California's Community Clinics: Struggling Under The Radar
How are California's community health clinics faring amid the state's most brutal health budget cuts in decades? That's one topic that's seen little coverage recently as journalists focus on national health reform.
In one recent story, the Capitol Reporter, a Sacramento publication, recently examined the closure of one community clinic as well as the dismal prospects for California's 800-or-so safety net clinics. Sacramento's Capitol Public Radio station reported on the same clinic's closure and highlighted other clinics facing shutdowns in Southern California.
In another, Martin Espinoza of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat covered the impending closure of Sonoma County's government-run HIV/AIDS clinic, which will place another burden on local community clinics' existing HIV programs.
But I haven't seen much else.
The need is there. The Los Angeles Times' Bob Pool and Kimi Yoshino recently covered an eight-day mobile medical clinic that treated 1,500 patients each day. So many uninsured and underinsured folks showed up to the event that hundreds had to be turned away. The slashed Healthy Families SCHIP insurance program has dropped thousands of children from its rolls.
Besides the obvious calls and visits to your local community clinics, clinic consortiums and the California Primary Care Association about the near- and long-term impact of this year's state budget cuts, there are other ways to source and develop fresh angles on this story.
1. Keep in touch with your local community clinic and clinic consortium via Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook page of the community clinic consortium for Contra Costa & Solano Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area is a good example. Here's another example from the Sacramento-area Shifa Community Clinic. Check out these groups' Facebook friends for possible sources.
2. Follow the money. Profile one clinic's hard choices by juxtaposing a previous year's budget with its current one. What services are being cut? How much money is saved? Who's not being served anymore?
3. If community clinics are turning people away or setting up waiting lists for care, where are those patients going? A hint: check in with your local emergency room directors: are their ER census numbers going up (adjusting for swine flu visits)? How about wait times?
4. Will local community clinics have the budget for their usual flu immunizations? With swine flu in the picture, now's a bad time for community clinics to have to cut back on this critical public health service.
What are you seeing in your community? Am I missing some good stories? Let me know and I'll highlight them in a future post. You need to be a registered member of ReportingonHealth.org to leave a comment, so if you haven't joined yet, click here. It's easy, quick and free.