Serving hundreds of thousands of Californians, health clinics need COVID-19 tests and financial support

As COVID-19 infects thousands of Americans in large cities, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed by the lack of hospital beds, ventilators, and protective equipment. When the pandemic took root in the U.S, many urban people fled to rural areas to wait out the pandemic. Unfortunately, they were also bringing the virus to smaller communities, where resources and infrastructure is limited.  

Healthcare outside the big city
There is a vulnerable population within both rural and urban areas. Many factors like age, underlying health issues, lack of medical insurance or sick pay, or low wage earnings all play a part in protecting Americans against COVID-19. Residents may not even have the ability to seek medical testing should they become infected with the virus. Source: Center for American Progress 

“Consequently, while the population of rural America is markedly smaller than urban America (making up 15% of the total population), rural Americans who contract COVID-19 risk having a higher morbidity and mortality rate compared to their urban counterparts.” Source: Forbes

Since larger hospitals are often too far away, many areas are served by smaller community health centers that offer an array of essential medical and dental services. Before the pandemic, many rural health centers had closed due to a lack of funding. Now, “rural healthcare systems are scrambling to address two key issues: years of financial neglect by both state and federal governments, as well as having a healthcare workforce that is strained and underprepared for the influx of acutely ill patients that will invariably require specialized care.” Source: Forbes

COVID-19 in large cities like San Jose, CA
Bigger cities also have local community health centers that serve the homeless, underinsured, lower socioeconomic, and/or minority populations. In the San Francisco Bay Area for instance, there are over three dozen community health clinics helping people get medical and dental services they normally would not be able to afford otherwise. These small community centers in both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties provide care to 200,000 patients and nearly 480,000 visits annually. Source: Community Health Partnership 

Health Clinic Workers
Source: Twitter - Gardner Health Center

For the people living in rural or urban areas, “community clinics play an important role in serving patients who otherwise might have no place to go besides the ER.” Source: NPR 

Community health centers are also helping vulnerable populations get testing for COVID-19 as well. As COVID-19 begins it’s infiltration into rural areas, smaller community clinics and health centers begin to be the new front line in medical services. However, the medical staff is facing an uphill battle with extremely limited resources in terms of available staffing, testing capabilities, hospital beds, ventilators, and protective equipment. Unlike large city hospitals, smaller community health centers are unable to sustain the high numbers of COVID-19 patients. 

Typically small health centers transfer their critical patients to the closest big city hospitals. But with the pandemic, big-city hospitals have no extra space for these patients, leaving small community health centers having to treat critical patients with minimal resources. To further complicate matters, if medical staffing becomes infected, the whole clinic may need to close. The cascading strain on the local community facilities will be devastating. Source: NPR 

It is for that reason that the Board of Supervisors provide funding for the 30+ community health clinics in Santa Clara County and also ensure that adequate testing is made available at all clinics. On the state level, funding and testing is a must in order to protect the thousands of Californians who see these clinics as a matter of life and death. Keeping this population is good public policy as it reduces the strain on public and private hospitals at a time when bed space and medical resources are scarce.

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