.

“Our digital health initiatives are critical to Sutter’s efforts to respond to COVID-19,” said Dr. Chan. “As we shelter-in-place, digital health enables the human connections that we need to care for our community.”

Video visits, also called telemedicine, offer an alternative way to get care from home for respiratory illness, as well as everyday concerns such as minor injuries, infections, chronic disease management and palliative care. With many clinicians in the Sutter network now offering video visits, patients can book a video visit directly with their provider through their My Health Online account or by calling their clinician’s office.

Read more about Telehealth at Sutter Health.

From Great Challenges Comes Great Opportunity

“Telemedicine is perhaps the only silver lining of this horrible pandemic,” says Aarti Srinivasin, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Sutter’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “It is transformative. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to practicing medicine in the same way we did B.C. — before coronavirus. Each and every day will be shaped by the way we practice medicine A.C.—after coronavirus.”

To further expand access to video visits and other digital innovations, philanthropy teams across the Sutter Health network pooled resources to make $1.5 million available for a system-wide purchase of iPads. So far, 950 iPads have been deployed to patients and clinicians in isolation while about 2,000 units have been provided to physicians to conduct video visits. Through this continued philanthropy partnership, 1,000 additional iPads will soon support telemedicine efforts, with a goal to ultimately equip thousands more physicians in Sutter’s integrated network of care.

Video Visits Inside the Hospital?

But the shift isn’t just for those who are following stay-at-home orders. Video visits have now branched beyond clinical support to patients who are hospitalized. Connection with loved ones can have a profound impact on the human spirit. In these difficult times however, it can be easy to feel isolated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), continues to recommend maintaining a connection with loved ones, even if just digitally, throughout this pandemic.

To bring some comfort to hospitalized patients, Sutter’s Emergency Management System assembled a work group to lead the charge in securing iPads for Sutter hospitals. In about two weeks, the work group provisioned nearly 1,000 iPads to hospitals across the Sutter network. The iPads allow hospitalized patients to connect with family and friends, helping to improve their overall care experience.

“I had the honor of helping the son of a patient visit with his mom via FaceTime on the new iPads,” said Caryn Brustman, R.N., a clinical manager who works at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. “The son was in full military uniform and was deploying soon, but wanted the opportunity to say goodbye to his mom before he left.”

In addition to allowing patients to keep in touch with their loved ones, these iPads help frontline teams save valuable PPE. The care team can check in with a patient before entering the room, eliminating visits before a patient is ready. This also allows support staff like chaplains and social workers, who aren’t typically allowed in these rooms during the pandemic, to connect face-to-face with patients.

Grants Accelerates Video Visit Access to Palliative Care

This new era in healthcare is now also broadening the reach and potential for other means of telemedicine. A $225,000 grant from the Stupski Foundation is enabling Sutter clinicians to bring vital palliative care services via video visits to Bay Area patients facing serious illness or end-of-life. The grant will provide mobile-enabled iPads to enhance patient care and improve planning for inpatient and ambulatory palliative care teams at California Pacific Medical Center, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Eden Medical Center, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. The technology provides added capacity via virtual visits and will also expand access to an advance care planning (ACP) video library to facilitate patient and family engagement, virtual ACP discussions for advance health care directive, and Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).

“Through the generosity of the Stupski Foundation, we will now be able to share important ACP tools at our hospitals as well as our ambulatory palliative care, Advanced Illness Management and care management programs—which could not access these resources prior to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Beth Mahler, M.D., vice president of clinical integration at Sutter.

“We have been inspired by the pandemic response across the Bay Area, in particular from healthcare providers like Sutter Health that are expanding telehealth to deliver care,” says Dan Tuttle, Stupski Foundation director of health. “Thanks to their quick and thoughtful responses, our communities facing the greatest challenges from COVID-19 are receiving the safe, high-quality care they need locally now, and into the future.”

Community members interested in helping these efforts can visit www.sutterhealth.org/give-covid19.

An Unintended Side Effect of Sheltering in Place

Posted on May 8, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Cardiac, Safety, Scroll Images

Fears of the coronavirus are causing some patients to delay or avoid seeking emergency care for a stroke or heart attack. Doctors say every delayed second could put patients at risk for a worse outcome.

If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency, seek care immediately by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency department.

OAKLAND, CALIF. – For some people, fear of exposure to COVID-19 outweighs the risk of a heart attack. In “Afraid of going to the hospital,” the San Francisco Chronicle describes how patients like Oakland resident Hany Metwally are delaying critical evaluation and care for fear of the virus. Says Metwally, “I was afraid to have communication with anybody because I am 64 and at high risk for the coronavirus.”

Metwally suffered severe chest pain at home for four days before his son Mohammed Metwally finally convinced him to seek care at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland. When he arrived at the Alta Bates Summit emergency department in Oakland, the senior Metwally was impressed with how patients with upper respiratory symptoms are kept separate from those experiencing non-respiratory symptoms like himself.

Ronn Berrol, M.D., medical director of the emergency department at Alta Bates Summit in Oakland, understands why some patients may be concerned but, “We want to reassure people that Sutter hospitals and emergency departments have plenty of capacity to care for them and we are taking every precaution to maintain stringent safety guidelines. So if you or a loved one are experiencing severe pain or illness or have a serious injury, please don’t delay care. We are prepared to care for you and protect you from the virus while you are receiving care.”

Junaid Khan, M.D., director of cardiovascular services at Alta Bates Summit, who performed a successful triple bypass on Metwally, says it’s critical for patients to continue to seek care for serious conditions without delay, despite the virus. “People are correct to be afraid, but their risk of delaying cardiac or stroke care puts them at much greater risk than the risk of acquiring COVID-19.”

Read more about the steps Sutter hospitals and emergency departments have taken to protect patients.

Healthcare Hero Salute: Alta Bates Summit Honored by First Responder Parade

Posted on May 8, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Scroll Images

OAKLAND, CALIF. –Members of local fire and police departments lead a grand procession of first responders to four hospitals to show their appreciation and highlight the dedication of the healthcare professionals working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s Summit and Alta Bates campuses were saluted by a mile-long parade featuring dozens of fire trucks and police vehicles, ambulances, motorcycles, two helicopters –and even two mounted police at the Summit campus. The first responders represented local fire departments, law enforcement agencies and medical transport teams from the cities of Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont, plus Alameda county and U.C. Berkeley.

Sirens wailing, lights flashing and posters waving, the first responders cheered enthusiastically to show their appreciation and respect for Alta Bates Summit staff, nurses and physicians who have worked selflessly to care for our patients and the community in this unprecedented emergency.

“We are thrilled and humbled that the Oakland fire and police departments are honoring Alta Bates Summit Medical Center staff and physicians with this very special salute. We are all in this together and it is our honor to serve our community alongside the first responders during this unprecedented time,” said David Clark, CEO of Alta Bates Summit.

As partners in our collective work to keep the community healthy and safe, a the Oakland Fire Department is honored to join first responders from the East Bay to show our appreciation for all the dedicated health care workers and staff who provide essential care every day, and especially as we grapple with the local impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic,” said Oakland Fire Department Interim Chief Melinda Drayton

Oakland Police Chief Susan E. Manheimer said, “This is our way of showing appreciation to our frontline medical personnel during this health pandemic. We appreciate the hard work being done each day during this challenging time.”

The procession began at Highland Hospital in Oakland, proceeded to Kaiser Oakland, and then visited Alta Bates Summit’s Oakland and Berkeley campuses.

Healthcare Acts in Creative Ways to Help Impacted Staff

Posted on Apr 30, 2020 in People, Scroll Images

COVID-19 continues to raise questions about the future and what the next phase or new “normal” may look like. Those working in healthcare are not immune to these issues, but employers and employees are responding in creative and compassionate ways to help impacted workers feel supported in a time with many unknowns.

Regroup. Then Retrain.

Hospitals and healthcare systems in California continue their preparations for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients. Those preparations have caused a shift in clinical operations and changes in workflows—even as systems are discussing resuming some procedures and services through a phased, safety-first approach.

Where does this leave employees today?

At Sutter Health, operating room personnel, surgery center staff and others have been given the opportunity for reassignment and redeployment to different areas of its integrated network depending on where they may be needed. And hundreds of them have raised their hands to volunteer.

Joey Benton

‘Motivational Surge’

Meet Joey Benton. She’s been a surgical nurse for the past 20 years currently based at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital (SSRRH). She completed a cross-training online course to learn the ins and outs of medical charting for medical-surgical units. Since wading into the labor pool, she has been shadowing and supporting those unit nurses caring for patients. She’s been assisting by programming IV pumps, giving medications or conducting advanced wound care. She even takes shifts as a temperature checker at the hospital entrance, a measure Sutter has put in place to protect the health and safety of patients and staff.

Benton said the experience has been beneficial in more ways than one.

“It increases my motivation to learn more, to be more proactive and jump into situations where I may not be as comfortable. I feel a huge motivational surge,” she said. “Sutter is really investing in us. It doesn’t stop at nurses, either. It includes nursing assistants to EVS. If Sutter is willing to train us and support us, that’s everything we can ask for.”

Seventy-five percent of the Sutter nurses who volunteered for redeployment have been retrained to support key areas like medical-surgical units and intensive care units. Training is hosted at Sutter Health University in Sacramento by registered nurses who are trained clinical education specialists.

Groups of 10 worked together in the simulation education lab. The teams put in lots of good practice—and not just with the equipment. They respected appropriate social distancing, wore masks and followed hand hygiene and proper equipment cleaning protocols.

By the Numbers

• There are more than a 1,000 nurses throughout the network who have been retrained on our electronic health record or on how to support our COVID-19 hotline.

• Additionally, there are more than 1,300 doctors and advanced practice clinicians who have been retrained to support video visits for patients with primary care needs.

• While retraining is ongoing, the Technology Training Team that supported this work was able to do the bulk of it in less than two weeks.

Hundreds of Sutter Health employees have donated their own PTO hours into a leave sharing program and money into a philanthropic disaster relief fund – options aimed at helping their fellow employees facing financial hardship.

“Sutter Health values our entire workforce. While circumstances have changed within our network, we’ve seen an incredible response from employees raising their hands to be retrained, as well as helping each other by donating money and PTO hours,” said Jill Ragsdale, chief people and culture officer for Sutter Health. “If we are unable to redeploy staff who are willing to work, we have a wage and benefit continuation program in place to continue to support them.”

Did You Know?

Sutter Health is supporting staff in other ways, too. Sutter is collaborating with the likes of the newly launched Airbnb Work, Outdoorsy and Aimbridge Hospitality to help front line health care workers and doctors find temporary lodging around hospitals where they may be relocated to support.

What Does a PPE Push Look Like?

Posted on Apr 29, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

Chris Bell, a part of Sutter’s Supply Chain team, moves at a quick pace within the warehouse to add to the next shipment of PPE for delivery to Sutter network hospitals.

Hospitals and care centers across the U.S. count on important pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies for staff to help keep themselves and patients safe and protected. But how does it ultimately end up in the hands of those who need it–especially as questions about access and availability still exist?

See hard-working team members from Sutter Health’s Supply Chain in action at their warehouse in Sacramento, and during deliveries to California Pacific Medical Center Van Ness Campus in San Francisco, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame and Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.

Overall PPE demand has risen since Sutter’s launch of universal masking to help prevent viral spread, as well as our support other medical clinics in the community—sharing much-needed supplies when possible.

Sutter Health has evaluated more than 550 new suppliers of PPE during the last month. Due to the diligent and focused efforts of Sutter’s supply chain team, the integrated healthcare network has had some successes in the past few weeks, including:

  • Purchasing an additional 245,000 N95s above our standard delivery levels
  • Ordering 14 million surgical and procedure masks
  • Obtaining 2 million-plus isolation gowns
  • Coordinating with a linen vendor to secure 12,000 reusable gowns
  • Ordering more than 300,000 face shields
  • Receiving more than 200,000 donated gowns, face shields and masks, including N95s, surgical and procedure masks

Don’t Let Fear of COVID-19 Deter You from Getting the Care You Need

Posted on Apr 28, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images

Sutter Hospitals and Emergency Departments are Prepared to Treat You, Keep You Safe

If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency, seek care immediately by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency department.

OAKLAND, Calif. – Given scenes of overwhelmed hospitals on the East Coast, many people are delaying going to the emergency department—even if they are experiencing severe chest pain, stroke symptoms or have sustained a serious injury—out of fear they will be exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Ronn Berrol, M.D., medical director of the emergency department at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, understands the concern. “We’ve seen a decrease in patients with less-urgent conditions coming to hospitals and emergency departments—this has allowed us time to build up resources to deal with a potential surge of COVID-19 patients and helped to prevent the spread of the virus,” he says. “But we want to reassure people that Sutter hospitals and emergency departments have plenty of capacity to care for them and we are taking every precaution to maintain stringent safety guidelines. So if you or a loved one are experiencing severe pain or illness or have a serious injury, please don’t delay care. We are prepared to care for you and protect you from the virus while you are receiving care.”

Berrol explains Sutter facilities have put in place safety measures for masking patients and visitor restrictions (with a few exceptions); keeping patients with COVID-19 symptoms away from common waiting areas, entrances and other patients; arranging for environmental service staff to perform extra cleaning and disinfecting; and requiring all staff to have their temperature taken before each shift.

Unsure if you should make a trip to the emergency department?
If your symptoms don’t seem to rise to the level of an emergency, contact your doctor. Your doctor will determine whether it’s best to schedule you for a video visit or have you come in to a care center or clinic for evaluation.

Check this guide for more information about when to seek emergency or urgent care.

Still have questions?
Visit Sutter’s website to find out more about the steps Sutter facilities have taken to prepare for COVID-19 and answers to frequently asked questions.

Sutter Roseville Moves Up Opening of ER-ICU Expansion to Prepare for COVID-19 Patient Surge

Posted on Apr 27, 2020 in Expanding Access, Innovation, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Transformation

Sutter Roseville Medical Center expansion
Sutter Roseville Medical Center is opening its expansion a month early to prepare for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients.

ROSEVILLE, Calif. – Sutter Roseville Medical Center on Tuesday, April 28, is opening its expansion of emergency and critical care services a month early as part of its preparations for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients. Originally slated to open May 27, the 98,400-square-foot expansion doubles the Emergency Department and nearly doubles the number of critical-care beds, adding 58 more private rooms that can safely care for patients during a possible surge.

Sutter Roseville began the $178 million construction project in 2017 to meet the growing community’s demand for emergency services, critical-care rooms and interventional cardiac and neuro procedures. It is connected seamlessly to the existing Emergency Department on the first floor and surgical and critical care services on the second.

“When our team met in late February to discuss surge preparations for COVID-19, it was apparent that we needed to move up the opening of this expansion to ensure we had the highest level of care available for the expanding needs of our community and region,” said Sutter Roseville CEO Brian Alexander. “Our staff, construction partners, and state and local agencies all banded together and worked diligently to open this expansion 30 days early, but to the same high safety and quality standards.”

As a Level II trauma center serving a seven-county region, Sutter Roseville provides a higher level of care in emergency situations and is regularly preparing for public health crises. The expansion was designed with elements that will assist in those emergencies, including two emerging infectious disease isolation rooms and options to convert the Emergency Department’s expansive lobby into a treatment area in case of a large-scale disaster or patient surge.

Expanded emergency department looby

“When our care teams helped design this expansion, they took into account numerous possible health-crisis scenarios,” Alexander said. “Because of their foresight and planning, Sutter Roseville is prepared to care for patients during this pandemic and other public-health emergencies.”

The new expansion helps Sutter Roseville stay on the forefront of exceptional, innovative care. Its features include:

  • 34 additional emergency beds in private treatment rooms, increasing the total number of emergency beds to 68;
  • Seven emergency triage areas that are equipped to provide treatment to patients;
  • 24 additional ICU rooms, each equipped with the latest eICU telemonitoring capabilities that allow specialized physicians to assist in the care of the patients from a remote hub. Added to the 32 existing critical-care beds in the hospital, there will be 56 ICU rooms available for the sickest patients if a surge were to occur;
  • Two interventional labs providing the latest technology for cardiac catheterization procedures. A third interventional lab is currently being built with additional capabilities for neuro and radiological procedures.
New intensive care unit room

“California is being challenged in new ways during the COVID-19 public health crisis, and we are rising to that challenge in ways large and small across the state,” said California State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama. “Here in Northern California, one of the organizations stepping up to meet the challenge is the Sutter Health network, providing new levels of emergency and critical care at Sutter Roseville Medical Center that are so urgently needed across the region.”

The expansion provides a critical need in the community beyond the current global pandemic crisis. The Sutter Roseville Emergency Department expanded in 2005 to treat up to 60,000 patients a year, but last year saw more than 84,000 patients. The additional ICU rooms and interventional labs are also necessary additions as South Placer County is seeing more elderly patients requiring a higher-level of care.

Emergency department isolation room

“Strong infrastructure is one of the hallmarks of a strong community, and our capacity for protecting and promoting public health is central to that,” said State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin. “Sutter Roseville Medical Center’s continued investment in our public health infrastructure helps drive our ability to prevent disease, heal after injury or illness, and respond to both chronic health challenges and acute ones like COVID-19. My thanks to Sutter Health for stepping up to help when and where they are needed.”

This is the latest in a series of expansions Sutter Roseville Medical Center has experienced in the past two decades, transforming it from a community hospital into a regional, tertiary medical campus. The other expansions include:

  • A newly constructed Patient Care Tower with 90 new beds.
  • Expansion of the Family Birth Center to accommodate a community need as young families moved into South Placer County.
  • The addition of a Level III NICU with 16 licensed beds to provide advanced life-saving care to critically ill newborns.
  • The construction and expansion of Sutter Rehabilitation Institute, the region’s only facility dedicated exclusively to acute rehabilitation services.
  • The Sutter Cancer Center, Roseville, a facility dedicated to and designed by those with cancer.
  • Three medical office buildings that house Sutter Roseville physicians, along with two parking garages for staff and patients.

“As a healthcare provider, as an employer and as a supporter of this community, Sutter Roseville Medical Center has already been a strong force for good here and across Placer County and the region,” said Roseville Mayor John Allard. “Expanding its top-notch emergency service and critical care – especially now – builds on a decades-long commitment to serving the people of Roseville and beyond.”

Scott Kidd Gets a Second Chance

Posted on Apr 27, 2020 in Affiliates, California Pacific Medical Center, People, Scroll Images

If ever there was a time to believe in miracles, this may be it.

It started late last year in Folsom, Calif., when the Oakland Athletics West Coast scouting supervisor, Scott Kidd, finally scheduled a visit with his doctor after being unable to shake a persistent flu for two weeks. With the December holidays fast approaching, his wife, Gina, and their three children had become increasingly worried. Although Scott was otherwise healthy and in excellent shape, something wasn’t right. And during that medical appointment, the news Scott’s doctor shared wasn’t good.

As it had been for several days already, Scott’s heart rate was very erratic – from 167 beats per minute down to 101 and back up to 140. Fearful that he may have a stroke at any moment, Scott was rushed to the emergency department in Folsom where his condition deteriorated rapidly. Scott then went into cardiac arrest and was immediately moved to the ICU (intensive care unit).

It was starting to look like the situation wasn’t going to improve. Scott was placed on ECMO (extracorporeal electro corporeal membrane oxygenation) support and, after 12 days in a medically induced coma, he was airlifted to California Pacific Medical Center’s Van Ness Campus, part of Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network of care, in San Francisco. The news from his care team – led by cardiologist Dr. Michael Pham and surgeon Dr. Brett Sheridan – was urgent: Scott needed a new heart and a new kidney as soon as possible.

Knowing that it could take months or even years to find a suitable donor(s), the Kidds were preparing for a long wait. Less than a week later, however – and on Scott’s 46th birthday – both a suitable heart and a kidney were found.

Scott’s life-saving transplant surgery was a success and he’s on the road to a full recovery. Through it all, holding her emotions in check while also managing the family duties back home, was Gina. After finally having a chance to look back on the whirlwind of emotion her family has endured, Gina explained how she could not have felt safer – or been more proud – of her Sutter Health/CPMC medical team.

“When we first arrived to CPMC’s Van Ness Campus location, I felt like we were in the ‘Beverly Hills’ of hospitals,” she said. “From the superb cleanliness to the team’s professionalism, we felt like we’d gone from the minor leagues to the big leagues. That was very comforting.”

Gina said her husband’s care team delivered world-class service that helped ease her anxiety. “Dr. Pham and Dr. Sheridan made every worry I had practically disappear,” she said. “Even though I was scared, they were always there for him and for me. They were so quietly confident about my husband’s path to recovery, which made me feel good. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank them.”

Although David Forst, the Athletics general manager, knew inside his heart that Scott would recover, the entire situation was difficult to comprehend.

“It was a miracle,” he said. “I hate using the word ‘miracle’ because it undersells the science and medical work. To go from a coma to having a heart and kidney show up practically out of nowhere, and now his incredible on-track recovery – it’s just amazing.”

More than 50 years ago, CPMC conducted its first transplant operation—a kidney transplant. Since then, the CPMC care teams have performed more than 9,000 organ transplants, including more than 6,200 kidney, 2,000 liver, 400 pancreas, and 500 heart transplants. The new Van Ness campus hospital features custom-designed transplant operating rooms helping to optimize collaboration. For more information, please visit CPMC’s Transplant Services.

Showing Their Love and Strength: Sutter’s Frontline Workers Raise Voices to a Familiar San Francisco Song (video)

Posted on Apr 25, 2020 in Affiliates, California Pacific Medical Center, People, Scroll Images

SAN FRANCISCO – Front-line staff and physicians at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Van Ness campus hospital in San Francisco joined in unison—along with thousands of others across the region—to sing the city’s unofficial anthem “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” by Tony Bennett.

Earlier in the week, the legendary Bennett, age 93, put out a public call on his Twitter feed for the citizens of San Francisco to raise their voices together on April 25 at noon.

Tony Bennett tweet

The sing-along is really a three-in-one: an ode in support of the City’s front-line workers, a musical tribute to residents for helping to ‘bend the curve,’ and a ballad to remind the public to stay the course of social distancing.

In a San Francisco Chronicle article, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, “By taking a moment to join together in song to celebrate our front-line health workers and everyone working to make a difference during this pandemic, we can recognize how connected we are to one another, not just here in San Francisco, but all over the world.”

Check out Sutter’s front-line staff sing-along below.

CPMC is part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit integrated network of care in Northern California.

Dietary Aide Feeds Entire Hospital Staff to Pay It Forward

Posted on Apr 24, 2020 in Affiliates, People, Scroll Images

SANTA ROSA, Calif., — Sutter Health dietary aide Loren Lafon just bought lunch for the entire staff at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That is a LOT of lunches for a LOT of people, especially to be paid for out of her own pocket,” said Dan Peterson, CEO of Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital.

“I wanted to do it because I love being part of Sutter, I love my team, and I appreciate how hard people are working and how dedicated they are to be here right now,” said Lafon, who has worked for Sutter Health for nearly 15 years.

Loren Lafon (R) stands with the 200 meals she donated to Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting teary-eyed, Lafon shares that in 2017 she lost her home in The Tubbs Fire.

“Sutter stood by me. The organization provided incredible support for our team, and I felt it was important for me to do the same in our current situation,” said Lafon.

“She spends her time talking about others, but people like Loren really are the ones who make our culture special,” said Peterson.

Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital is a not-for-profit hospital, part of the Sutter Health integrated network of care, providing health care services to patients in Sonoma County, Calif.

Sutter’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to support employees 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Dispelling COVID-19 Myths and Rumors

Posted on Apr 23, 2020 in Affiliates, Scroll Images

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, so do the fears associated with contracting it. We are all looking for ways to stay safe in these uncertain times, which is why now more than ever, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to listen to medical experts.

“There are a lot of things that are still unknown about this coronavirus. What is known at this time is that COVID-19 illnesses have ranged from mild (with no reported symptoms in some cases) to severe, including illness resulting in death,” says Alexander Lam, M.D., director of emergency services at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco, part of Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network of care.

“We do not have a vaccine and certain things about the virus (i.e. asymptomatic carriers, transmissible before symptoms develop, surviving on different surfaces) make the virus particularly adept at passing from person to person,” says Dr. Lam.

Here are some of the seemingly innocent myths that have recently taken root in the rumor mill. Please be aware that they are all untrue.

  • Drinking lots of water will kill COVID-19.
    • Stay hydrated, of course, but hydration alone offers no protection against viruses.
  • Taking antibiotics will kill COVID-19.
    • This is an important distinction that confuses many people: antibiotics kill bacteria and are not effective against viruses. COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a virus.
  • A daily vitamin C supplement, essential oils, colloidal silver soap, sesame oil, garlic, and/or fish tank cleaner will all protect you from the virus.
    • None of these has shown to be effective against COVID-19.
  • Vacationing in a warm climate helps avoid infection.
    • COVID-19 can live and thrive in both cold and warm climates, as witnessed by the many locations across the globe experiencing a breakout.
  • Holding one’s breath for 10 seconds without coughing will prove you don’t have COVID-19.
    • This inaccurate statement was initially attributed to a hospital tweet (!). There is no medical evidence that this is true.
  • Consuming alcohol will kill the coronavirus.
    • Drinking alcohol excessively in any situation is never a good idea. Overconsumption also weakens the immune system.

“The greatest weapons we have at this time for keeping people safe are social distancing, hand washing, not touching your face, and following recommendations to stay at home.”

Now is the time to educate yourself on COVID-19. Here are several online resources for accurate information.

California Department of Public Health (CDPH)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

World Health Organization (WHO)

“We understand how difficult a time this is for everyone but hang in there. The choices you make today will affect our ability to care for the community in the future. Together we will beat coronavirus,” exclaims Dr. Lam.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms, a good place to start is by scheduling a video visit via Sutter’s My Health Online or calling 1-866-978-8837.

Volunteers “HELP” Elderly Patients Through Virtual Visits During COVID-19

Posted on Apr 22, 2020 in Affiliates, California Pacific Medical Center, People, Scroll Images

SAN FRANCISCO – National Volunteer Week (April 19-25) is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world.

California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), part of Sutter Health’s not-for-profit integrated network of care, has more than 850 volunteers that help provide companionship and emotional support to patients and their families in the emergency department and elsewhere, guiding people around facilities, explaining procedures, helping patients eat, playing music, performing clerical duties and so much more.

To help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, CPMC volunteers are currently sheltering in place but that hasn’t stopped them from participating in the hospital’s Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). This unique program allows volunteers to engage elderly patients to help prevent episodes of delirium and increase their functional independence.

Instead of meeting patients at the bedside, CPMC volunteers are conducting phone and virtual visits to help keep their patients mobile and alert, with the goal of them getting well faster and going home sooner.

“When we knew our HELP volunteers couldn’t continue to visit our patients at the hospital, we immediately looked at digital alternatives and whether our volunteers could still make a meaningful connection through a virtual visit,” said Clara Rubin-Smith McKie, CPMC Volunteer Coordinator/Elder Life Specialist. “The answer was yes, and we’re excited that our volunteers have committed themselves to engaging patients remotely.”

HELP Volunteers are now using their mobile phones and tablets to communicate with patients. They engage and stimulate patients through activities such as guiding them through range of motion and breathing exercises to reduce stress and encouraging them to walk.

“The HELP program at CPMC has helped reduce falls for older patients by 22 percent and readmission by 25 percent,” says Wendy Zachary, M.D., CPMC hospitalist and HELP physician-champion. “It’s vital during the COVID-19 pandemic that we continue to help support these fragile patients and I applaud our volunteers for their dedication during this difficult time.”

Wendy Zachary, M.D., CPMC hospitalist and HELP physician-champion.

Patients Appreciate the Conversations

Melissa Ann Im, a HELP Volunteer had a lovely conversation last week and passed along the following comment from a patient:

“I’m not a great fan of the human race… but the people who work at the hospitals are the kindest people on the planet… working all their days to alleviating pain and saving lives. They do it because it is what they want to do. They are the most caring and professional people… I am in awe.”

“I appreciate you volunteers so much. You don’t have to do this, but you do… if you could see me right now, I have a big smile on my face.”

Building relationships are the key. HELP volunteers are taught about using a healing touch to establish a trusting relationship with the patient. Amidst the current stress of the pandemic, for many volunteers, it’s the highlight of their week.

“I’m so grateful to our volunteers for continuing to do this great work during this extremely challenging time,” says Frances Huang, CPMC Volunteer Coordinator/Elder Life Specialist. “The significant improvement in the level of care our patients receive from the HELP program is immense and I’m glad that our volunteers continue to bring smiles to so many faces.”

COVID-19 Heightens our Love for Mother Earth, and One Another

Posted on Apr 22, 2020 in Community Benefit, Innovation, People, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Transformation, Uncategorized

A message from Stephen H. Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., Sutter Health Chief Medical Officer and Executive Sponsor of Sutter Health’s Environmental Stewardship Program

With fewer cars on the road and less traffic in the skies, some news outlets have reported a climate benefit. While none of us wanted this short-term positive effect at such high health and economic costs, we are getting a peek at an environment with less human interference — a brief glimpse at what could be possible if we took steps to reduce waste and advance alternative energy solutions in the years ahead.

As champions of health, we know that nature holds a special place in our lives, supporting our mental and physical wellbeing. It’s never been more important to take a walk outside, take a deep breath, enjoy the sunshine and wave at our neighbors — all while staying 6 feet apart, of course. Nature lifts our spirits and helps restore our hope.

Please join our Sutter team in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Mobilizing to care for our planet over the long term is one more way we’re showing our love for our communities and one another.

Here are a few ways you and your family can get involved with Sutter’s sustainability efforts:

1. Plant a garden. Digging your hands in the soil is good for your health. Welcome spring by planting native plants, fruits and vegetables. Take it a step further by starting a compost pile. Composting food waste reduces the amount of waste you send to a landfill, and once it fully decomposes, you’re left with a fertilizer for your garden. Check out some simple tips on composting from the EPA.

2. Donate clothing. While spring cleaning, consider donating unwanted items rather than throwing them away. Each year, nearly 40,000 gallons of water are used in the production and transport of new clothes bought by the average American household.

3. Watch creativity grow. Promote your kids’ love for our planet by encouraging them to create art from natural or recycled materials.

4. Conserve water. Install a low-flow shower head to reduce water use. In one year, a family of four can save up to 18,200 gallons of water.

5. Carry a reusable water bottle. Lessen your environmental impact by replacing your single-use plastic bottles with a stainless-steel water bottle or travel mug.

6. Calculate your carbon footprint. Simply reducing the amount of time we spend running errands, driving to work and to other activities plays a significant role in reducing our carbon footprint. Check out the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator.

7. Learn about sustainability efforts at Sutter Health. Did you know that Sutter completed five solar-power projects; launched a pilot program to reduce the amount of harmful anesthetic gasses released into the atmosphere during surgeries; and increased plant-based meals by 20% in our 24 hospital cafeterias? You can find out more here.

Building a Path Toward Health Equity

Posted on Apr 16, 2020 in Scroll Images

Across the nation, new data is illustrating a startling trend in the spread and impact of COVID-19: inequity. Between Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and New York alone, statistics are showing that African Americans are 74% more likely to contract the virus as compared with their total percentage of the state’s population.

While this new data is grabbing headlines and startling communities across the nation, inequities in healthcare outcomes are unfortunately not new news. As we observe Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17), it is important to highlight that this is especially true for Black mothers, who are still roughly three times more likely to die due to pregnancy related causes.

The United States is facing serious challenges in how we care for expectant mothers and infants. A report in December of 2018 by the Commonwealth Fund found that American women have the greatest risk of dying from pregnancy complications among developed countries. (Munira Z. Gunja, n.d.)

Yet, California appears to be an outlier. California continues to perform better than the national average on maternal mortality with 11.7 deaths per 100,000 live births versus the national average of 17.4 deaths.

This was not always the case. Prior to 2006, the state’s maternal mortality rate had doubled in seven years – and black women were approximately four times more likely to die in childbirth than other ethnic groups.

In response, in 2006, Sutter Health leaders helped spearhead the creation of a multi-stakeholder organization, the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC), to address maternal mortality and maternal health. The work done through CMQCC helped reduce California’s maternal mortality rate by 55% between 2006 and 2013.

Sutter’s partnership with the CMQCC and our work with their California Birth Equity Collaborative – a quality improvement initiative to improve birth care, experiences and outcomes for Black mothers – is helping to lower preventable maternal deaths or unexpected outcomes that have significant short, or long-term health effects on new mothers.

Sutter’s collaborative efforts have fostered real and much-needed progress, but there is still much more to do. We are committed to using robust data and collaborating with other providers and patients to make meaningful improvements to address equity gaps and improve patient-centered outcomes.

Building on this effort, two years ago Sutter created an ‘Advancing Health Equity’ team – led by Sutter’s Chief Medical Officer Stephen Lockhart, M.D., PhD – dedicated to identifying and addressing the issue through targeted, community-based programs. We are using innovative tools like the groundbreaking Health Equity Index that include analytic methods and dynamic applications of clinical and population data to measure outcomes of care among different patient populations. By reporting on these quality measures by race and ethnicity, we can identify previously unknown differences within populations, share best practices, and identify the need for targeted interventions and solutions.

Within Sutter’s own network, there is currently no inequity in race or ethnicity when it comes to maternal mortality. However, we know that 80% of what drives health outcomes happens outside the walls of our facilities. That is why it is so important that Sutter Health live up to our responsibilities as a national healthcare leader, and continue to research, innovate, and quantify the value of our integrated system of care for the benefit of other healthcare leaders throughout the state and the nation.

“I am so proud of Sutter Health’s long-standing commitment to improving health outcomes for our Black mothers, ” said Dr. Lockhart “COVID-19 reminds us more must be done to address health disparities and advance equity across the U.S. Everyone deserves the chance to live a healthy life.”

As long as inequities exist, the work will continue, but the successes we have seen and the initiatives that we are currently working on help to provide a clearer look at how we can do our part to advance health equity for all.

Standing Tall Against the Surge

Posted on Apr 15, 2020 in Scroll Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently unveiled a guide outlining when and how California may lift various coronavirus restrictions based on a set of six criteria, including hospitals’ ability to handle any potential COVID-19 patient surges. However, Newsom cautioned against moving too fast, saying “we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

While social distancing guidelines and sheltering in place orders appear to be helping flatten the curve in California, we don’t know whether recently reported holiday gatherings for Passover or Easter that were outside these guidelines, may cause spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Integrated healthcare networks—like Sutter Health—have built-in support mechanisms that will help the network respond and take care of patients.

“We chose healthcare because we want to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Conrad Vial, M.D., chief clinical officer for Sutter Health. “We have the privilege of doing this every day but it is even more apparent during this extraordinary time in our history. Everyone in our network is prepared to serve patients and our communities.”

Integrated networks like Sutter Health allow teams to shift quickly so hardest-hit areas can receive the necessary resources like personal protective equipment, ventilators and beds. Sutter’s surge planning efforts will allow the network to expand its critical care capacity by two to three times. This is thanks in part to having the access to the best-available statistical models and the benefit of lessons learned in areas experiencing high rates of COVID-19 including Italy, New York, Singapore and South Korea. For example, Sutter’s surge plan doubles its current ICU capacity through that the use of operating rooms, post-anesthesia care units and other spaces. While all 24 hospitals are capable of taking care of COVID-19 patients, it will also focus the first phase of critical care capacity at its six largest facilities: Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame as well Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento and Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

Sutter’s electronic intensive care unit (eICU) allows for monitoring a large number of critical care patients from a single location. The expansive telemonitoring program ensures intensive care unit patients in large cities and small towns have 24/7 access to a team of doctors and nurses specially trained in the care of ICU patients. From two central hubs, in Sacramento and San Francisco, these doctors and nurses help to monitor patients in intensive care units hundreds of miles away, using live interactive video, remote diagnostic tools and other specialized technologies to assess critical changes in a patient’s condition.

Supported by a comprehensive electronic health record, clinicians within the Sutter network can access vital information to care for 3 million patients. Similar to its ability during recent wildfires, Sutter can fill prescriptions, reschedule appointments and keep vital chemotherapy infusions on track, to ensure continuity of care for all our patients, even in the middle of a patient surge.

Additionally, to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 positive patients Sutter has:

• Postponed elective surgeries that can be safely postponed to free up supplies, staff and space;
• Increased supplies of PPE and essential equipment like ventilators;
• Set up surge tents to treat respiratory patients away from the general population;
• Created a COVID-19-specific advice line—1-866-961-2889— to triage patients before they’re seen in person;
• Increased video visit capacity to prevent sick patients from infecting other patients and staff;
• Established drive-through testing for patients who have a doctor’s order and meet criteria for testing;
• Utilized Sutter’s internal labor staffing pool, retraining employees and bringing in more advanced practice clinicians and travel nurses to support staffing needs; and
• Supported remote radiology so Sutter radiologists may interpret studies from home, increasing timeliness and access to imaging services. This can be especially helpful as critically ill patients may require chest CT scans.

“Our Sutter teams have devoted countless hours toward the rapidly changing environment this pandemic has created and we will continue to respond effectively and compassionately,” said Dr. Vial. “While we can’t predict the exact path of COVID-19, our commitment to staff and patients never changes.”

In Need of a Break: Art in Action

Posted on Apr 15, 2020 in Carousel, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, People, Scroll Images, Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center, Santa Cruz, Uncategorized, We're Awesome, Year of the Nurse

SANTA Cruz, CalifTawnya Gilbert, R.N., C.C.R.N. is normally the picture of positivity: upbeat and energetic. But one day in late March, after a shift and a week that all felt especially long and challenging, she felt down. Like all of us Gilbert was concerned about the spread of coronavirus, but unlike most of us, she faced the challenge daily, working as a nurse for Sutter in Santa Cruz County.

“It’s moments like that when I usually go to our staff breakroom and just take a minute to get back in touch with myself, my heart,” said Gilbert, who is also a yoga instructor. “I can usually use the quiet room to recharge and clear my head, but this time was different.”

That’s when she had an idea

“I looked around – at the magazines, the picture window, our little bulletin board – and realized that there wasn’t any art.” Though not an artist herself, Gilbert has always admired the generous amount of art on the walls of Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center. She even helped choose the art in the hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit where she has worked for the past six years.

“I just knew that if we could get some art in the breakroom, and especially if it depicted how healthcare workers are fighting this pandemic, it would inspire staff and lift their spirits.”

The “Surviving COVID” art project began

Gilbert wrote to all the artists she knew, and several she was introduced to, and asked for art that was funny, profound, or uplifting. She encouraged themes of beating coronavirus and thanking healthcare workers, and soon she had 14 original pieces to display in the breakroom at the hospital. The art was an instant hit with staff, and the project has since spread to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) medical buildings in Watsonville and Santa Cruz, the emergency room of neighboring Dominican Hospital and the halls of nearby Watsonville Community Hospital.

Babs Kingsley, M.A., R.N., manager of emergency services at Dominican Hospital said “the staff are incredibly grateful for the donated artwork and sentiment from the community that it represents. The art is providing staff with motivation and strength, and the collaboration between healthcare networks reminds us that we are not fighting this battle alone. Many thanks to Tawnya for helping us turn an uncertain time into one of collaboration and pride.”

Art is an antidote to fear

“Art comforts and connects us; when a doctor, nurse or housekeeper views these images I hope they see an entire community of artists who are supporting them and helping them process emotions that are hard to put into words,” said Gilbert.

Creativity and positivity abound in the works collected to-date. “Glove Conquers All,” for example, is a take on the raised fist, a symbol of solidarity that is used to express unity and strength. In this original work by Andi Mellon, the fist is encased in a glove and surrounded by Gladiolas which symbolize bravery.

Another piece that features gloves is “Creation” by artist Michael Lane. The work imagines an update of the classic “Creation of Adam” for our modern moment. “With all the precautions required for coronavirus, I thought it would be interesting to add a twist on safety to this iconic piece,” said Lane.

“The Brave Nurse” depicts the importance of sheltering-in-place and the bravery of a nurse who protects her community from COVID-19, represented as attacking balls with sharp teeth and angry eyes. Seamlessly blending literal and figurative references, artist Lily K. has been able to include several key elements of the pandemic in one uplifting scene.

Calling all artists

Little more than a week after her idea-inspiring low point, Gilbert feels energized by the entirely volunteer-led and donation-dependent project.

“Today I worked 10 hours, ate dinner, read to my daughter, spoke to two artists about sharing their art and applied for a grant. I’m going to bed, rest well Santa Cruz,” she wrote to friends and family.

Gilbert has been overwhelmed by the response from the community, in the form of art and framing supplies, and she encourages anyone who wants to help to email her at: lokilove28@gmail.com

Remember to Breathe: Doctor’s Mindful Breathing Practice Helps Foster Calm

Posted on Apr 14, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Scroll Images, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation, Wellness

Leif Hass, M.D.


OAKLAND, Calif. — The world-wide pandemic is causing worry and uncertainty for many. Leif Hass, M.D., a family practitioner with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation and a hospitalist at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, is working to reduce his stress one breath at a time, through his mindful breathing practice.

In a new “Science of Happiness” podcast, Dr. Hass shares his mindful breathing tips and describes how the practice helps him stay calm, focus his attention and be present for his patients. The podcast is fittingly called, “Remembering to Breathe. How a doctor stays calm and centered during times of uncertainty, one breath at a time.”

Listen to the podcast.

Says Dr. Hass, “Mindful breathing prompts us to follow our breath, getting into a nice deep rhythm of breathing. And we know that mindful breathing can reduce anxiety and depression and help people handle pain.”

How a Pandemic Launched a NorCal Healthcare System

Posted on Apr 14, 2020 in Carousel, Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Innovation, People, Quality, Scroll Images, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Transformation, Uncategorized

Spanish Flu
A nurse takes a patient’s pulse in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1, 1918. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The pandemic started slowly in Sacramento. For weeks, residents of the city believed what was going around was just the usual flu that arrived every fall. But in just two months, thousands in the city had been infected and about 500 Sacramentans were dead.

That happened a century ago. Because of the inadequacy of the existing Sacramento hospitals to care for the numerous victims of the Spanish flu in 1918, local doctors and civic leaders banded together to build a new, more modern hospital to meet the growing city’s needs.

Sutter Health was born.

Begun as a single Sutter Hospital kitty-corner to Sutter’s Fort, Sutter Health now has a presence in 22 counties across Northern California, featuring thousands of doctors and allied clinical providers and more than 50,000 employees. As an integrated health system, Sutter is uniquely qualified and capable to care for residents during a health crisis such as COVID-19.

“A group of hospitals and doctor’s offices are able to band together, share resources, skills and knowledge, and institute best practices to care more effectively and efficiently for our patients and the communities we serve,” said Dave Cheney, the interim president and CEO of Sutter Valley Area Hospitals and the CEO of Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento. “We have systems in place that we test all the time to ensure we are prepared for many crises, including a pandemic like COVID-19.”

Groudbreaking
Just a few years after the devastating Spanish flu, Sacramento physicians, nurses and civic leaders gathered to break ground in 1922 for the first Sutter Hospital.

Physicians Fill a Need in Sacramento

The deadly influenza commonly called Spanish flu killed about 50 million worldwide. From August 1918 to July 1919, 20 million Americans became sick and more than 500,000 died, 13,340 of them in California. In Sacramento, slow action by the city public health office delayed care and, within a couple of weeks, sick residents flooded the hospitals. The city library was even converted into a makeshift hospital. A Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento history recounts: 

“The influenza epidemic of 1918 gave convincing evidence to Sacramento doctors that the city’s two major hospitals were woefully inadequate to provide the health care services vital to the rapidly growing community. The flu epidemic had sorely taxed these facilities and highlighted the need for a modern, fireproof hospital. Recognizing the critical need for hospital care for their patients, 17 local physicians came together with civic leaders to create a new hospital.”

The group incorporated as Sutter Hospital Association in 1921, naming it after its neighbor, Sutter’s Fort, which cared for Gold Rush pioneers as Sacramento’s first hospital. The first Sutter Hospital was built two years later and opened in December 1923 as “the most modern hospital to be found in the state,” according to The Sacramento Bee. It was the first private, non-sectarian hospital in the city, and the first to offer private rooms.

The hospital became not-for-profit in 1935 and changed its name to Sutter General Hospital. It opened Sutter Maternity Hospital in 1937 two miles away and it soon expanded its services and was renamed Sutter Memorial Hospital. In the 1980s, the old Sutter General Hospital was replaced by a modern facility across the street from Sutter’s Fort, and in 2015 all adult and pediatric services were combined under one roof when the Anderson Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center opened essentially in the same location as the original Sutter Hospital.

First Sutter Hospital
The first Sutter Hospital opened in December 1923 as California’s “most modern hospital.” Now, Sutter Health is an integrated healthcare system that includes 24 hospitals in Northern California.

A Health Network Grows

The 1980s and 1990s saw tremendous growth for Sutter. Struggling community hospitals in Roseville, Auburn, Jackson, Davis, Modesto and other nearby cities merged with what was then known as Sutter Community Hospitals. Then came the deal that more than doubled the healthcare system. In 1996, Sutter Community Hospitals merged with a group of Bay Area hospitals and physician groups known as California Healthcare System. These included such large, well-respected, historic hospitals as California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Alta Bates in the East Bay. This new system became, simply, Sutter Health.

Now as a model of healthcare integration, Sutter Health provides a user-friendly system centered around patient care — a system that offers greater access to quality healthcare while holding the line on costs. This connectivity allows Sutter teams to provide innovative, high-quality and life-saving care to more than 3 million Californians. Sutter’s integrated care model allows care teams and care locations to use the power of the network to share ideas, technologies and best practices, ultimately providing better care and a user-friendly experience, achieving healthier patient outcomes and reducing costs.

Our Heroes Wear Scrubs
Grateful community members are thanking Sutter Health front-line workers throughout Northern California.

An Integrated Network Fights COVID-19

Today, Sutter Health’s hospitals and physician groups don’t operate in a vacuum. Each hospital is supported by a larger system that can share knowledge and send materials, equipment and even manpower to where they are needed most. The system is called the Sutter Health Emergency Management System, which is organized after the federal government’s National Incident Command System.

Here’s how it works: Part of the Sutter Health Emergency Management System is a team throughout the network that works on gathering and purchasing the necessary supplies and equipment needed during this pandemic, including N95 masks and ventilators. Another team monitors bed space to ensure that each hospital can care for a COVID-19 patient surge. Clinical team members across the network are working together to address any issues that may unfold and to share best practices as they treat coronavirus patients.

That’s the power of a not-for-profit, integrated healthcare network.

“We are leveraging the strength of our united teams to increase our capacity and knowledge, and to provide the necessary equipment,” Cheney said. “We are preparing all of our network hospitals in the event we see a surge in patients due to COVID-19. Thanks to the integrated system that has been more than 100 years in the making, we are prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude now more than ever.”

Oakland Nurse Mobilizes Extraordinary Mask Donation Effort

Posted on Apr 10, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Scroll Images

OAKLAND, Calif. –Minfen Ding, RN, doesn’t consider herself a hero, but in the last two weeks, the oncology unit nurse at the Summit Campus of Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland has facilitated donations of more than 13,000 surgical masks for the hospital.

Watching the Coronavirus pandemic unfold in Wuhan, China was the catalyst that motivated Ding to help start a PPE donation drive here in the Bay Area.

“Many clinicians in China were also contracting the virus because they didn’t have enough safety protocols in place or were not wearing appropriate PPE,” said Ding. “But once the health care workers in Wuhan started using more PPE, their infection rates went down.”

Once the virus started to spread in the Bay Area, she immediately went into action and appealed for donations to help ensure hospital workers would have enough protection while caring for their patients.

Ding reached out to several East Bay Chinese-American community groups as well as the Silicon Valley Chinese Association Foundation and the Chinese Alumni Association of Renmin University. She and friends also used WeChat, a Chinese messaging and social media application, to promote her cause.

The donation offers started coming in very quickly, and during the last two weeks more than 13,000 masks have been donated to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

“The real heroes are the individual donors and the large Chinese community who are raising money and making donations to hospitals all over the Bay Area,” says Ding. “Even the people living in China love us and are sending donations. I’m so happy that that so many people are getting behind us and supporting this worthy cause.”

“I am so overwhelmed by our community and their donations of love for our health care staff,” says Ding. “By working together as a whole community, we will definitely win this battle.”

To Our Healthcare Superheroes

Posted on Apr 9, 2020 in People, Scroll Images

As millions across the nation shelter at home to help minimize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of individuals continues to step onto the front lines: our healthcare teams. Doctors, nurses, clinicians, hospital workers, pharmacists, transporters, EMTs—and everyone else who supports patient care sites—continue to treat and serve the very ill.

It’s not easy to fully express the enormous gratitude and appreciation we feel for these healthcare heroes. But recently, hundreds of Sutter employees tried, all sharing words of encouragement and thanks for their teammates on the front lines. Here is a sampling of their messages:

Words cannot adequately express our appreciation. From those who give direct patient care to all those who support patient care behind the scenes, you are all remarkable human beings. We can’t fight this fight without you. (Liz M.)

Thank you to all the brave men and women on the front lines giving it your all every day to care for our patients! We know the sacrifices you are making, putting your own lives on the line to provide world-class care to every patient. There are not enough words to tell you how much we appreciate each and every one of you! We are all in this TOGETHER! (Michelle M.)

To our courageous, selfless teams on the frontlines—the doctors and nurses, lab techs, housekeeping crews, nutritional services employees, pharmacy employees, security staff and so many more—thank you for all you do. (Anita C.)

Could an Experimental Drug Studied for Ebola Work Against COVID-19?

Posted on Apr 8, 2020 in Affiliates, California Pacific Medical Center, Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Innovation, Quality, Research, Scroll Images, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital

Not-for-profit Sutter Health Launches Clinical Trials with Gilead Sciences

clinical trials for Covid-19

Sutter Health, together with health systems across Northern California has teamed up with Foster City-based Gilead Sciences on clinical trials for a promising treatment for COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is at least a year away and now scientists across the globe are investigating existing medicines that might work as treatments.

In April 2020, Sutter began participating in two of Gilead Sciences’ Phase 3, randomized clinical trials to evaluate the use of the company’s drug, remdesivir, in adults diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The studies test the clinical efficacy and safety of remdesivir in patients with moderate or severe COVID-19, compared with standard-of-care treatment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews results from Phase 3 trials when considering a drug approval.

Promising Treatment
Remdesivir is an antiviral, intravenous drug made by Gilead Sciences. It’s been available as an experimental compound for years, but has not been approved by the FDA for use in clinical treatment.

Jamey Schmidt, Director of Clinical Research at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), quickly saw the potential benefit to patients in partnering drug manufacturers (in this case, Gilead Sciences) with Sutter researchers and physicians skilled in clinical trial start-up and ready to help tackle the infectious disease outbreak.

“Sutter research is committed to bring this investigational treatment to Sutter physicians caring for patients infected with the novel coronavirus,” says Schmidt, who collaborated with Greg Tranah, Ph.D., CPMC’s Scientific Director, and Jennifer Ling, M.D., infectious disease specialist at CPMC and principal investigator of the remdesivir clinical trials at CPMC.

CPMC, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, Sutter Roseville Medical Center and Sutter Medical Center Sacramento are participating in the clinical trials of remdesivir, and other Sutter sites may enroll to the studies later this month.

“In response to this global health crisis, we’re proud that Sutter is helping lead efforts across Northern California and seeking new tools to combat this novel infection and lessen the virus’s impact,” says Dr. Ling. “Through research at Sutter, new discoveries will help determine the potential of remdesivir to help individual patients with COVID-19.”

Some patients who have been infected by the novel coronavirus and are severely ill may not meet the study criteria for enrollment in the clinical trials of remdesivir. Instead, they may qualify for treatment via Gilead Sciences’ expanded access program (EAP) for remdesivir. The EAP provides alternative access to the investigational drug for severely ill patients with COVID-19 who do not meet the clinical trials study criteria.

First developed in 2009 and used during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, remdesivir is being studied in multiple clinical trials worldwide to see if it is safe and effective against the coronavirus in humans. The drug was previously tested in animals infected by other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, and is now being tested in humans to determine if it can reduce the intensity and duration of COVID-19.

“Research at Sutter is helping deliver safe, high-quality care to our patients during this unprecedented pandemic,” says Leon Clark, Vice President, Chief Research and Health Equity Officer, Sutter Health. “By bringing innovation to the forefront of how we can best care for Sutter patients who acquire COVID-19, Sutter’s talented researchers are stepping up to the challenge presented by this global health crisis.”

April 29 Update:
Results from a clinical trial of remdesivir, an antiviral manufactured by Gilead Sciences, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) were reported April 29, 2020. The findings suggest that hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19 and lung involvement who received remdesivir recovered faster than patients who received placebo, according to a preliminary data analysis from a randomized, controlled trial involving 1063 patients. The trial (known as the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial, or ACTT), sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, was the first clinical trial launched in the United States to evaluate remdesivir as an experimental treatment for COVID-19.

Additionally, Gilead Sciences also shared preliminary results today from the company’s open-label, Phase 3 SIMPLE trial evaluating five- and 10-day dosing durations of remdesivir in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. The study results demonstrated that patients receiving a 10-day treatment course of remdesivir achieved similar improvement in clinical status compared with those patients who were administered a five-day treatment course of the drug.

Sutter is not participating in the ACTT treatment trial nor the SIMPLE clinical trial. However, as described in the above article posted on April 8, Sutter is participating in the two Phase 3, randomized, controlled clinical trials that are testing remdesivir. Gilead Sciences has not yet disclosed when results of these clinical trials will be published. Clinical trials at Sutter testing investigational use of remdesivir will close to enrollment May 29, 2020.

May 4 Update:
On May 1, 2020, remdesivir received FDA Emergency Use Authorization for the treatment of COVID-19. The authorization enables the potential use of remdesivir to treat hospitalized patients suffering from severe COVID-19 disease in the U.S., outside of the context of an established clinical trial of the drug. Based on patients’ severity of disease, the authorization allows for five- and 10-day treatment durations.

Learn more about Sutter research and clinical trials.



Special Delivery: Mobile Clinic Brings Healthcare to S.F.’s Homeless

Posted on Apr 7, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Scroll Images

SAN FRANCISCO—Imagine if you were ordered to shelter in place and your only option was a homeless shelter. How would you get care for your existing health conditions?

For low-income or homeless people who live in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, the coronavirus outbreak is making what was already a difficult situation even more challenging. Fortunately for Tracey Gamedah, who suffers from mobility issues due to high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, the recently-launched HealthRIGHT 360 Mobile Healthcare Service brings the primary care she needs to her neighborhood, close to the women’s shelter where she is staying.

Watch Tracey Gamedah’s story:

“Sutter Health provided tremendous financial support to launch the medical mobile van and bring medical service to the vulnerable population right here on the streets of San Francisco,” says HealthRIGHT 360’s Stephanie Yeh, P.A., who cares for Gamedah.

Says Gamedah, “You can’t give up hope. I just knew that if I kept going that I would find help and I found it when I saw that truck outside.”

The HealthRIGHT 360 Mobile Healthcare Service is a collaborative effort with major support from Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC). Read more.

COVID-19: Sutter Health Receives Supply Donations – How to Help

Posted on Apr 3, 2020 in Community Benefit, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

As Sutter Health, caregivers and staff work tirelessly to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and meet the needs of our patients across the network, an outpouring of support from the community, businesses and other generous partners has flooded in.

“We are so incredibly grateful for the donations and support we’ve received from people and organizations who want to help our frontline staff during these very challenging circumstances,” said Rishi Sikka, Sutter Health’s President of System Enterprises. “We are so proud of the heroic work they’re doing.”

New and protective N95 respirators and medical face masks, and thousands of new and reusable protective gowns are among the received and incoming supplies. Additionally, corporate foundations are acting quickly to donate thousands of iPads to help enable even more of our physicians to conduct video visits.

Other donors are finding more personal ways to demonstrate their gratitude. For example, Trader Joe’s donated grocery bags of food and flowers for frontline medical staff, a local business sent pizzas to help feed the staff, a flower wholesaler delivered fresh flowers around the entrance and on cars at one of Sutter’s hospitals as a way to thank the care providers – and grateful community members have created chalk art messages of appreciation on Sutter hospital sidewalks.

Sutter’s Supply Chain team also is working around the clock to acquire new products and equipment from as many sources as possible. As a result, despite the challenging and rapidly evolving environment, Sutter has been able to maintain a steady stream of supplies and distribute them across our system to where they are needed most, soit can keep patients and staff safe while prioritizing effective use of personalprotection equipment (PPE).

Currently, the donation areas of biggest need across the U.S. and at Sutter Health are:

  • Personal protective equipment—equipment such as N95 respirators and surgical or procedure masks in new and original packaging to help ensure supplies are safe and medical grade.
  • Blood product donations, which are essential to community health. Donations for blood have declined as many people have been staying home during the coronavirus outbreak. The Red Cross and Vitalant are seeking healthy individuals to donate blood. Visit redcross.org or vitalant.org to make an appointment to donate.

To make learn more about making a donation to Sutter Health and what supplies are needed, please visit the donations web page.

The Surprising Place Where COVID-19 Can Appear

Posted on Apr 3, 2020 in Carousel, Pediatric Care, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Uncategorized

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – If your child is in diapers or is being potty-trained, don’t poo-poo this advice. During this coronavirus pandemic, it may just save your life or that of a loved one.

Paul Walsh, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, says that babies and small children may not show any signs at all of being sick with COVID-19. But the “presents” they’re leaving behind may be especially harmful as they could contain traces of the virus.

Dr. Walsh said hand-washing during this time is important for everyone, but it’s critical for those who are changing diapers or potty-training toddlers.

“One of the cases that came out of China was a child who was orphaned at 6 months old because he was shedding lots of the coronavirus, but had no symptoms whatsoever,” he said. “So remember to wash your hands thoroughly after every diaper change or potty time.”

Dr. Walsh admits that everyone is at risk for catching the virus, but children usually handle such sicknesses much better than adults do.

“Children have vigorous immune systems,” Dr. Walsh says. “It’s not just with this virus, but with most colds and other sicknesses. Their bodies aggressively fight off the sickness.”

With the first death of an infant who tested positive for COVID-19, Dr. Walsh said parents shouldn’t be too anxious.

“There’s no need to freak out,” he said, “but be vigilant with hand-washing and social distancing. Observe your children in their activities. And, especially, keep them away from seniors. They’re still the most at risk.”

Dr. Paul Walsh treats a child in the dedicated Pediatric Emergency Department at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.

A Welcome Mat for Wherever You Are

Posted on Apr 3, 2020 in Innovation, Scroll Images

Nothing beats the comfort of home. And while many of us are staying as safe as possible under our own roofs to help curb the spread of COVID-19, there are still those essential workers who head out the door to their jobs each day—including front line health care workers.

As healthcare organizations across the nation prepare for the surge of patients with COVID-19, there will be a need for front line health care workers and doctors to travel and meet areas of greatest need. And Sutter Health just made it easier for those front line staff.

Sutter is collaborating with the likes of the newly launched Airbnb Work , Outdoorsy and Aimbridge Hospitality to help support front line health care workers and doctors find temporary lodging around hospitals where they may be relocated to support. This service can help support healthcare workers who are self-isolating from their families or who need rest immediately after shifts, as they continue to care for others in need.

“Sutter Health is supporting our front line health care workers in many ways during this unprecedented public health emergency. We are seeking solutions to support our staff as they are caring for our patients and communities,” Jill Ragsdale, chief people and culture officer for Sutter Health. “This service helps remove the added pressure for staff caring for patients in other locations from finding temporary lodging while working away from home. We greatly appreciate how the greater community has opened their doors to support our care givers.”

This is one example of how Sutter Health is using the breadth of its integrated network to increase critical care capacity. The Airbnb Work service will be offered in several locations near existing Sutter hospitals including: Burlingame, Castro Valley, Modesto, Oakland/Berkeley, Roseville, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Tracy and Vallejo.

Respiratory therapist Rachelle Cromwell began commuting to work at Mills-Peninsula Health Center in Burlingame from her home in Chico five times a week in November 2018. She originally stayed with roommates in the Bay Area, but when the COVID-19 crisis hit her roommates no longer felt comfortable living with her.

She spent more than three weeks trying to find a new place to live. When she discovered Sutter’s collaboration with Airbnb, she applied immediately.

“I can focus on work now, and not where I’m going to sleep next,” said Cromwell, who has worked as a respiratory therapist for more than 20 years. “Every night when I come home, I feel grateful to have such a wonderful place to recuperate. Knowing that the hospital, my host and Airbnb support my efforts has meant the world to me.”

Sonnier Sibley, a physician assistant at Sutter Coast Health Center in Crescent City, had been renting a room with an elderly woman and was concerned for her safety and risk for exposure. Her application was approved the same day she applied, and she moved in to a new house two days later.

“The whole process was seamless, and everyone I communicated with made sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed,” she said. “It was a huge relief to find this opportunity. It let me know that Sutter cares about their staff and physicians, and also about the community.”

“The spirit of collaboration and innovation is exactly what’s needed right now as we tackle this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Chris Waugh, Sutter Health’s chief innovation officer. “We’re extremely pleased to partner with Airbnb and others to help support Sutter’s frontline healthcare workers who need temporary lodging near hospitals where they’ve been redeployed to care for patients. Through collaboration, we can help care for them while they care for others.”

Pregnancy, Birth and COVID-19: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 in Affiliates, Scroll Images, Women's Services

SAN FRANCISCO – Pregnancy can often be filled with a lot of questions. Parents welcoming babies into the world right now face an unusual new set of fears. Health experts are reassuring expectant mothers and answering key concerns about pregnancy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Above everything, we don’t want moms to worry. Our teams are going to take good care of both mom and baby,” says Yuan-Da Fan, M.D., department chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

Pregnant mom using digital technology

Pregnancy Best Practices

Common sense hygiene—even when there isn’t a novel coronavirus among us—is the best way to avoid getting sick. Dr. Fan says that precautions are the same for pregnant women. He advises expectant mothers to, “wash your hands for a full 20 seconds as often as possible, and routinely clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.”

Katarina Lannér-Cusin, M.D., administrative director of Women’s Services at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, encourages pregnant women to “limit in–person social interaction and remain at home to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.”

“If you’re pregnant and you are experiencing potential COVID-19 symptoms, such as a high fever (greater than 100.3), sore throat and dry cough, contact your primary care physician to see if you should have testing done,” says William Isenberg, M.D., OB-GYN and VP, chief quality and safety officer at Sutter Health.

Preparing for Birth

“Staying positive is the best thing for pregnancy,” says CPMC’s Dr. Fan. Anxiety isn’t good for anyone—but especially expectant mothers. Click here for tips on limiting anxiety from a Sutter mental health expert.

Additionally, pregnant women should engage in frequent communication with your OB-GYN as your pregnancy progresses. Talk to your care team about your options for virtual appointments like video visits through My Health Online as well as taking childbirth classes via online platforms such as YouTube, Zoom, and Skype.

The Big Day Arrives: What to Expect at the Hospital

Labor and delivery units across the Sutter Health not-for-profit network of care are putting measures into place aimed at keeping expectant mothers and their newborns safe. Sutter hospitals have also instituted temperature checks for all visitors and staff before entering any of the facilities.

William M. Gilbert, M.D., regional medical director for women’s services, Sutter Health Valley Region in Sacramento, wants to let all patients know that Sutter is following all recommended procedures to keep our mothers and their babies safe even if this may mean some inconveniences for our families. Limiting numbers of visitors is just one example to help prevent COVID-19 infection.

“This is an unprecedented situation and our top priority is to protect the health of mothers and newborns. So, for safety’s sake, laboring mothers are allowed one support person, such as a spouse or partner, to accompany them to the delivery room and remain postpartum. The support person must be healthy and thoroughly wash their hands,” says Alta Bates Summit’s Dr. Lannér-Cusin. “We’re also encouraging new parents to use technology like FaceTime to connect with friends and family after the baby is born.”

For pregnant moms who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are considered a “person under investigation” when you go into labor, you’ll likely be placed in a negative pressure room, where the ventilation system is sealed off from the rest of the facility, and physicians and staff wear additional personal protective equipment.

Positive New Research

According to Dr. Fan, who has consulted with colleagues in Wuhan, China, by Skype, early research shows that pregnant women may be at no greater risk for contracting COVID-19 than other healthy adults. In smaller recent studies completed since the outbreak began, Dr. Fan says doctors in China found that no infants born to mothers with COVID-19 tested positive for COVID-19 viral infection. Additional cases showed the virus was not passed to newborns from their mothers’ amniotic fluid or breastmilk (Lancet study here).

Postpartum Support

Giving birth during a pandemic isn’t ideal and it’s important to be realistic about what to expect.

“Consider building your virtual village to keep yourself connected,” says Dr. Isenberg.

After your baby is born, talk to your provider about what appointments can be done virtually—for you and your baby. Explore new ways to connect. For example, if you were preparing to go to ‘mommy and me’ classes after your new baby arrives, you may want to investigate virtual meet-ups up via Google Hangouts with other new moms in your area. Remember, staying connected through a screen is better than total isolation, especially if you were planning on having a family member stay with you during your first few weeks post-partum to help care for you and your new baby.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit Sutter Health’s resources page.

Making Conversations Around COVID-19 Kid-Friendly

Posted on Apr 1, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

How can parents/guardians provide reassurance to children when a lot remains unknown? COVID-19 has changed our world in a short amount of time—and perhaps the course of history—but how can parents talk to kids about it now?

Krystle Balduzzi, M.D., pediatrician at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation, suggests that parents/guardians acknowledge that the situation affects adults just like it affects kids. Families are watching the news or absorbing information via social media trying to find the answers that will make each other feel safe. This is where parents and caretakers can model good behavior by sharing emotions in a healthy way and encouraging children to do the same. “In order to help our kids we need to help ourselves first,” she says. “We need to understand the extreme fluid nature of this whole situation.”

Creating a Safe Place to Share

Most kids know about the coronavirus and will have questions. Dr. Balduzzi suggests parents and guardians need to ask and answer questions about COVID-19 in an age-appropriate way. “Saying everything will be fine or ‘don’t worry about it’ won’t cut it,” she says. “Reassure the child that they are safe and that everyone is working together even though we can’t be with others.”

How IS the Family Helping?

Dr. Balduzzi suggests focusing on ways the family is helping the situation: washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, keeping distance between themselves and others, making sidewalk art for neighbors or donating supplies to those in need. Children may also have questions about when they can return to friends or school. Dr. Balduzzi recommends being honest and saying no one knows yet. Rather, encourage children to help think of other ways to stay connected, like virtual visits with friends, teachers or extended family.

Finding a New Norm

Children crave structure, says Dr. Balduzzi, so getting them back into a schedule as much as possible is key. It’s important for parents and caretakers to get older kids’ input on the structure they would like to create for themselves. For those caring for younger ones, charts can help visually signal how they can stay on track. “We are now their teachers, too, and schools run on schedules, so we should considering doing the same,” she says. Dr. Balduzzi recommends keeping things simple at first: wake up, get dressed, school time, craft time, lunch, outdoor time, etc.

Family Bonds

For those in the immediate household, this is a time to stay close and connected. Hug your child, play with them at their age-appropriate level or cuddle on the couch for a movie. Dr. Balduzzi states that this will help kids feel safe. When kids don’t feel safe, they tend to act out. This behavior change can include temper tantrums, new bedwetting or fear of the dark. For older children, this can include more risk-taking behaviors. “We need to create a safe, calm environment so that their growing minds can process what’s going on around them,” she says. Dr. Balduzzi also emphasizes that it is important for parents to acknowledge that they are human and to always forgive themselves if they have a breakdown. “Sometimes we need to get it out in order to move on,” she says. “These are trying times for everyone and the saying ‘we are all in it together’ never held more meaning than it does now.”

COVID-19: Sutter Health Accepting Medical Supply Donations to Help Frontline Staff

Posted on Mar 23, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Like all hospitals and health systems during this unprecedented health emergency, Sutter Health anticipates a shortage of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE).

“We are pursuing additional avenues to bolster and conserve our supplies, so we can meet critical community need while maintaining patient and frontline staff safety,” says Rishi Sikka, M.D., president of Sutter Health System Enterprises. “Our team is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from community members who want to help our frontline staff and integrated network.”

Sutter is asking for business and community donations of the following new items in original packaging to help ensure supplies are safe and medical grade:

• N95 masks
• Powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) Hoods
• Surgical masks
• Procedure masks
• Isolation gowns
• Paper masks (with ties or elastic)
• Paper protective gowns
• Protective glasses/goggles
• Industrial face shields (e.g., industrial face shields)
• Painters smocks (impermeable)

To make a donation, please contact your local Sutter affiliate or call 1-844-987-6099. A Sutter Health representative will provide specific guidance on how to make a delivery. For large local donations, we can also send a courier. Our top priority continues to be the health and safety of our patients, providers and communities. Thank you for your generous support.

To obtain a tax deduction for non-cash contribution over $500, donors may be required to submit IRS Form 8283 with their tax returns. The form is available here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8283.pdf and includes instructions on how to complete. Additional questions can be directed to giving@sutterhealth.org.

An Open Letter from M.D.s

Posted on Mar 21, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

By: Warren Browner, M.D., MPH and Stephen Lockhart, M.D., PhD

As physicians, we want you to know why we are so concerned about the novel coronavirus/COVID-19.

Some of you may have heard that it’s a minor inconvenience, like a bad cold. So far, that’s true for the majority (but not nearly all!) of people who are young and healthy. However, that’s only a very small part of the story. Here’s the rest:

• Up to one in five of those infected with the coronavirus will get pneumonia and have to be treated in a hospital, often for a few weeks.
• So far in the U.S., more young and middle-aged people have needed hospitalization than in China.
• In those who are infected and over age 70, especially those with underlying health problems, up to one in 15 to 20 will die.

Coronavirus needs people like all of us to multiply and spread. So what matters is not just whether you get sick, but also whether you pass the virus to other people. None of us—except maybe those who have recovered from COVID-19—are immune to it. All of us are potential carriers who can be infected without knowing it.

Right now, on average, every infected person passes coronavirus to two or three other people, who in turn infect two to three others. After only 10 cycles, a single original person can infect 20,000 people in only four or six weeks. Much of Northern California will be infected in no time if we don’t act now.

If we can reduce social contacts by one-third, the number of people who will need to be hospitalized will drop 20-fold. If we do even better, and can reduce social contacts by two-thirds, the pandemic will end. This helps buy time for clinical teams and other scientists to determine what treatments work. We will give hospitals more time to prepare—and keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

How do we do this? By staying away from other people, which means anyone outside your immediate household, including friends and relatives. That means avoiding:

• Birthday parties
• Sleepovers
• Play-dates or meet-ups
• Public places (like playgrounds) where virus particles can linger
• Air travel or sitting too close to someone on public transit

Other important notes to keep your home virus-free:

• Leave only if absolutely necessary and head straight back as soon as your errand is done.
• Exercise out of the house alone or with just members of your household.
• If you buy groceries or cook meal for neighbors who cannot get out, call to let them know you are coming by, and leave your delivery outside their front door.
• If you do go out, wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly for at least 20 seconds as soon as you can, preferably before you touch any surfaces in your home.
• Make sure that people—like kids—who can’t or don’t follow these instructions are kept away from those who are especially vulnerable, like their grandparents or someone with a chronic disease.
• Think about possible exposures. A card or tennis game with friends may sound like fun, but the virus travels on the cards or the tennis balls. Play only with those in your immediate household.

A virus-free home is only as strong as its weakest link, so please stick to the approach, as difficult as it may seem. Following these guidelines can help the nurses, doctors, first responders, pharmacists and grocery store employees continue doing their jobs to support you.

If you do need us, our teams are equipped to provide you with high-quality care while protecting the safety of our care providers. Our staff are well trained to address infectious respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus. If you are sick, and don’t require emergency care, call your doctor before coming in. Do a video visit. Know that if you need care, we’re here for you.

Stay safe. Stay six feet away.

Dr. Browner, an internist, is the CEO of Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center. He has a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology and is an adjunct professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF. Dr. Lockhart, Sutter Health’s chief medical officer, has a PhD in biostatistics and is a trained anesthesiologist.

Practical Tips to Reduce Anxiety During Uncertain Times

Posted on Mar 18, 2020 in Scroll Images

Times of uncertainty—like the global COVID-19 pandemic—can spike anxiety in many people. Lives are upended and routines are erased. Schools are closed. Loved ones 65 years and above are homebound. Employees are working from home exclusively. And more importantly, as the number of COVID-19 cases rise across the U.S., causing concern for public health and the health of those closest to us.

How does one find solace during these difficult times? Urmi Patel, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and director, clinical care for Sutter Mental Health Services, provides practical suggestions for those who feel unsure and overwhelmed during this unprecedented time.

Meaningful Engagement
Social isolation may appear unavoidable right now, so it’s more important than ever to work together as a family and stay connected as a community. Dr. Patel suggests checking in on friends and family via phone calls or video chats. “Talk about things outside of COVID-19 to remind one another there are many other things to focus on during difficult times,” she says.

Modeling
Dr. Patel says children will look to their parents’ or caretakers’ behaviors and emotional responses for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times. Address children’s concerns or anxiety together as a family so they also see how their parents or caretakers are managing theirs.

Management
Information is everywhere and it can be extremely valuable as the COVID-19 situation evolves. However, people should consider limiting their exposure to social media or the Internet if they find themselves overwhelmed by the information. “If need be, consider looking to trusted sources of information, such as the CDC or news media outlets, to get important information daily,” says Dr. Patel.

Movement
Given social distancing is recommended throughout the world, consider implementing other forms of physical activity in the home or outdoors, if permitted. Simple daily physical exercises can be helpful to maintain a sense of health and balance.

Mindful
Mindfulness goes beyond one’s self-awareness and acceptance—it means being conscious of others. COVID-19 is impacting many countries and individuals around the world. Dr. Patel recommends not attaching the pandemic to one ethnicity or nationality, and not avoiding others due to stigma or fear. “Try to remain kind to each other during this stressful time,” she says.

Car Clinics: The Dual Benefit of Drive-Through Care

Posted on Mar 17, 2020 in Carousel, Expanding Access, Innovation, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Power cords, data cables and sanitation supplies topped Raymond Fellers long list.

No, Fellers wasn’t preparing to isolate during the COVID-19 outbreak—quite the opposite—he was opening the first ever “car clinic” at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s San Carlos Center. One of several across the Sutter network, the car clinic is designed as an in-person option for PAMF patients with serious respiratory symptoms who have already talked to a provider by phone or video visit.

“We’re solving two problems at once,” said Dr. Rob Nordgren, M.D., MBA, MPH and area CEO of PAMF peninsula region. “By keeping potentially contagious people in their car it means that doctors can assess and treat their symptoms, while minimizing exposure to patients who need routine or urgent care inside the medical facility.”

Making use of a covered garage, a procession of patients – each in their personal car – flowed through a series of stations that comprised the clinic. Every station had a laptop connected to Sutter’s electronic health record and the basic medical equipment you’d find in a regular exam room. A portable X-ray machine was even set up outside to help diagnose lung infections.

Arnold Layung, a licensed vocational nurse who usually sterilizes instruments during surgery, brought his sanitation skills to the car clinic.

“The key here, just like in the operating room, is to have one person per job so no steps are missed,” remarked Layung as he disinfected stethoscopes and other equipment after each use. Filling the role of medical technician, Layung was paired with a physician and registered nurse to form a three-person team—each in full gowns, goggles, gloves and masks—who saw patients through their open car window or in a chair just outside their vehicle.

With a background in emergency medicine, Dr. Nathan Bornstein knows the importance of conserving hospital capacity for those with acute illness. “My job out here is to find the people who need to be escalated to a higher level of care, while also helping people manage serious symptoms so they can safely return home,” he said.

Many of the patients who came through the car clinic had existing respiratory conditions, like asthma, which make them prone to serious breathing difficulty if their lungs are put under added strain. For these patients showing symptoms of a virus, Dr. Bornstein ordered a flu test. In accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Dr. Bornstein also collected samples for COVID-19 testing from symptomatic patients in high-risk groups, such as those with certain pre-existing conditions, epidemiologic or social risk factors.

Dr. Bornstein listened to each patient’s lungs, and if indicated, ordered X-ray or CT scans to detect infection. Finally, Dr. Bornstein reviewed current medications to determine if a dosage change or new prescription would help ease a patient’s symptoms enough to keep them out of the hospital.

Every person had their temperature, respiration rate, heart rate and oxygen saturation checked and each left with a personalized plan for what to do if their symptoms worsened.

PAMF’s San Carlos Center is one location within Sutter Health’s integrated network that supports car clinics. This service is not available in all locations, nor is it open to the general public.

Sutter encourages patients who feel ill to schedule a video visit or call their doctor to receive guidance. If one’s symptoms are mild to moderate, they are encouraged to stay home to rest, get well and prevent exposure to others.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit Sutter Health’s resources page.

What is Social Distancing and Why is it Important?

Posted on Mar 16, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Governor Gavin Newsom, echoing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is calling for the state’s bars, wineries and nightclubs to close and for restaurants to observe social distancing to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The governor is also recommending home isolation for people over the age of 65 and for those with chronic health conditions. According to the CDC, social distancing can be key to helping slow the spread of respiratory infections such as COVID-19.

Courtesy of San Francisco Marin Medical Society

Sutter infectious disease expert Jeffrey Silvers, M.D., agrees with the CDC, explaining, “Slowing the spread of COVID-19 with protective measures such as social distancing is critical to avoid a situation where hospitals are overwhelmed by large numbers of patients who need advanced care all at the same time.”

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones, according to Dr. Silvers, is to avoid being exposed to COVID-19.

Seven Simple Things You Can Do:
• Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way to kill corona virus on your hands.
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol when soap and water are unavailable.
• Avoid shaking hands and touching your face.
• Stay home.
• Work from home if possible.
• Avoid large crowds. When you must go out, keep your distance from others and maintain a distance of about six feet.
• Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that may harbor viruses such as doorknobs, faucets and cell phones.

More Resources:
Watch these videos to learn about COVID-19 and how viruses spread from Sutter’s Chief Quality and Safety Officer, Bill Isenberg, M.D. Learn how to properly wash your hands, what to do when you’re feeling ill and when to contact a caregiver.

Sutter Health’s Information about COVID-19 page is another handy resource.

Sutter Health is committed to the health and safety of our communities. If you’re concerned you may have COVID-19, please call your doctor or healthcare provider before visiting a care facility.

Food Safety During COVID-19

Posted on Mar 16, 2020 in Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Tips to keep you safe

Many people are making trips to the grocery store or using food delivery services right now. So how do you know your food is virus-free when it gets to your doorstep?

According to the USDA, “We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illness that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.” However, experts say it’s still important to follow good food hygiene.

Here are simple steps you can take to try and limit your exposure to coronavirus. Many of these tips will sound familiar, but they are good reminders.

Wash your hands
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. This is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others in your home from the spread of germs. Remember to clean the ‘webs’ between fingers and thumbs. Don’t have access to soap and water? Use hand sanitizers.


Wash your produce
Whether you’re concerned about the coronavirus or not, you should always wash your produce. For hard-skinned produce, scrub skins or peels with a soft-bristled vegetable brush. For other types of produce, including leafy greens, soak in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Plain water is fine. You can also use a little dish soap. However, do not use bleach or chlorine on your fruits and veggies. Still concerned? Try fruits that can be peeled such as bananas, oranges and apples.

Wash nonporous containers
Use dish soap on metal cans, plastic containers and glass jars before putting them away. It’s also a good idea to wash you hands after opening containers and boxes.

Keep your kitchen area clean
Use disinfectants to clean your surfaces such as countertops, your refrigerator door handle, sink handle and cabinet knobs. This will not only kill viruses but also help you avoid food-borne illness from possible cross contamination.


Cook food properly
You can help ensure you’re cooking food at the correct heat, by using a food thermometer. Check the government’s safe cooking temperature chart.

“Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and other foods rich in antioxidants has consistently been shown to increase overall health, including our immune systems,” says William Isenberg, M.D., Sutter’s chief quality and safety officer. “Staying healthy increases the body’s ability to fight infections. “

By taking a few common-sense precautions, such as frequent hand-washing and washing produce, consumers can continue to reap the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Isenberg’s bottom line advice: “Use serious concern and precaution, but do not panic and give up healthy food that’s good for your mind and body.”

For more food safety tips click here.

The Doctor is In: Three Videos Cut through COVID-19 Confusion

Posted on Mar 13, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

SACRAMENTO, CALIF.— With the World Health Organization’s recent declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic, an avalanche of advice from a variety of sources—some of it accurate, some of it misleading or even downright dangerous— can be overwhelming for anyone.

Now Sutter offers three short videos to help cut through the confusion and misinformation so people can better protect themselves and their loved ones. The videos feature Bill Isenberg, M.D., Sutter’s Chief Quality and Safety Officer.

How to Avoid Getting Sick: The simple steps everyone can take to help avoid contracting COVID-19.

What to Do When You Feel Sick: You don’t feel well. Now what? Dr. Isenberg explains.

When to Call the Doctor: Dr. Isenberg explains the symptoms that may signal more help is needed and next steps—whether it’s checking symptoms on Sutter’s symptom checker, calling the advice nurse or scheduling a video visit.

The Sutter Health not-for-profit integrated network of care is dedicated to the health and well-being of patients throughout Northern California. For more information about COVID-19, please visit Sutter’s resource page.

Live Oak Health and Housing Campus Moves Closer to Reality

Posted on Mar 6, 2020 in Carousel, Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Scroll Images, Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center, Santa Cruz, Uncategorized, Wellness

Courtesy of Santa Cruz Community Health and Dientes Community Dental Care.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Santa Cruz Community Health (SCCH) and Dientes Community Dental Care (Dientes), today announced a $1 million dollar investment from Sutter Health to support the construction and operation of a 19,000-square-foot medical clinic to be run by SCCH and 11,000-square-foot dental clinic to be run by Dientes on the future site of a health and housing campus that will benefit the Live Oak community.

Rendering of the Santa Cruz Community Health medical clinic.

An Investment in Infrastructure

The future site of the health and housing campus is the ideal location for much-needed services. Supervisor John Leopold notes, “Five years ago there were no medical offices in Live Oak. A community of our size needs good access to medical and dental services and housing that is affordable to all families. This new development will help everyone in the community from small children to families to seniors.” The campus – the first of its kind in Santa Cruz County – will integrate the strengths and services of its three owners:

  • SCCH has been serving the medical and mental health needs of underserved Santa Cruz County residents since 1980, with a special focus on families.
  • Dientes has an over 25-year track record of providing affordable, high-quality and comprehensive dental care through three existing clinics and an outreach program.
  • MidPen Housing, already owns and manages 13 affordable housing communities in Santa Cruz County, providing residents with supportive services.

“Planning for this project started in 2017, and I’m so pleased we are starting to secure large contributions that will make construction possible,” said Dientes CEO Laura Marcus. “Sutter Health has a proven track record of improving the health in this region, so it was no surprise that the not-for-profit system that includes Palo Alto Medical Foundation stepped up to help. This is truly a remarkable demonstration of how we can collaborate for the overall good of our community.”

Sutter Health has committed $1 million dollars, over five years, to the construction and operation of both clinics on the campus. SCCH will receive $160,000 and Dientes will receive $40,000 each year through 2023.

“As a not-for-profit health network, Sutter focuses on improving the health of those inside and outside the walls of our hospitals and care centers,” said Stephen Gray, chief administrative officer for Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center of Santa Cruz and operations executive of Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz. “We know that when people have access to preventive screening and routine healthcare, their health improves. This investment builds on Sutter’s commitment to improve the health of the entire community we serve.”

Rendering of the Dientes Community Dental Care dental clinic.

Capital Campaign is Ongoing

“Projects like this one can transform communities. This initiative will bring affordable healthcare and housing to the heart of Live Oak – providing a lifeline to families, adults and seniors,” said SCCH CEO Leslie Conner. “We hope the early funding we’ve secured will be a catalyst for more donations in the coming weeks and months.”

The integrated, state-of-the-art health and housing campus will address a triple-goal of increasing access to healthcare, growing affordable housing, and creating economic opportunity. The project will provide health services to 10,000 patients annually and affordable housing for 57 households. In addition, it will create more than 60 new jobs.

Dientes and Santa Cruz Community Health will break ground on their clinic in 2020 and open in 2021. MidPen will break ground on the housing component in 2021 and open in 2022.

Renderings, photos and more information about the project is available here

Sutter Lakeside Hospital Welcomes Scott Knight as Chief Administrative Officer

Posted on Feb 13, 2020 in Carousel, People, Scroll Images, Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Uncategorized

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Sutter Health announced today it has selected Scott Knight as chief administrative officer of Sutter Lakeside Hospital, effective Feb. 3. Knight was previously Assistant Administrator of Sutter Tracy Community Hospital.

“Scott is committed to serving the community, as he demonstrated by serving on the boards of both the Tracy and Ripon Chambers of Commerce,” said Julie Petrini, president and CEO of Hospitals, Sutter Health Bay Area. “I know Scott is eager to bring this passion for community to his new role at Sutter Lakeside.”

About Scott Knight

Scott earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in Health Care Administration from University of Washington. Scott has a broad healthcare background in finance, revenue cycle, planning, business development, marketing and community relations, operations, and administration.

While at Sutter Tracy, Scott provided leadership for non-nursing operations and business development. During his tenure, Sutter Tracy received patient safety awards from various organizations, and in 2020 was awarded a CMS 5-star rating – the highest ranking possible – for overall performance on quality measures including readmission rates, safety of care and patient experience.

About Sutter Health

Sutter Health is more than 60,000 people strong thanks to its integrated network of physicians, employees and volunteers. Rooted in Sutter Health’s not-for-profit mission, these team members partner to deliver exceptional care that feels personal. From physician offices to hospitals to outpatient care centers and home services, they proudly support the more than 3 million people in their care—nearly 1 percent of the U.S. population, in one of the most diverse and innovative regions in the world. Sutter team members adopt new technologies, make novel discoveries and embrace creative thinking to help patients and communities achieve their best health. From its street nurse program that provides check-ups for homeless people, to telemedicine-aided specialist consultations, to walk-in care clinics, to video visits, the Sutter Health team goes beyond traditional models to make care more convenient and to nurture and empower people throughout their healthcare journey.

For more information about the Sutter Health network visit: sutterhealth.org| facebook.com/sutterhealth| youtube.com/sutterhealth| twitter.com/sutterhealth

To Prevent Stroke, Start with the Heart

Posted on Feb 13, 2020 in Affiliates, Cardiac, Carousel, Expanding Access, Innovation, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Neuroscience, Quality, Research, Scroll Images, We're Awesome, Women's Services

BURLINGAME, Calif. – Does it sometimes feel like there are butterflies in your chest? Does your heart race or skip a beat? If it’s not your crush making your heart go pitter-pat, it could be a common heart condition called atrial fibrillation or AFib for short. This Valentine’s Day, take heart and consider seeing an expert if you are experiencing these symptoms. After all, AFib dramatically increases the odds of having a life-threatening stroke.

“Stroke occurs when arteries in the brain are either blocked by a blood clot or burst under high pressure,” said Ilana Spokoyny, M.D., neurologist who cares for patients at Sutter’s Mills-Peninsula Medical Center. “So when we talk about stroke prevention, it’s natural that we emphasize how to keep clots from forming or keep blood pressure regulated—and both start with the heart.”

Heart health and stroke prevention were the focus of a recent educational event, hosted by United Airlines, and led by Sutter Health. Attendees toured Northern California’s only Mobile Stroke Unit – a specialized ambulance that has the staff and equipment on-board to start stroke treatment while enroute to a hospital – and heard from the unit’s director, Dr. Spokoyny, about two common heart conditions that increase stroke risk.

Atrial fibrillation

AFib is caused when the upper part of your heart beats out of sync with the lower half. While not usually life-threatening by itself, AFib alters the normal function of the heart which leads to the formation of blood clots in the heart. Eventually these clots are pumped out of the heart and can travel to the brain where they causes a stroke.

According to Dr. Spokoyny, nearly one in every six strokes is the result of AFib, and these strokes are often more serious. “Not only are AFib patients nearly five times more likely to suffer a stroke than those without the condition, AFib-related strokes are nearly twice as fatal and twice as disabling as non-AFib-related strokes.”

“AFib may be asympomatic or symptoms show up intermittently, and because they come and go many people don’t take them seriously,” Dr. Spokoyny explained. “We need to spread the word that you shouldn’t ignore the butterfly feeling in your chest or dismiss the occasional fatigue or shortness of breath you experience.” When diagnosed, AFib is treatable with medication or medical procedures, including surgery, to reduce your risk of stroke.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure increases the strain on blood vessels transporting blood throughout your body. When blood is routinely pumped through arteries at a higher than optimal pressure, the arteries may become weakened or narrowed, creating conditions where they burst or clog more easily.

Dr. Spokoyny reminds patients that high blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke. “About three out of four people who have a stroke for the first time have high blood pressure.” High blood pressure often presents along with atrial fibrillation. The good news is that blood pressure can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications.

Expertise in action

Not-for-profit Sutter Health encourages doctors to work across specialties to ensure that patients receive high quality, coordinated care. Sutter includes sixteen Primary Stroke Centers across its integrated network.

Fourteen Sutter Hospitals Honored for Reducing C-Sections

Posted on Dec 13, 2019 in Pediatric Care, Quality, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Women's Services

Cal Hospital Compare award recognizes hospitals meeting national goal.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sutter hospitals, which have among the lowest cesarean section (C-section) rates in California, were recognized today by the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) for reducing cesarean births for first-time moms with low-risk pregnancies. Fourteen hospitals at the not-for-profit health care network were named to the state’s 2019 Maternity Care Honor Roll, nine of which have been recognized on this honor roll for four consecutive years. Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of CHHS, announced the honor roll recognition on behalf of Cal Hospital Compare, a performance reporting initiative informed by representatives from hospitals, purchasers, health plans, and consumer groups. The following Sutter hospitals were named to the 2019 Maternity Care Honor Roll:

  • Alta Bates Summit Medical Center – Alta Bates Campus 
  • California Pacific Medical Center – Mission Bernal Campus 
  • Eden Medical Center 
  • Memorial Medical Center 
  • Memorial Hospital Los Banos
  • Mills-Peninsula Medical Center 
  • Sutter Davis Hospital 
  • Sutter Delta Medical Center 
  • Sutter Lakeside Hospital 
  • Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center of Santa Cruz 
  • Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento 
  • Sutter Roseville Medical Center 
  • Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital 
  • Sutter Solano Medical Center

“Improving the quality of patient care in hospitals is critically important,” said CHHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “These annual measurements through Cal Hospital Compare allow us to acknowledge hospitals doing excellent work.”

When complications arise during pregnancy, C-sections can save the lives of mothers and infants, but some women undergo the surgery for no medical reason, exposing both mother and baby to potentially avoidable risks. To respond to the rise in unnecessary C-sections, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adopted the Healthy People 2020 target of reducing nationwide C-section rates for low-risk, first-births to 23.9 percent. The Maternity Care Honor Roll acknowledges hospitals that have achieved—and in many cases gone beyond—that goal. The Sutter Health system NTSV C-section Rate for a rolling 12 months ending October 31, 2019 was 20.8 percent, well below the 23.9 national goal.

“Over the last decade, Sutter Health has developed and implemented many programs to improve the care and safety of mothers and babies through pregnancy, labor and delivery,” said Sutter Health Chief Medical Officer Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D.. “We’ve worked hard to enhance quality and safety at our hospitals to ensure we have among the lowest C-section rates in California, rates which are experienced equitably by mothers of all races and ethnicities—so it’s especially gratifying to receive recognition for leadership in this area.”

Sutter hospitals consistently outperform state and national averages for many measures of quality, and Sutter Health is committed to accurately and transparently sharing quality data with patients. The Sutter Hospital Quality Dashboard allows patients to learn more about the care provided throughout Sutter’s integrated network. In addition, patients are encouraged to talk with their doctors and nurses about any questions or specific outcomes related to their care.

Food Rx: Sutter Health Invests $265,000 to Support Community Food Banks

Posted on Nov 19, 2019 in Carousel, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Working with partners to provide nutritious food is one more way Sutter helps keep communities healthy.

Read More

Dedication to Duty: Blackouts and a Wildfire Won’t Stop Sutter Nurses

Posted on Nov 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

A spine injury at age 19 left Santa Rosa resident Ken Kilgore with paralysis in both his arms and legs. Bedbound and dependent on a special electric mattress that circulates air to prevent bedsores, Kilgore was nervous about the planned power shutoffs, until his bigger fear came true: an evacuation order.

Kilgore was one of approximately 150 patients routinely seen in their homes by the staff of Sutter Care at Home in Sonoma County who had to evacuate in response to the Kincade Fire. Through the uncertainty, fear and displacement, Kilgore says there was one constant: his nurse Paige Medeiros and the whole Sutter Care at Home family. “I must have gotten three calls a day from Sutter,” remembers Kilgore who is now safely back at home.

While the wildfire raged and blackouts rolled, Medeiros worked every day to make sure patients who rely on Sutter Care at Home had an in-person visit, or when that wasn’t possible, repeated phone calls to check on symptoms, give medical advice and guide patients to in-person care options as needed.

“These are people with feeding tubes, IV pumps, wound vacuums or special air mattresses like Ken’s,” Medeiros explained. “These are very frail patients that have high medical needs and are all homebound.” Working down a list, Medeiros drove to each patient’s house or the location where they’d been evacuated to, and checked if they needed supplies or nursing services, seeing to the needs of her regular patients and several patients who were normally cared for by other nurses, who had themselves been evacuated.

“It was a real team effort,” recalls Medeiros. “All of my co-workers and the whole Sutter family pitched in.”

Medeiros praised a nurse who drove from Marin to Mendocino (approximately 131 miles one way) to give a patient an in-home infusion (a special treatment that not all nurses can provide) and another who problem-solved through a four-day power outage, charging patients’ phones from her car battery and driving medical devices to the community resource center to be charged before returning them to her homebound patients.

James Conforti, chief operating officer for Sutter Health, knows that staff work tirelessly to provide quality care to patients. “Sutter’s integrated network allows us to coordinate care and contact patients. From filling prescriptions, rescheduling appointments to keeping vital chemotherapy infusions on track, we make sure our patients have continuity of care. The resilience of our staff and community never ceases to amaze me.”

But perhaps Kilgore said it best: “It’s not just a job to them—they really care about us.”

Preparedness Tips for Power Shutoffs

Posted on Oct 31, 2019 in Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Many Northern California communities have been impacted by PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) throughout the last month.

When PSPS plans are announced, we work with PG&E to identify facilities located in potential outage areas and implement preparedness protocols to minimize potential impacts. Sutter is also able to leverage the strength of our integrated network to help keep patients connected to care.

As additional shutoffs are announced, or you prepare for colder winter weather, consider these personal preparedness tips to help safely manage power outages.

  • Make sure you and your family are prepared for an outage at home, helpful information can be found at: prepareforpowerdown.com
  • Have emergency supplies, food and water.
  • Consider a backup plan for your refrigerated and frozen foods. Buy ice at the grocery store and place needed items and prescriptions in coolers.
  • Have a plan for child and pet care, should school or work places be affected, or your normal schedule change.
  • Fill up your gas tank in advance of known power outages.
  • Allow for extra travel time as traffic signals may be out, and limit travel when possible.
  • Be cautious when using open flame light/heating sources and generators, as they can be dangerous.
  • If you receive home healthcare support, ensure your provider has contact information to reach you, as well as your emergency contacts.

Find out more about the shutoffs at pge.com or call PG&E at (866) 743-6589

Athletes Know: the Flu Shot Keeps You Healthy On and Off the Field

Posted on Oct 26, 2020 in Carousel, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, People, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

Despite cold conditions, rain and mud, players and fans eagerly anticipate Major League Soccer’s playoffs in November and December. And while things certainly are different this year with COVID-19, very few things normally keep a fan out of the stands or an athlete off the field. However, the flu is one of them.

“Our playoffs are in the winter months, when flu and seasonal colds are circulating,” said Shea Salinas, midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes. “I get the flu shot every year to guard against getting sick and potentially missing an important game.”

Instead of being benched by the flu, Salinas is scoring goals. He recently scored a crucial goal in a 2-1 win over Los Angeles Football Club just days after getting his flu shot at a Sutter Walk-In Care Center. “They say defense wins championships, and defending yourself from the flu keeps you performing your best,” remarked Salinas.

Passionate about promoting health, Salinas was happy to use his celebrity status to spread the word about the importance of getting a flu shot, especially because people who skip the flu vaccine this year could run the risk of getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Working with Sutter Health, exclusive healthcare partner of the San Jose Earthquakes, Salinas filmed a public service announcement that emphasizes that it’s quick, easy and safe to get your flu shot.

The flu shot won’t protect you from getting COVID-19, but it’ll help prevent you from getting sick with both the flu and COVID at the same time. To schedule your flu shot at a Sutter Health Walk-In Care, call (800) 972-5547 or visit our website for other appointment options.

Launch Pad: New Doctor Hopes Her First Home Will be Forever

Posted on Oct 16, 2020 in Carousel, Innovation, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Catherine Martin D.O., MPH has spent seven years and $400,000 training to be a doctor, but time and money don’t reflect the full price of becoming a physician.

“I’ve made countless sacrifices, put my life on hold really, so I could meet the 60 to 80 hour a week demands of medical school, clinical rotation and residency,” said Dr. Martin. One career-delayed goal she hopes to revive: living with her fiancé and buying a home together, a move that economists call ‘household formation.’

Catherine A Martin, D.O., MPH

Dr. Martin’s dream of homeownership may receive an unexpected boost, in the form of down payment assistance from Landed —thanks to a pilot program option offered through her employer, the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group, affiliated with Sutter Health.

Landed’s shared-equity down payment program invests alongside homebuyers to help them reach a 20% down payment. Landed funds—up to $120,000 per household—come in the form of an equity investment in which homebuyers share in a portion of the gain (or loss, if any) of the home’s value once the partnership ends – typically by sale or refinance.

By providing access to opportunities like Landed, Sutter hopes to enable employees and clinicians to live where they work and in turn enhance the health of the communities they serve. “I know how difficult and costly it is to become a doctor, and I also know how rewarding it is to help people live healthy and productive lives,” said Elizabeth Vilardo, M.D., CEO for the Sutter Bay Medical Foundation. “Sutter looks for ways to support its healthcare workforce, so that they can support patients for all their years.”

Dr. Martin is eager to settle down and hopes her first home with be her forever home, because she is already committed to the community where she works. “I can’t see myself anywhere else,” remarked Dr. Martin. “I chose to go into family medicine because I want to care for my patients from cradle to college and I knew that in Watsonville I’d have the honor of caring for multiple generations of the same family, forming relationships with my patients that span decades.”

Close to Care: Nursing Couple’s Home Search Centers on Medical Services

Posted on Oct 16, 2020 in Carousel, Innovation, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, People, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Year of the Nurse

Yi and Esther Wang are saving up to buy a house, but for now, their son’s hospital room feels like home.

The Sunnyvale couple are both registered nurses and they both work with specialists – doctors who have extra training in a specific area of medicine – but they never expected that they would need specialist-level care for their firstborn.

Yi Wang, R.N.

At only 5 days old, Nathan Wang was diagnosed with Hirschprung’s disease, a rare birth defect that affects the intestine and prevents a baby from passing stool normally. Nathan needed life-changing surgery when he was just one month old and continues to need services in the hospital and outpatient pediatric specialty clinic.

“As a nurse manager I directly support pediatric specialists, so I know these experts are in high demand and short supply. Now, as a father, I’ve seen how critical it is that these specialists are available in my community – if we’d had to wait one day more or travel any further for Nathan to be diagnosed and get the care he needed – his outcome could have been drastically different.” Yi Wang, R.N., clinical manager for pediatric specialty care at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF).

Yi and Esther have taken the availability of expert medical staff to heart; it’s one reason they are committed to buying a home in the area. They now have the potential for help with their goal in the form of down payment assistance from Landed —thanks to a pilot program option through Yi’s employer, Sutter Health.

Landed’s shared-equity down payment program invests alongside homebuyers to help them reach a 20% down payment. Landed funds—up to $120,000 per household—come in the form of an equity investment in which homebuyers share in a portion of the gain (or loss, if any) of the home’s value once the partnership ends – typically by sale or refinance.

Sutter launched the pilot with Landed as one option to support their highly skilled workforce of doctors, nurses and others. “As the Wang’s story shows so well, when we maintain a stable, expert workforce it in turn helps enhance the health and well-being of the communities we serve,” said Elizabeth Vilardo, M.D., CEO for the Sutter Bay Medical Foundation.

Yi and Esther’s wish list for their future home is focused on making memories. They want a backyard for Nathan to toddle in and where their 3-year old Maltipoo dog, Beau, can roam free. A place where they can barbecue and garden, teaching Nathan the value of growing your own food. They want a big dining room for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, but also for a weekly dinners with extended family. More than anything they want a nursery for Nathan, decorated in grey, white and blue.

Whatever the square footage or style of home, Yi and Esther know that what matters most is that they can be close to their work and close to ongoing care for Nathan. Having a view into both sides, as a nurse who works with pediatric specialists and now as a father to an infant who needed immediate medical care from those same experts, Yi says he has an even better appreciation for how vital he and other healthcare workers are to the livability of a community. “Like school teachers and firefighters, a community needs doctors, nurses, and many other healthcare professionals to thrive, we are essential workers and we can be counted on – every day and in emergencies – provided we can adequately live where we work. I am truly excited about the down payment assistance opportunity with Landed because I know that if I can buy a home here it will be better for my family and better for the families that my wife and I will care for as nurses for the rest of our careers.”