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Day In the District

31 Mar

With all the hoopla about health care reform, it seems like most Houstonians don’t understand or value the jewel in their own backyard. Harris County has safety net health care – and it is paid for with a mixture of property taxes, federal grants and reimbursements (which will change with healthcare reform), and individuals paying for care. Any resident of Harris County is eligible to apply for discounted healthcare. And the best part is, you don’t have to come through an emergency room to receive traditional care! You can call and set up an appointment at one of 14 Community Health Centers, or at the Ben Taub Urgent Care clinic, adjacent to the Emergency Center.

One of the best-kept secrets is that the poor, homeless, underinsured, and uninsured of Harris County are receiving some of the best care in the world. Why? The two major hospitals, Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson, are staffed by the best doctors in the world – the teaching staff of two top medical schools, Baylor College of Medicine and University of Texas Health Science, respectively. For example, the HCHD patients receiving cancer treatment at LBJ are being cared for MD Anderson doctors.

So, if you know someone here in Harris County who needs health care, but who is under- or uninsured, and can’t afford care, let them know about Harris County Hospital District, and have them call and get a gold card. They will begin to receive all the care they need. In addition, Ben Taub has one of the 2 level-one trauma centers in Houston. There’s a saying around town – if you get shot or in a car accident, ask to be taken to Ben Taub. In a lot of circumstances, trauma is the only situation in which members of a higher socio-economic class would experience the quality of care. Hopefully we can show the community that there is a lot more to the Hospital District than trauma services!

I work for the HCHD Foundation, and our mission is to raise awareness and funds to support the District. One way we are trying to get the word out to the philanthropic and business communities is by offering a in-depth tour of both hospitals. Participants spend the day in rotations, one on one with the doctors and nurses in various departments – trauma, neo-natal intensive care, labor and delivery, psych, nutrition, pediatrics, and surgery, just to name a few. We are hoping that we by educating a few members of the community, we can spread the word all the good that is happening right in their backyard!

CEO David Lopez helping out at the 8th Annual Texas Med 5k on the lawn of Ben Taub General Hospital

So tomorrow is the big day, and we will have about 10 members of the community doing rotations with us all day tomorrow. Wish us luck, and if you are interested in learning more about the program, or perhaps participating, contact me!

**Disclaimer** I work for the Harris County Hospital District, but all statements, opinions, comments, bad jokes, etc. are my own personal words, and not on behalf of the Hospital District.


I survived the H1N1 vaccine.

29 Oct

Well, conspiracy theorists, pay heed.  I have just been vaccinated for the H1N1 virus.  I didn’t drop dead or anything, so there’s that.


H1N1 vaccine

suck it, swine flu

One of the perks of working for a hospital system is that they provide employees with free vaccines.  I’ve already been vaccinated against the regular flu, so I should be set.  If I get the flu, it’s not because I didn’t do my best to prevent it.

Speaking of preventing the flu, I got an email about what we can do in spite of the inevitability of coming into contact with one sort of virus or another.  The most interesting aspect of the instructions is the recommended use of salt water:

The only portals of entry are the nostrils and mouth/throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it’s almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions. Contact with H1N1 is not so much of a problem as proliferation is.

While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps, not fully highlighted in most official communications, can be practiced (instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu):

1. Frequent hand-washing (well highlighted in all official communications).

2. “Hands-off-the-face” approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap).

3. *Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don’t trust salt). *H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don’t underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.

4. Similar to 3 above, *clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. *Not everybody may be good at Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (very good Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but *blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population.*

5. *Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C (Amla and other citrus fruits). *If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption. And don’t forget Vitamin D.

6. *Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. *Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.

I had been thinking about getting a Neti pot anyway, since I have such horrible sinus and allergy problems.  Now it seems it could keep you from getting sick in the first place.

Tomorrow I will be meeting one of my Make-A-Wish children who has just gotten over the H1N1 virus.  Obviously I can’t get it from the poor little guy, but I figured it can’t hurt to be on the safe side!