“It’s a beautiful thing that to have that requirement lifted,” said Surani Hayre-Kwan, a family nurse practitioner for 18 years at the Russian River Health Center in Guerneville. “We absolutely have to open up the ability of nurse practitioners to deliver care across the state.”
In the Media
“I got a call about a week ago, from someone from the Health Center. A staff member had made a map of all our patients in the burn area, or evacuation zone, and they were checking in on each of us, to see what services we might need. I was so grateful to say that we were okay, but grateful too for their good work looking out for the community. It was really a proactive thing for them to do.” – John Kornfeld, WCHC Board Chair
“For a lot of our Latino immigrant population, there are a lot of issues that come up surrounding wildfires and disasters,” said Emilio Licea, a psychologist at West County Health Centers in Sonoma County. “So even though there might be resources, they’re often reluctant to engage because they don’t fully trust the system.”…….
Instead, she and others in the community rely on local nonprofit organizations like Humanidad and West County Health Centers. Licea, who is Latino himself, said these organizations consistently work to be a part of local communities and build trust. When mental-health providers attend local churches, participate in holiday events and call people directly to offer services, that can go a long way, Licea said.
Dr. Jason Cunningham, CEO of West County Health Centers, said the limited interest in county services so far was a topic of conversation for health officials wondering if the pandemic had forced people to avoid seeking it out, or that the public messaging was failing to reach everyone.
A few buses had shuttled homeless camped in west county evacuation zones to the county fairgrounds where they were then placed into a shelter, he said. His fear was some may be ignoring orders, or slip through the cracks with the fires spreading across such a remote region.
“Is this a vulnerable population we’re leaving behind or a group that’s really staying that’s choosing not to go?” Cunningham said. “I don’t know if we have the answer to that yet.”
The site is a collaboration between West County Community Services, the West County Health Centers and the County of Sonoma, through its Community Development Commission, and is intended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable homeless individuals.
West County Health Centers is offering coronavirus testing to current patients who have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Screening appointments before testing can be scheduled by calling the health center at 707-824-3391. For more information, visit wchealth.org.
West County Health Centers got a $3 million loan that will be turned into a grant to help retain 200 jobs for the community health clinic, said Jason Cunningham, chief executive officer.
That money helped relieve some financial pressure for the clinic that sees about 15,000 patients annually. Because of COVID-19, about 80% of its patient visits are now on video or by phone, Cunningham said.
“What the PPP did for us is gain some strategic thinking, which made all the difference. We were able to say, ’How do we send all of our staff home? How do we invest in technology and video,’ which allowed us to quickly see patients,” he said.
“The week of March 16, and the following week, we had 30-percent decline in revenue because of a reduction in visits. After that, it was down 10 percent but, ever since, we’ve been over 100 percent, and most recently 115 percent of productivity,” noted Jason Cunningham, CEO of West County Health Centers. “Visits coming in have exceeded what we were seeing prior to COVID-19, which I am so thankful for because otherwise we were going to do layoffs and other things because there was no way we could survive. But that only happened because we were able to pivot quickly on to video and telephone.”
Now, homeless individuals are among those especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions that put them at risk of complications and poor outcomes, said Jason Cunningham, a family physician and chief executive officer for the nonprofit West County Health Centers.
While ongoing coronavirus screening and outreach efforts indicate a high level of awareness and concern in the population, most are not in a position to maintain physical distance or proper hygiene.
An outbreak in the homeless population would likely spread very rapidly within those circles and to the wider community ―a threat that has suddenly become more urgent, given news last week of several cases detected during testing at encampments in Santa Rosa, Cunningham said.