Some very important updates – read on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Deborah Lohse at or (408) 295-3983.

You just gotta see this cool technology…

So yesterday I had a great “field trip” up to Menlo Park to visit Alter G. This cool new company has invented a “gravity reducing” machine!

VMC Foundation champion and donor Bill Peacock advises the Alter G team and suggested I check them out for their medical applications. I’m no doctor (REALLY no doctor), but the healing value of this doo-hickey is obvious. Alter G’s treadmill/air pressure system is being used in hospitals around the country, including the Palo Alto VA and Los Gatos Community. It’s great for runners recovering from injury, patients with spinal cord injuries, people with diabetes, and many other categories of folks with limited mobility.

I climbed in and began to walk, and they reduced my “weight” to what it would feel like walking on the moon. Giant steps are what I took. SUPER cool!

Trouble is, as usual, great technology is not cheap. And, with VMC’s budget crisis looming, our staff is swamped. One day I hope we can bring the Alter G anti-gravity gizmo to VMC…and if you are interested in helping, give me a shout.

Let’s end the week on a POSITIVE note!

I have two bits of great news for you: First, we were visited by our friend and community champion Dick Levy yesterday. Dr. Levy is the Chairman of Varian Medical Systems, and he and his wife Susan have become two of Silicon Valley’s true heroes in philanthropy.

Continuing his support for VMC, the Levys gave $250,000 yesterday to our effort to bring Digital Mammography to our hospital and clinics. This will be a HUGE benefit to our patients, decrease waiting times, increase speed of diagnosis, and further VMC’s mission to provide the finest care with the best technology. THANK YOU, Susan and Dick…learn more about them and some of our other strong supporters here.

Next, Valley Medical Center has been named one of the top places for nurses to train…by the nurses themselves! The following article in the San Francisco Business Times hints at why the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation are working with us to achieve Magnet Status, the highest level of nursing designation in the country.

How many public hospitals have ever applied for Magnet designation? Just one. VMC!

Read on, forgiving the error (they call us Santa Clara County Medical Center) and click here for the full article:

Bay Area RNs and nursing students are watching the local market vigilantly, and are apt to aim for jobs at sought-after spots like Kaiser Permanente hospitals, UCSF Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services (part of Sutter Health) and Santa Clara County Medical Center, according to a survey done this spring.

Surveys of 220 Bay Area nursing students and 225 experienced RNs by San Francisco’s Health Workforce Solutions LLC identified those organizations as favored job sites, with Kaiser, UCSF and Santa Clara County med center landing at the top of experienced nurses’ lists. Surveyed students came from the College of San Mateo, Los Medanos College, Samuel Merritt, Santa Rosa Junior College and UCSF.

The Valley Foundation’s BIG gift!

People often call The Valley Medical Center Foundation “The Valley Foundation” for short…and I am right there, every time, to correct them. “No no,” I say, “It’s VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER Foundation.”

This is obnoxious, but important.

Important because there is actually “The Valley Foundation” in Los Gatos, and today they told us they are contributing $100,000 to our Sobrato Cancer Center campaign!

We’re absolutely thrilled by this, and I want to thank their board: Phil Boyce, Joe Parisi, Richard Sieve M.D., Ed LaVeque M.D., Herbert Kain M.D., Arthur Basham M.D., Dan Doore and Ralph Ross.

Big thanks to the Valley Foundation for helping us provide the finest care to our oncology patients…the photo above depicts our new linear accelerator, one of the divices we purchased earlier this year. A “linac” delivers radiation to kill cancer cells – a life-saving technology. It’s going to be delivered by crane next week, which should be so cool we ought to sell tickets.

There’s still more we need, of course, so if you would like to get involved with the Sobrato Cancer Center campaign please call us day or night at 408-885-5299.

One big step closer to saving VMC…

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

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

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

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

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

VMC Idol rocks Silicon Valley!

Friday night was the third year of VMC Idol, the SCVHHS’s own singing competition…and another great one indeed! Not only does that staff at your public hospital system save lives and protect our health, they can SING!

Congratulations to our winner Ricia Baumgardner for her great version of “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera. Coming in second was Maria Isla and her sassy rendition of La Quinta Estacion’s “El Sol No Regresa”. Our bronze medalists were Melissa Noto and Rick Lee doing “Way Back into Love”…which you can see here!

There are so many people to thank for making this fun-fund raiser possible: Our amazing staff at the VMC Foundation and the staff of VMC’s rehab center, our volunteers, the Heritage Theater in Campbell, the singers who tried out and who competed, and of course our judges Dr. Akshat Shah, Carole Adler and County Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Dr. Steve Harris, VMC’s chair of pediatrics served as emcee, Bob Shea did a great job behind the board, and Luis and Connie captured it all on video and film. Personally, my beer glass it tipped to the Idol Hands Band in which I’m rediculously proud to play bass…great job guys!

Remembering Robert Kennedy

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

– Robert Kennedy, Cape Town, 6/6/66

The Battle of the Hospital Bands is ON!!!

Sometimes hospitals can compete even when they cooperate.

Last night, we held a great event to highlight VMC’s excellent women and children’s services, including our NICU, OBGYN and other programs. We do this in coordination and cooperation with other great medical centers in Silicon Valley, one of which being O’Connor Hospital – our nearest neighbor dating back to the 1800’s (just like VMC.)

I was chatting with O’Connor’s CEO Robert Curry at our mixer over a glass of wine, when the topic of music came up. “We have a ‘house band’ at O’Connor, you know”, he told me.

“So do we”, was my reply, just three days before VMC Idol. 30 seconds of mutual chest-thumping later, and the VMC/O’Connor “Battle of the Bands” was born!

So VMC’s Idol Hands (I play bass) will take on O’Connor’s band (Mr. Curry plays keyboards) in a rock spectacle of epic proportions…we’re just not sure when yet. When it happens, you can count on an event to remember. Someone call Rolling Stone Magazine.

The Mercury News calls for the question

You may have noticed a large number of stories in the Newspaper of Silicon Valley lately about Valley Medical Center, and the lives saved there every day.

These stories are extremely compelling in their own right. Yet, the media savvy readers among us, on noting the increasing frequency of VMC-related articles (and photos…see the “lifestyle” section today for some great shots of the Rotaract Club and the heroic work they did for VMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), may be asking themselves “Okay, so where are they going with all this?”

For starters, here.

From today’s Editorial page, said better than I ever could:

EDITORIAL – Funding seismic upgrade for VMC urgently needed

(By the way, that part where it says “a capital campaign is already underway”? Boy, are we going to need YOUR help! I’ll write more after Tuesday’s proceedings…check back here soon!)