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Healthy Philadelphia Executive Director takes part in Town Hall Meeting-Health Care with Loraine Ballard Morrill
Philadelphia Magazine: Your Guide to Obamacare
The voting and posturing and Supreme Court validation are all over and done with, and Obamacare is the law of the land. So, what does that mean for you and your family? We turned to dozens of local experts—doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, public-health advocates, insurers—and asked them to help us explain it all to you.
By Sandy Hingston and Emily Leaman
To see the full article on ObamaCare visit Philly Mag
Northeast residents press for new health center
BY JAN RANSOM, Daily News Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-854-5218
POSTED: April 19, 2013
THE NUMBER of Philadelphians who need free or low-cost health care has increased, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Northeast, home to a severely underserved, uninsured, high-risk population, according to health-care advocates.
At Health Center 10, on Cottman Avenue near Bustleton, the average wait for first-time adult patients is 251 days, city Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz told City Council during a budget hearing Wednesday. That’s 15 fewer days than last year, but still much higher than the average at all eight city-run health centers, 83 days, he said.
“I don’t know who to point the finger at or who to blame,” said Councilman Bill Greenlee, who has asked about the center year after year. “That is unbelievable.”
Health Center 10 is the city’s only center in the Northeast, where roughly 18,000 patients are without a primary-care provider, and about 40 percent have a chronic illness. The Daily News first highlighted the center’s overwhelming demand for care last summer.
Because of a heavy workload and relatively low salary – $112,000 for full-time physicians – the city has struggled to hire and maintain staffing levels at city health centers. Schwarz asked Council for a $1.8 million budget increase to boost physicians’ salaries by 25 to 28 percent and to add four exam rooms to Health Center 10.
The nonprofit organization Healthy Philadelphia joined with Northeast residents in Council chambers clutching signs that read, “Please help! More health care, Lower Northeast,” and “Healthcare Center for the Northeast,” to urge elected officials to increase services and include funding for a new center.
“Certainly, the number of people that need health care has increased,” said Carol Rogers, director of Healthy Philadelphia. “The health data for people living in the Northeast is worse than in the city as a whole.”
Council members said they would like to help. The city has explored the economic feasibility of building another health center in the Northeast, Schwarz said, adding that the biggest issue wasn’t construction, but operating it, which would cost several million dollars a year. He said it’s also difficult to move forward without knowing what will happen in Pennsylvania with the expansion of Medicaid.
“With that gap in funding, it’s difficult to imagine a private provider stepping in to open a new health center in the Northeast,” Schwarz said.
See this article on Philly.com
Olney: Campaign Kicks Off to Build New Health Center
APRIL 11, 2013
By Marisa Steinberg
Healthy Philadelphia Executive Director Carol Rogers explained the growing need for a new health center.
On weekday mornings it is not uncommon for every waiting room seat in Health Center #10, Philadelphia’s northernmost city-run health clinic, to be filled or for a line to stretch beyond the building’s entrance at 2230 Cottman Ave. It’s this scene that has sparked Healthy Philadelphia, a nonprofit devoted to increasing health care accessibility in the city, to start a campaign to build a new center in Northeast Philadelphia.
“We looked at the Northeast and the number of health care providers and the number of people who have been unable to get care and we identified that that is the area of the city least well-served by our health care system,” said Healthy Philadelphia Executive Director Carol Rogers.
Healthy Philadelphia recently collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania to conduct a comprehensive survey of healthcare in the Northeast. The area, which broadly encompasses 10 zip codes, is home to approximately 350,000 people or 23 percent of the city’s population. Residents lean heavily on Health Center #10 – one of eight in the city – for a variety of needs.
“They’re overrun with patients, they’re very crowded,” said Angela Green, who has been a patient at the center for years.
From dentist appointments to nutrition counseling to HIV testing, the center provides many vital services to residents. The wait time, however, for a new patient appointment can reach up to nine months.
“Well, basically in the morning if you want to walk in, like if you’re in severe pain and you can’t afford to go to the emergency room, [the line] starts outside,” Green said.
Angela Green reflected on her past experiences as a longtime patient at Health Center #10.
Through a postcard-writing campaign to city council members, Rogers received hundreds of testimonies of health care inadequacies.
“For example, if you’re in the Northeast and you get out of the hospital there and you’re told, ‘Well, call the health center,’ and you call the health center and the health center says ‘We can’t see you until September,’ that’s a serious problem,” Rogers said.
According to the University of Pennsylvania study, many in the area are at high risk for serious and chronic illnesses, making long wait times potentially devastating. High risk patients, coupled with the high number of uninsured citizens in the Northeast, further adds to the center’s large workload.
“If you don’t [have insurance,] this would be the preferred place to come,” Green said.
The number of uninsured Philadelphians has almost doubled from 6.7 percent in 2000 to 11.4 percent in 2011, according to the University of Pennsylvania study. With 38 percent of physicians in the area no longer accepting new patients on Medicaid, Health Center #10’s services are in high demand as the center only charges a small fee for the uninsured that varies with family size and income.
“I lost my job and I don’t have income coming in so this was the only thing I could afford,” said patient Sharon Cooper.
Cooper switched to the city clinic from a private practice seven months ago and has since been satisfied with the service despite the crowds. Like Cooper, patient Victoria Hudson was drawn to the center because of its affordability.
“Right now I don’t have any insurance and this is, I would say, a blessing,” Hudson said.
Hudson, who is diabetic, must take two buses to get to the center from her home. Transportation has been an issue for many Northeast residents.
“I have heard from residents that this is an issue that there are not enough health centers locally that are easily accessible within our neighborhood,” said Olney resident and North Fifth Street Revitalization Project Community Engagement Coordinator Stephanie Michel. “But the health centers that are in the area are Einstein, which is a bus ride away, but it takes a while for people to get there if they need immediate help.”
Despite the obstacles many face in getting timely care, many patients expressed gratitude for the quality of service that the health center staff provides in such overwhelming circumstances.
“They have a system where they try to work as quickly as possible so you don’t have to stand too long in the lines,” Hudson said.
Such sentiments reflect the positive outcomes that may occur once healthcare needs are met.
“We know that if people get appropriate primary care it is certainly much better for our city,” Rogers said. “When people are able to be active members of society, when they’re healthy and can go to work it’s certainly much healthier for our neighborhoods.”
Located at 2230 Cottman Ave., Health Center #10 accommodated 55,449 visits in 2008.
Rogers plans to promote awareness about the campaign by continuing to visit community hubs in the Northeast and making sure that elected officials stay informed.
“We will be very active in the budget hearings,” Rogers said. “We will be at city council when the health commissioner makes his address and we will continue to work with city council members and anybody who’s interested in providing the kind of services we think are needed.”
See this article on PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com
Penn report on health care recommends a new clinic in Lower Northeast
At the city’s only health center in the Northeast, at Cottman Avenue near Bustleton, patients wait for the clinic to open in March 2009. New adult patients now must wait eight to nine months for an appointment, the longest of the city’s eight centers. Slots for “walk-ins” like these are limited. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer, file)
By Don Sapatkin, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: September 17, 2011
Efforts that could lead to the biggest expansion in Philadelphia’s city health centers in a half-century took a key step forward this week with the release of a report showing that the medical need far outstrips available services in and around the Lower Northeast.
The report, a neighborhood case study by health-economics experts at the University of Pennsylvania, found what it called “unmet need” for primary-care services in the Northeast as a whole. It placed particular urgency on three zip codes – 19111, 19120, and 19124 – that in the last decade have experienced major demographic shifts.
The authors recommended that a new clinic – a city-run health center or a community center managed by nurses or physicians – be developed near where those zip codes intersect, which would be in or around Lawncrest.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health operates eight health centers around the city, and half of the 340,000 patient visits for the year that ended June 30 were from people who had no insurance. At the only center in the Northeast, at Cottman Avenue near Bustleton, new adult patients must wait eight to nine months for an appointment, the longest in the city.
Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz has been working behind the scenes for several years to address the Northeast’s health needs.
“We are not able as the city to afford a new health center at this point. So, trying to figure out how to make it happen is my task,” said Schwarz, who cochairs the nonprofit that released the report Thursday. He did not attend the news conference.
An $80,000 grant for planning that would be needed to move forward is listed as approved on a federal health-resources website, although the city has not received official notification, Schwarz said Friday. The federal health-care overhaul included more money for local clinics, but how much would survive the deficit debate in Washington was unknown.
The new report is part of the lengthy process required to document need and gain federal support for either a city or a community center. It will be presented to the community for discussion at a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at Friends Hospital, 4641 Roosevelt Blvd.
Winning neighborhood support is a critical next step. “Communities feel strongly about property values,” Schwarz said, and must be actively involved in the discussion: “Where would be a good spot, where would be a bad spot, what are the issues?”
The time line for opening a new center would likely be 18 months to several years, at a cost of perhaps $8 million to $20 million, Schwarz said.
He said he would support a city-run center or a community center – or both – but noted that a city center would also require new operating funds to subsidize services that were not reimbursed by Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance. City-run health centers typically serve higher percentages of uninsured patients than independent community centers do.
The city’s eight centers have roots in mother-baby clinics that Philadelphia established to provide clean milk following a 1909 report that one-third of all infants in the city died before their fifth birthday. Epidemic summer diarrhea was a leading cause of childhood death.
The last big expansion was in the 1960s, in response to a decline in primary-care services, according to a city history of the health department. The clinics became comprehensive primary-care centers in the late 1970s, after Philadelphia General Hospital was closed.
The report released Thursday estimated “unmet” health-care needs using a new model that balanced two sides of the equation: the likely need of the population vs. availability of primary-care providers.
Need was based on a mix of factors – low income, low level of education, no health insurance, and no usual source of health care – that are available in population databases and are known to increase health risk.
Availability came from a survey that found that, among other things, just 14 percent of primary-care practices – including three community health clinics and the city health center – were accepting new patients in the largest Medicaid plan.
The Northeast is home to about a quarter of Philadelphia’s population, but it is served by only the four city and community clinics – one of which is a women’s health center – while the rest of the city has 33, said Anje Van Berckelaer, a physician at a community health center, who worked on the report as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Penn.
The mismatch is partly historical: City and community health centers generally operate in the poorest, most medically underserved areas.
“The population of Northeast Philadelphia has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and the available health-care resources just haven’t kept pace with the demand for services,” Van Berckelaer said. The gap is greatest at the southern end, she said, even though all four of the public health centers are located near there.
In Olney, for example, an Inquirer analysis of Census data shows that income declined 25 percent between 1999 and an average of the years 2005 to 2009. (The Census changed its data-collection methods in the interim.) Frankford was down 22 percent; Juniata Park/Feltonville, 20 percent; Oxford Circle/Castor, 18 percent; and Lawncrest, 8 percent.
All but Olney experienced population growth over that period, and Oxford Circle/Castor grew 15 percent. At the same time, the white population was down at least 50 percent in each of those neighborhoods.
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Community Meeting to Address Health Care
Crisis in Northeast Philadelphia
Report cites poor insurance coverage, lack of health clinics,
and long waits for medical appointments
A community meeting on October 4th will address a new report that shows an estimated 18,000 people in Northeast Philadelphia may be going without needed care such as cancer screenings, blood pressure and diabetes medicines, or asthma treatment.
The report was released by Healthy Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to health care for all Philadelphians.
“The population of Northeast Philadelphia has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and the available health care resources just haven’t kept pace with the demand for services,” said Anje Van Berckelaer, MD, MSHP, an author of the report. Van Berckelaer cited an increase in the area’s overall population as well as the increased diversity of Northeast Philadelphia immigrants,many of whom do not speak English as their first language.
As a result of this increasing need, wait times for new appointments at the City of Philadelphia’s Health Center #10 are as long as six months.
“Northeast Philadelphia is home to almost a quarter of Philadelphia’s total population, yet it has only four health centers concentrated in its southernmost zip codes,” Van Berckelaer said. “This stands in dramatic contrast to 33 community health centers that serve the rest of the city.”
Van Berckelaer added that the situation among private medical practices was no better. “In Northeast Philadelphia, there are approximately 300 primary care providers in 186 practice sites,” she said. “However, nearly 40% of these providers do not accept patients insured by Philadelphia’s largest Medicaid HMO plan. The providers who do accept these Medicaid patients are concentrated in only 14% of the practices, which include already stressed community health centers.”
“Our findings point to the acute need for increasing primary care services with a special emphasis on low-income families,” said Carol Rogers, a Healthy Philadelphia board member. “We want to make sure that Philadelphia is ready to take advantage of the changes that health care reform will bring.”
Authors of the report recommend that a new comprehensive primary care safety-net access point should be developed in Northeast Philadelphia, located near the common intersection of zip codes 19111, 19120, and 19124. This new access point could take the form of a community health center (nurse- or physician- managed), or a new City health center.
Ron Blount, Healthy Philadelphia board member and President of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, urged Philadelphians to get involved by attending the October 4th community meeting. “We invite all Philadelphians to share their stories,” he said, “and to help us identify solutions to the problems so many of our neighbors face in getting health care.”