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Monday, August 24, 2009, 2:20 am

Health Care: Huffman keeps pressure on Sutter; Napa doctor obtains eye device

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    ashleyheaderSan Rafael Assemblyman Jared Huffman is keeping up pressure on Marin County’s Sutter hospital board, demanding a full explanation of why more than $120 million was transferred out of the county.

    In the first of two letters sent to the organization, Mr. Huffman, a Democrat, asked the board to provide a paper trail on all decisions regarding several out-of-county “excess” cash transfers, most of which occurred after Sutter Health agreed to end its lease of the hospital early.

    The demand followed documents disclosed by Sutter showing the transfer of about $48 million of Marin General profits in 2008 and $38.7 million in 2007, with smaller amounts in previous years.

    “I ask that you provide my office with all documents that relate to the MGH Board’s role in reviewing, commenting upon, advising or approving these transfers,” he said in the July 17 letter.

    Ten days later, the hospital board responded without agreeing to provide the paperwork, saying it has complied with all obligations under its settlement agreement with the Marin Health Care District.

    “Sutter Health believes strongly that all affiliates (with the exception of philanthropic foundations) should be bound together in one common balance sheet,” the July 27 letter said.

    The letter further stated that the state attorney general reviewed the organization’s transfer policy as it related to a San Francisco hospital and had no objections.

    In a follow-up letter sent Aug. 11, Mr. Huffman called the board’s defense “not credible” and said he was disappointed the group ignored his specific request for information.

    “I will utilize the full authority of my office, if necessary, to get this information,” he said in the letter.

    Sutter had not responded to the second letter by press time. The nonprofit will officially pass administration of the hospital on to the health care district June 30, 2010.

    ***

    New Marin Prima Medical Group doctors, from left, Alice Yee, Terri Tang, Danielle Walker and Robert Bartz

    New Marin Prima Medical Group doctors, from left, Alice Yee, Terri Tang, Danielle Walker and Robert Bartz

    In an extended effort to increase access to health care in Marin, the Prima Medical Group recently added several new doctors, including two in Sausalito and others in Terra Linda and Larkspur.

    Internal medicine doctor Danielle Walker migrated to the North Bay from New York after completing her undergraduate and medical degrees from Brown University and finishing her residency with NYU. She was previously working with a group in Manhattan, but she will begin work in Sausalito this October.

    Another internal medicine provider, Terri Tang, recently began work in Terra Linda in July. Dr. Tang completed her undergraduate and residency at U.C. Davis after attending medical school at Finch University of Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School, where she also earned her master’s in applied physiology.

    Bay Area-native Alice Yee will begin work as a family practice physician in Larkspur Sept. 1. She earned a bachelor’s in genetics from U.C. Davis and went on to attend a top-rated osteopathic medical school before beginning her family medicine residency with UCLA.

    Board-certified family practice doctor Robert Bartz was also recently enlisted to Prima’s Sausalito office. He has practiced in the Bay Area for more than 20 years.

    ***

    A California group that disseminates tobacco tax dollars to early childhood programs agreed earlier this month to give the state’s low-income health insurance program for children about $81.4 million after legislative budget cuts essentially axed the program.

    The California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which manages the Healthy Families Program, voted this summer to eliminate coverage to about 60,000 children beginning Oct. 1 in light of state cuts.

    The group said if further funding streams were not established, the cuts could result in the elimination of close to 670,000 patients by next summer. The program currently insures about 1.1 million low-income children that do not qualify for Medi-Cal.

    On Aug. 13, the First 5 California State Commission said it would supplement the Healthy Families budget for a short time, or enough to cover about 200,000 children up to age 5 through next June.

    The state budget cuts amount to about $190 million in losses for the program.

    ***

    Napa-based Eye Spy Vision Care Optometry recently acquired a device meant to acutely track eye movement disorders and design better therapy programs.

    Treatment for children and adults with eye tracking problems can be difficult because most diagnose the patient through somewhat subjective measures, like having someone follow a light with their eyes, for example. The new Eye Spy equipment allows the physician to record and view the exact movement of the eye, how it jumps across the page and where it pauses.

    “I first had experience with computerized eye movement recording when I was working as an assistant professor. I like it because it showed the parent or child on paper the issue and progress as they go through therapy. Other methods don’t have the ability to track how the eyes are moving together,” said Eye Spy owner and President Tanya Mahaphon, who purchased the device about two months ago.

    readalyzerlogoThe goggle-like instrument called the ReadAlyzer works by way of an electromagnetic field that scans the eye and charts on paper how it follows words as the person reads. The disorders can often go unidentified in traditional eye examinations or be misdiagnosed as dyslexia, she said. The ReadAlyzer test takes about five to 10 minutes and reports results almost instantly.

    readalyzergogglesDr. Mahaphon said she plans to host some public workshops for those interested in eye movement disorders, and she is accepting referrals from other providers.

    Submit items for this column to D. Ashley Furness at afurness@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.

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