Marin General under fire and pot monopoly
By Tom Gogola
Union workers and officials associated with Marin General Hospital gathered for a public forum on Saturday, May 6 to highlight deficiencies in care for both patients and employees at the nonprofit hospital, which enjoyed a $22 million profit in 2016.
Tim Jenkins, a labor representative and researcher with the Teamsters, says the profits are the good news. “The bad news is that while finances are up, indicators of quality patient care have gone down.”
In a statement, Jenkins cites an increase in recent years in so-called “service deficiencies” identified by state inspectors with the California Department of Public Health. The hospital was run by Sutter from 1996 through 2010 under a lease promulgated by the Marin Healthcare District, which owns the hospital and the land that it’s on, says Jenkins.
The District leased the operations to the Marin General Hospital Corporation (MGH) in 1985; as Jenkins notes, MGH then signed a lease with the healthcare giant Sutter. The hospital, he writes in his testimony, “has been doing well financially” since Sutter opted out of its lease in 2010.
Jenkins cites state reports as he notes in his statement that, “under Sutter, from 2004-2010 there were eight state administrative penalties assessed against MGH. From 2011-2016, that has increased to 12 state administrative penalties. In 2014, more than three years after taking over from Sutter, the hospital was cited and issued a $100,000 penalty for failing to develop, maintain, and implement written policies for the surgical department.”
A series of hospital workers gave testimony at the May 6 public hearing, hosted by North Bay Jobs with Justice. Panel members included Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly, North Bay Jobs with Justice chairperson Matt Myres, and two Marin County faith leaders.
The workers and union representatives provided testimony that claimed the spike in service deficiencies was the fault of a management team that has failed, as Jenkins says, “to take action to stop intimidating and disruptive behaviors” directed at lower-tier union workers at the hospital. Short-staffing issues and “a punitive environment where people feel their mistakes are held against them” have also contributed to the deficiencies.
Hospital spokesman Jamie Maites says that MGH can’t respond to concerns raised by the workers “because we have not received any information from the forum.” She added that there “is no ‘increase in service deficiencies’ or ‘short-staffing’ at MGH.”
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A Sacramento Senate budget sub-committee met on Thursday, May 4 to discuss numerous cannabis-related issues as the regulatory framework under Proposition 64 is implemented and tweaked. A rider bill to last year’s voter-approved legalization is making its way through the legislature to address taxation and organic certification and licensing, among other sticky-bud wickets yet to be resolved.
The real sticking point to the bill, says California Growers Alliance Executive Director Hezekiah Allen, is a proposed repeal of Section 26051, which gives state officials latitude to deny cannabis applications if they are concerned the applicant might “create or maintain monopoly powers.”
Prop 64 explicitly protected legacy growers from the disaster that has befallen, for example, border-state Oregon, now under siege from an industry formerly known as Big Tobacco. California’s law, by contrast, gave a five-year window of protection for growers, to protect their non-patented flowers’ corporate takeover.
Section 26051 also covers a range of deniable factors or concerns, which have broad support among the various interest groups that pushed for them (law enforcement, environmental groups), and as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out the framework for legalization in his Blue Ribbon Commission study.
Under the current law, applications for cannabis-related businesses can also be denied if authorities believe they would encourage underage use or adult abuse, violate environmental protection laws or contribute to the black market. And, if an applicant would “allow unreasonable restraints on competition.”
By every indication, the repeal-26051 effort is not being pushed by children, criminals, addicts or illicit stream-side growers. And so who does that leave?