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Public health

As work conditions shift, inhumanity of immigrant labor becomes human rights concern

Alejandra Cuéllar, SF Public Press — Dec 27 2011 - 12:37pm

Gabriel Thompson worked alongside immigrants in the back of restaurants in New York City and in factories that produced some of the most basic foods in the American diet: lettuce and chicken. Not an immigrant himself, Thompson used his investigative reporting techniques to lift a veil on working conditions that many undocumented immigrants and low-income Americans face daily. His colleagues experienced excruciating soreness from physical labor. They had no employee benefits. And they had to do monotonous and repetitive work, which led to a high rate of injuries. Thompson’s one-year immersion into the lives of working immigrants, documented in his recent book, “Working in the Shadows,” comes at a time when working conditions are changing. The immigrant workers are leaving the workplace under pressure from law enforcement, a trend that is forcing the employers to look for new ways of attracting workers.

Some employers drop private health plans for San Francisco’s subsidized public option

Barbara Grady, SF Public Press — Nov 16 2011 - 9:08am

Unintended consequences of city’s effort at universal health care

A San Francisco requirement that businesses pay for their employees’ health needs has led to more workers having some form of health care. But after businesses initially stepped up to buy private health insurance for more of their workers, there has been a steady retreat. Since 2008, a growing percentage of employers have ditched private insurance for a cheaper way of meeting the law’s requirements: city-engineered reimbursement accounts, which cost companies half or less what they previously paid for traditional insurance.

Participants appreciate safety-net health access program, but note gaps

Kyung Jin Lee, SF Public Press — Nov 16 2011 - 9:02am

Customer service is a problem as patient load continues to grow

Most participants in Healthy San Francisco, the city’s 2007 initiative to expand care to more than 50,000 uninsured patients, appreciate the overall access to preventative care and treatment for chronic health conditions. A 2009 survey showed that more than nine in 10 are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the program. Patients cite the affordability of the program and the quality of care they receive from the health care practitioners. But program participants and medical care providers also note the inconsistency in the services they receive under Healthy San Francisco.

Medical records supporting San Francisco’s universal care add millions to official cost

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Nov 16 2011 - 6:25am

Clinics scramble for money to switch to electronic health records

The San Francisco Department of Public Health says it is ahead of the curve in rolling out databases that keep tabs on tens of thousands of patients across a citywide network of clinics and hospitals. The rollout is needed not just to make a local form of “universal health care” work, but also to meet a 2014 deadline under national health reform. And the city says it spent just $3.4 million on new patient-tracking technology. Not bad for an unprecedented charity care initiative whose total budget has grown to $177 million just this past year. But while clinics and hospitals across the city are now linked up to a common intake tool that eliminates overbilling and duplicated medical appointments, that is only the first step in making the Healthy San Francisco program successful, directors of local health centers and technology experts say. A separate and much more complex piece of technology — electronic health records — is proving difficult and expensive.

San Francisco’s universal health plan reaches tens of thousands, but rests on unstable funding

Barbara Grady, SF Public Press — Nov 16 2011 - 6:04am

Coordination and prevention improve care, but as businesses resist, some costs are borne by one-time grants and struggling clinics

Four years ago, San Francisco launched a grand experiment, becoming the first city in the nation to offer comprehensive health care to its growing ranks of uninsured. Stitching together two-dozen neighborhood health clinics and an array of hospitals, the city bet that two reforms — emphasis on primary care and a common electronic enrollment system — could improve outcomes and buffer the city against soaring health care costs. By many measures, San Francisco’s effort to provide universal health care has been a huge success. The initiative, Healthy San Francisco, has over time treated more than 100,000 city residents. But the city’s grand plan has not solved the central problem dogging health care across the country: figuring out who pays for it.

Free Farm Stand will stay, city says

Justine Quart, Mission Local — Oct 12 2011 - 12:51pm

The Free Farm Stand and its supporters won. The stand will continue to give away free food to the community on Sundays from noon to 3:30 p.m. in Parque Niños Unidos. At the same time, it will coordinate with the Department of Public Health to obtain a health permit, Connie Chan, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, wrote in an e-mail.

City steps in where state fails to regulate toxic manis and pedis

Kyung Jin Lee, SF Public Press — May 23 2011 - 2:56pm

WORKING CONDITIONS: San Francisco program pushes nail salons to use safer chemicals

Heidi Hoang was pregnant when she first started working at Nails by Linda in San Francisco’s Sunset District. “There’s a lot of people who say, ‘You have to be careful with this kind of job. Maybe, no more baby,’” Hoang, now the salon manager, said. “I was so nervous.” Nail salon workers, many of whom are Vietnamese immigrants and refugees with limited English skills, have long endured toxic chemicals that emanate from products they use to beautify their clientele. The chemicals not only produce noxious fumes, but workers often complain of itchy skin, rashes and headaches after prolonged exposure to the substances. In an effort to combat the problem, San Francisco is developing guidelines to encourage nail salons to go green. In the absence of federal or state regulations protecting salon workers from toxic exposure at work, the city is working to educate salon owners about healthier alternatives.

Sex, drugs and filth plague city-sponsored public restrooms

Nina Frazier, SF Public Press — Apr 4 2011 - 9:16am

Second of two articles about hygiene options for San Francisco’s homeless

San Francisco’s 25 freestanding, so-called “self-cleaning” public restrooms scattered across the city are magnets for prostitution and drug use. They are so filthy that even after automatic cleanings, they require one to five manual scrub-downs a day. The Department of Public Works, which contracted with JCDecaux more than a decade ago to install and maintain the units, blames the company. The company blames the police. And the police say they don’t have time to babysit city toilets 24 hours a day. The homeless are often shut out of the facilities, which constitute the only public restrooms where they are welcome. Meanwhile, San Francisco takes a cut of the company’s profits from billboards that envelope the toilets.

California officials say radiation ‘plume’ from Japan won’t increase state’s levels above normal

Alison Hawkes, Way Out West — Mar 17 2011 - 4:58pm
California health and emergency officials said a “plume” of radiation coming from the Japanese nuclear crisis that’s expected to hit the West Coast as early as tomorrow will bring radiation levels to no higher than normal background levels.

Upscale medical cannabis club aims to change image of industry

Hank Drew, SF Public Press — Jan 24 2011 - 12:03pm
The San Francisco Patient and Resource Center in the South of Market area resembles an art gallery where customers in sports coats and skirts suck THC vapors from plastic balloons and feast on cannabis-laced caramels. The medical cannabis dispensary at 1256 Mission St. was designed by Larissa Sand of Sand Studios in the South Park neighborhood with the intention of luring new customers in this evolving area, which includes the new Federal Building just two blocks away.
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