Finding a (Medical) Home

Uninsured patients rarely have access to regular medical care, meaning they tend to use the Emergency Room for all of their medical needs - even the nonurgent ones. While that strains an already-overburdened health care system, the consequences can be deadly for our patients. ER doctors simply don't have the time or resources to educate their patients about their diseases or manage their care beyond a single visit.

Without regular care, patients suffer, often become disabled and even die from such manageable diseases as diabetes and high blood pressure.

A recent health status interview of residents in economically disadvantaged communities in the South Bay underscores the danger: Up to 25% of residents say they rarely or never receive health care when they need it; up to 68% say they do not have a regular doctor; up to 37% say their health is "only fair" or "poor." By the time a symptom scares them enough to seek help - often in the ER - their health can have deteriorated terribly.

These patients desperately need regular medical care.

Promotora Patient Navigator Program

Helping connect uninsured patients with low-cost or free clinics was key. But how? Any solution had to embrace the culture, language and special needs of our Hispanic population. It had to come from the community itself.

As in other areas of the PLCM Hospital System, Promotoras helped to craft the solution. By pairing promotoras with uninsured ER patients, patients learn how to navigate the complex and confusing healthcare system. They learn about affordable healthcare options. They learn how to enroll their children and themselves in low cost insurance programs. And they have found new medical homes!

Juan's Story

When Juan came to the Emergency Room looking for help, Promotora Maria sat down with him. He had been diagnosed with San Joaquin Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, a disease that produces only mild symptoms in most people, but was killing Juan. Without regular medical care, he probably wouldn't survive.

Juan's family needed him now more than ever. Although his wife had been working on her immigration papers, she had been deported to Mexico for 3 years. Their 5-year-old daughter had been left behind with Juan, who now had to be both mother and father to her. Cooking and cleaning were now taking up every minute of the time that Juan wasn't working at the small business he owns with his brother.

"Juan was under a lot of stress," Maria says. "He was trying to take care of his little girl while being very sick himself. He couldn't afford the medications he needed. My first job was to calm him down a bit. My next was to get him enrolled in Medi-Cal."

Today, Juan has a new medical home. He gets regular medical care in his community clinic, thanks to Maria and the Promotora Patient Navigator Program. His health has improved, and his little girl is getting ready to start school. With a little luck, his wife will be able to return sooner than later. And Juan's business will have a good year!

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