Big News about our Big New Medical Center!

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

Yesterday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors made some great decisions. First, I’m pleased to report that Turner Construction has been awarded the “design-build” contract for this massive undertaking. Turner is a big supporter of the VMC Foundation, but more importantly, has the experience and skill to build what will likely be the finest public hospital in the United States.
Exaggeration? No way.
The new VMC will be a world-class patient tower which will include our nationally-recognized spinal cord and brain injury rehab center. And the Board of Sup’s certified something else yesterday: The new VMC will be one of the “greenest” hospitals in the country.
Yes – we are moving forward to ensure the new hospital meets LEED “Gold” status. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a federal program that certifies the most efficient buildings from many perspectives…and only a handful of hospitals nationally meet this standard today. VMC will be one of them, exceeding even the county’s rigid green building standards.

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

A Positive Dental Outlook – Fluoride NOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting our Public Health Department (that protects US)

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

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

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

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

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

The other is not to buy your kids everything they ask for.
Opinion: Salmonella outbreak illustrates importance of public health programs
By Dr. Marty Fenstersheib and Dr. Sara Cody
Special to the Mercury News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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