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11 Nov 2013

Healthy Progress: A Newer, Larger Community Health Center Services the Residents of DHS

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The new Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center replaced a much smaller facility located in a former liquor store. The new Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center replaced a much smaller facility located in a former liquor store.

Over the summer, a former Jewish temple in Desert Hot Springs was converted into the Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center.

The building on Pierson Boulevard had been purchased by the now-nearly bankrupt city of Desert Hot Springs in 2008 and was condemned, partially torn down, and eventually sold to the nonprofit Borrego Community Health Foundation at a tremendous loss before its revival. (Meanwhile, a brand-new building behind the Vons grocery store on Palm Drive, which was constructed by the city to be a health-care clinic, sits unoccupied.)

Despite the controversies and boondoggles, Borrego has managed to bring much-needed health-care services to Desert Hot Springs, and the clinic has been well-received by citizens of Desert Hot Springs (including myself) since the October opening.

“We’ve been seeing that the community was hungry for what we offer,” said clinic site manager Sergio Ruiz. “Little by little, people are finding out that we are here, and we are seeing more and more patients as time goes on.

“… We’re here to serve, and when people come into our clinic, one of the things I’ve heard most often is that it’s an experience, because (we are) typically seen as the clinic for the uninsured. We are that, and we are here to serve (the uninsured), but they don’t expect to see as beautiful of a facility—and great service as well.”

The services offered by Borrego at the Desert Hot Springs location, beyond primary care, are extensive: in-house specialty care, physicals, immunizations, diabetes care, hypertension care, pediatrics, some gynecology services, and urgent care. The new building replaces a much-smaller clinic that had operated for several years in DHS.

Borrego assists clients who are without the ability to pay by offering sliding-scale fees and helping people without health insurance find health-care coverage through government programs for which they may qualify.

“As a federally qualified health care facility, we have the ability to offer government-sponsored programs,” Ruiz said. “We have a position here within the clinic that we call the ‘care coordinator specialist,’ and that person … has the knowledge to enroll people in different government-sponsored programs. That’s what we aim to do, but as a last resort, we offer a sliding fee. It’s a program for the noninsured or underinsured; the minimum payment right now for that would be $30, and that depends on income and (the number of) members of the household 18 years old and below. What people don’t realize about us is that $30 includes most labs, also.”

Ruiz said that some people don’t realize there’s often help available.

“The reality is most people qualify for something, and we try to place them in government sponsored programs, depending on what the visit is for,” Ruiz said.

Borrego offers services that most community health centers don’t have the resources to provide, Ruiz noted. However, the clinic—located in a city that has long been underserved by medical professionals—does face a challenge.

“One of the areas where we fall short is that we can take care of most things that are primary care; however, when the need arises to refer to specialty care, that’s where we encounter bumps in the road, because people (may not) have insurance. That’s why we place an emphasis on getting people on to government-sponsored programs. For the common cold and cough, we can take care of that here; however, when we need to refer to specialists, that becomes out of pocket for the noninsured.”

When it comes down to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), Ruiz sees it as a good thing for both consumers and the health-care system.

“It will mean more people qualifying to receive services,” he said. “For some people, it’s sort of a scary time because of paperwork and so forth. What we have done here is sent people to specialized training to enroll people … through Covered California.

“I think, in general, the population will be better served if they enroll in these programs. I feel that the number of people receiving what we offer is going to increase dramatically.”

The Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center, at 66675 Pierson Blvd. in Desert Hot Springs, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 760-676-5240, or visit www.borregomedical.org/clinics/desert-hot-springs-community-health-center (although the clinic’s physical address on the website had not been updated as of this posting).

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