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Giant panda duo on their way to San Diego

 June 27, 2024 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m John Carroll…. it’s Thursday, June 27th.

After several years, the San Diego Zoo will once again be home to giant pandas from China. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

As Pride month wraps up, President Joe Biden issued a blanket pardon yesterday (Wednesday) for service members who were kicked out of the military due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For 60 years, the U-S military formally banned same-sex relationships – a policy that ended in 2013.White House officials say the act of clemency by President Biden affects about 2-thousand veterans.

However, LGBTQ+ advocates say the number of service members forced out officially or indirectly by less-than-honorable discharge – or other discipline – is much higher at over 100-thousand.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a local pastor who claims he was removed from a city of San Diego board due to his views on those who are transgender.

Dennis Hodges was serving on the city’s Citizens Advisory Board on Police Community Relations.

Hodges claimed in the lawsuit that Mayor Todd Gloria retaliated against him by vetoing his reappointment to the board.

He argued the reason was because he abstained from voting to support a letter condemning transphobia during his unrelated work on the county’s human relations commission.

The federal judge ruled that Mayor Gloria is allowed to veto members without cause.

Two members of San Diego Wave F-C will play for the U-S Women’s National Team at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

Naomi Girma and Jaedyn Shaw were included in yesterday’s roster announcement by U-S Soccer.

There is one big omission.

Longtime Team USA star Alex Morgan, will not participate.

Morgan also plays with Wave F-C.

She said she looks forward to supporting the team and cheering them on.

From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

San Diego mayor Todd Gloria spent yesterday in China celebrating a new generation of pandas coming soon to the San Diego Zoo.

Katie Anastas says San Diegans will still have to wait until later this summer to see the panda pair.

The two pandas are named Yun Chuan [yoon chWAN] and Xin Bao [sing BAO]. They’ll be the first pandas to arrive in the U.S. in 21 years.

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance says the pair will spend several weeks acclimating to their new home before the zoo announces an opening date.

Megan Owen is the vice president of conservation science with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. She says the zoo has renovated its panda habitat for the new residents.

“The size of the habitat I believe has quadrupled, maybe even quintupled. It’s enormous. We’ve also incorporated a lot of topographic features that are just going to make for a very exciting and engaging habitat.”

Yun Chuan already has a connection to San Diego. His mother, Zhen Zhen, was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2007. 

The zoo describes Xin Bao as a quote “gentle and witty introvert with a sweet round face and big ears.”

Katie Anastas, KPBS News.

San Diego mayor Todd Gloria's proposal for a 1,000 bed homeless shelter will soon be getting its first public hearing.

Metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more.

Several months ago, Gloria's office was approached by a real estate investor who had purchased a 65,000 square foot warehouse just east of the airport.

He offered to lease the space to the city for use as a homeless shelter.

Gloria negotiated a deal and presented it to the City Council in closed session.

The council met another three times behind closed doors to discuss the deal — a sign of disagreement between the mayor and council president.

But the two released a joint statement late Monday saying they're ready to discuss and vote on the shelter proposal in a public hearing.

That's likely to take place in mid- to late-July. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

Coming up.... since 2019, homeless patient admissions at Scripps Health's san diego county hospitals nearly doubled to more than 22 thousand.

Some need recuperative care, but there aren’t enough beds.

“It's very different to heal in a tent or in a canyon or in the backseat of a car. And so we're able to offer space like this that not only helps them with their physical healing, but with their mental health.”

We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.

When you're released from the hospital, it often means more recovery time at home.

But what about people who have no permanent housing.

Where can they recuperate?

Health reporter Heidi de Marco says that's the problem Scripps Health hospitals are facing, as the number of homeless patients they treat has nearly doubled in five years.

“Unfortunately, I got divorced, I got depressed, and I didn't want to stay in Phoenix anymore. So I flipped a coin and landed in San Diego.”

When Frank Serbay moved to San Diego in 2022, he had nowhere to stay.   

“I came off that Greyhound bus and saw all that tents. I'm like, what did I get myself into? I was thinking about, okay, I got $100 left in my pocket. I'm going to go back to Phoenix. But I gave it a chance.”

Serbay, now 59, says he was struggling with alcoholism. 

“I lost my job, my house, my car, my dog. I lost everything.”

Serbay found shelter at Father Joe’s Village in Downtown San Diego. It was at their health center he had a pain in his leg checked for the first time and discovered he had a tumor.

“I had major surgery done on my leg, which they took a tumor out the size of a golf ball.”

After surgery he needed additional care.

Melody Thomas directs patient care and case management at Scripps Mercy Hospital.  She works to find unhoused patients recuperative care. She says without a place to heal properly, those requiring ongoing attention may find themselves back in the ER within days. 

“If you need to recuperate from the hospital, and you are homeless or unsheltered, that is an option. Recuperative care is usually a higher medical need than what they can manage at a shelter bed.”

Homeless individuals often seek emergency care for immediate needs but are released when they are medically cleared, even if they require ongoing care. 

Thomas says last year Scripps 5 San Diego hospitals treated 22,227 homeless patients. This year they are  on track to double that number. 

State law requires hospitals to track and create discharge plans for homeless patients, connecting them to shelter options. Thomas says the challenge is the shortage of beds and difficulty accessing recuperative care programs.


“That process does vary based on managed Medi-Cal. So how and when we can get authorization for that, you know, specific bed. Then, determining the timeliness of getting the patient into the recuperative care bed. That's, I think, where the opportunity is.”

Some patients who need recuperative care may end up back on the street because there can be a lag between when  a patient is released from the hospital and insurance approves it.

Thomas says it’s challenging to know how many people need recuperative care, but don’t get it. Some patients give up during the waiting process, others need it but refuse it. 

After his surgery, Serbay recovered in the recuperative care program at Father Joe’s Village. The program has 28 beds and patients are supported by on-site nurses.

Jesse Casteman connects clients to social services at Father Joe's Villages. 

“It's very different to heal in a tent or in a canyon or in the backseat of a car. And so we're able to offer space like this that not only helps them with their physical healing, but with their mental health and just the relief from knowing that they're safe and can heal the way that they need to.”

Serbay recuperated in a clean and safe room shared with just one other person

“So I got a peace of mind every night since I've been here.  I watch my TV on my tablet, and it's just very peaceful.”

Serbay can walk now and uses a cane only for stability, after completing the 90-day program. 

Casteman again.

“So we have a very short time that we can work with them and recuperative care and our case managers work very hard to help people exit to their next safe destination.“

They also help with their finances and housing goals. Serbay’s waiting to hear whether he’s been granted housing in a converted hotel room. 

“It's just a room, but it's me by myself. And, I mean I don’t need more than that.”

Heidi de Marco, KPBS News.

Palomar Health Medical Group’s phones and computer system have been down for nearly two months.

North County reporter Alexander Nguyen tells us how that’s affecting patients.

 “The doctor's office didn't have any medical records or anything whatsoever.”

Sabbir Hasan was one of the people who wrote to KPBS detailing their ordeal with Palomar Health Medical Group’s computer outage.

“The other problem is that the doctor can not come up with any conclusive treatment plan, because they don't have access to the previous records.”

Hasan’s problem mirrors dozens of others who contacted KPBS about the same issue.

Poway resident Erin Allin told us that nurses had to ask her what the doctor diagnosed her with.

Palomar says it discovered “suspicious activities” on certain computer systems on May 5th and quickly took those systems offline to prevent the spread of possible malware

Palomar says its medical centers were unaffected and remain fully operational.

The health care system says it is working with a third party to investigate the source and restore those systems as soon as possible. 

Alexander Nguyen, KPBS News.

Thank you to those who participated in our community conversation last night – “The High Price of Paradise – San Diego’s Cost of Living Crunch.”

In case you missed it, you can stream it on the KPBS youtube page.

Feel free to share your own thoughts and subscribe for notifications on future events.

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m John Carroll. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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Panda diplomacy between the United States and China is revived as two giant pandas begin their journey to San Diego. Plus, the public will soon be invited to comment on a proposed 1,000 bed homeless shelter near Little Italy. And, the challenge of providing recuperative care for those experiencing homelessness after a hospital stay.