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Redbud Community Hospital of Lake County changed its name to St. Helena Hospital Clearlake last month after forming a joint operating partnership with St. Helena Hospital in Napa.

“The process began more than two years ago as the two hospitals aligned their governing board, executive team, operations and many regional positions,” said JoAline Olson, president and chief executive officer of the facility.

The hospital is also investing about $10 million in new and upgraded facilities in Lake County, including an emergency department expansion, remodeled surgery suites, an electronic health records system, new equipment and a new front entrance. The funding will additionally help build a new family health center in Kelseyville.

The hospital also recently added two new staff physicians including Dr. Jonathon Owens, president of Napa Valley Ear Nose and Throat Inc., and Dr. Bryan Henry with St. Helena Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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The Blue Shield of California Foundation awarded $200,000 to two North Bay organizations this month for efforts related to electronic health information projects.

Alliance Medical Center of Healdsburg received a $125,000 grant to expand its pilot health information exchange program, and Redwood Community Health Coalition received another $75,000 for its community-based standards of care project.

RCHC, a coalition of 16 health centers in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Yolo counties, will also soon go live with the second electronic health records system at Southwest Community Health Center. Eventually the $12 million project will connect all centers with the service over the next two and a half years.

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Kaiser Permanente was the only health care plan in California to earn an excellent, four-star rating in the 2009 Edition Healthcare Quality Report Card from the California Office of the Patient Advocate.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California earned the highest marks overall in the report that ranked asthma, diabetes, cancer diagnostics, heart, maternity, mental health and Chlamydia care.

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Long Valley Health Center of Laytonville recently completed installation of rooftop solar panels and a large-capacity solar heat exchanger and water storage tank.

The project – paid for through a $35,000 grant from the Community Clinics Initiative, a collaborative program of the Tides Foundation and California Endowment – now provides most of the center’s hot water needs and a portion of its electricity use.

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The Alliance for Rural Community Health of Mendocino received a $625,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration last month in support of its efforts to implement an electronic health records network across the group’s six local health centers.

The dollars will be used to purchase the health records software, train staff, buy equipment and provide technical support. The project is part of a broader effort to improve IT systems at the clinics, which during the last two years has included the purchase of a clinical data system.

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The Sutter Health board of directors approved a half-billion dollar investment to offset losses to employee retirement plans that plunged with the stock market this year.

The announcement sent Dec. 1 said the company plugged about $245 million into retirement plans in September then added another $255 million after the market continued to sag. The funding covers employees that bought into stock-based retirement packages that fell dramatically when the market began to drop earlier this year.

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The California HealthCare Foundation last week announced the creation of the California Center for Connected Health, a strategic planning group meant to coordinate telehealth adoption throughout the state.

The center will help coordinate efforts to connect patients in remote or underserved areas with providers through the use of robots and other virtual sources.

Palm Drive Hospital, which operates its own telemedicine program along with Healdsburg District Hospital, is also in the process of opening a telemedicine academy, which will teach medical professionals how to use similar systems.

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Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, which opened a Napa location last year, is offering a prescription “take-back” program to environmentally dispose of un-used and expired medication.

The company will send the medicine to an incineration facility to dispose of materials including over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions, needles and syringes, vitamins and supplements.

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Two Marin County medical professionals recently released separate lines of naturally based health products for bone health and prenatal care.

The first, released by Marin County resident and San Francisco orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jon Dickinson, is aimed at strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis. The product called Osteoblast Beverages is a calcium and vitamin D fortified drink similar in flavor to a generic fruit tea and made from dried flowers and organic fruit juice.

Each bottle contains 500 milligrams of calcium and comes in orange-pomegranate, lemon-berry and tropical tisane flavors. For more information, visit www.osteobev.com.

Another natural health product called Morning Sickness Magic was released by 40-year medical field veteran and registered nurse Roshan Kaderali.

Ms. Kaderali has practiced as an obstetrical nurse, midwife and childbirth educator and is the founder and CEO of MOM Enterprises, which also produces Baby’s Bliss and Mommy’s Bliss supplements.

The newest line, aimed at soothing nausea associated with pregnancy, combines ginger and vitamin B6, as well as natural ingredients.

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