National Health Center Week 2020 (NHCW) may look a lot different this year with the new normal of COVID, but health center leaders around the country are finding ways to reflect on their mission and accomplishments, even if it’s doing it virtually on social media. The stories we read every day in newspapers, social media posts and blogs, provide a living chronicle of how communities and providers devise ways to cope, adapt and practice resilience in the face of an unprecedented pandemic.
We are reading, for instance, an account on the NHCW blog of Golden Valley Health Centers (GVHC) in Central Valley, CA, found a way to deliver care and reach patients while 25,000 positive cases of coronavirus ripped through their service area.
This account of the early days of COVID in a blog post penned by Seiji Hayashi, MD, Chief Transformation Officer and Administrative Medical Director at Mary’s Center in Washington, D.C.”
“With little information, our team of 700 worked together and made the best decisions we could. Our close connection with the community, formed over our 30+ years of service, enabled us to anticipate the disproportionate disease burden and prepare accordingly. Our internal data showed that COVID infected our patients at double the rate reported by public health agencies, and we increased capacity hoping we would not need it. Unfortunately, even the extra capacity was insufficient at times. April and May were a blur, and there was a stretch I’d rather not remember. Patients were overflowing in the respiratory clinic, and every day or two, I received notices of patient deaths and staff contracting COVID.”
Or this op-ed in local Nevado newspaper from the CEO of downtown Reno health center, Northern Nevada HOPES, which describes the economic impact of COVID on their patient population:
“Many people live in remote and underserved communities where there is a shortage of providers and, in many cases, the nearest doctor or hospital can be as far as a 50-mile drive in another county,” writes CEO Sharon Chamberlain. “COVID-19 has hit Nevada’s economy hard with the highest unemployment rate in the country, kicking thousands of individuals off their work-based insurance, increasing the demand for HOPES’ services.”
Everyone is stretched thin these days. But there is recognition of what health centers are doing, and with it, some much needed support. Earlier this week, NACHC CEO Tom Van Coverden also took part in a virtual event at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with longtime philanthropic partners Direct Relief and BD. The event focused on BD’s launch of the “BD Helping Build Healthy Communities program” and a commitment of $7.8 million in monetary grants and product donations over the next three years. It’s a welcome investment that will allow health centers to expand access to care and services in their local communities at a time when resources are increasingly tight.
Lastly, health centers received a boost of encouragement from a column in Forbes, which headlined how they have been “invaluable in the fight against the coronavirus.”
“Health centers represent some of the best ideals of American society – compassion, inclusion, and equality,” writes Anand Parekh, chief medical advisor at Bipartisan Policy Center. “They are not just part of the nation’s health safety net; rather, they are part of the fabric of who we are as Americans. For them to continue serving the most vulnerable amongst us, it’s important that policymakers continue to support them now and in the future.”
Happy National Health Center Week 2020. Stay Safe.