Children's Hospital of Orange County will open a pediatric clinic at the Boys & Girls Club in Santa Ana next week--an idea that was born out of tragedy two years ago when an 8-year-old club member died because his family couldn't afford medical care.
The clinic is positioned to provide health care to the area's 26,000 children--everything from immunizations and well-child exams to diagnosing a serious illness and, when possible, providing medication on the spot. Clinic operators expect to help about 8,000 children a year.
The facility will be open for tours Friday from noon to 2 p.m. during a grand opening reception. Patients will be seen beginning Oct. 27.
The clinic was built on the club's property at 950 W. Highland St.--smack-dab in the middle of the city's Empowerment Zone, a federally designated area of need. The median income for families living within a one-mile area of the site is estimated at about $12,000 a year. Many of those families are without health insurance and unaware of state aid that may be available to them--information that can mean life or death to some children.
For 8-year-old Felipe Carrillo's family, not knowing had fatal consequences.
At first, Felipe's parents thought he had the flu. They couldn't afford to take him to a doctor, so the family sought help from a curandera, a neighborhood healer. But the potions and teas the healer gave Felipe didn't help. His condition worsened--so much the parents were forced to seek emergency care. But it was too late: Felipe died as the ambulance rushed him to the hospital.
That's when the Boys & Girls club board of directors contacted Children's Hospital officials.
"We don't want to have any more kids dying of sinus infections on Highland Street," said John Brewster, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, which has about 5,000 members. "It's a great partnership. We are in no way, shape or form qualified to provide pediatric care, but these kids now will have a doctor right next door to do that. Some of these kids will be going next door to get an exam for the very first time."
And if a family needs financial assistance, an outreach counselor will be there to help with forms and applications.
"We can get them hooked into the system and help them with Medi-Cal and other health programs," said Dr. Mark Colon, the clinic's lead pediatrician. "Also, the people who we will be treating are right there in the community. One of the most difficult things for the Latino community is transportation. They have to rely on public transportation, and that's very difficult. You can be at the bus stop on time, but the bus might be delayed, and then you may have to transfer to another bus to get where you want to go, or you have to rely on someone else to take you to the appointment. We're right there in the community and within walking distance for these families."
Colon already knows many of the families who will be using the clinic: He's been visiting the club several times a week for about a year in the Children's Hospital's mobile unit.
"There are some days when from 4:30 to 8:30 [p.m.], we might see 14 kids--and in the mobile unit, we only have two examination rooms," Colon said. "So the nurse would be screening patients in one room, and I'd be in the other with a patient. It's going to be so nice to be in a facility. The parents won't have to wait so long."
Aurora Rivas has been taking her three children--two of whom have asthma--to the mobile clinic about six months. A permanent clinic, she said, is like a godsend.
"It's going to be great for me," Rivas said. "And the best thing is, they give us the medicine for free. The first time I came here, my daughter was really sick with asthma. I didn't have any money, and my husband was out of the state. I wasn't sure what I was going to do."
The 1,400-square-foot clinic--which looks more like a home than a doctor's office--will have four examination rooms, a waiting area, a room for medical records, an office and a reception area. In addition to Colon, the clinic will be staffed by a nurse, a medical assistant, a front-office person and an outreach counselor to help families find financial assistance for health care.
For the first three months, the clinic will be open 20 hours a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Starting mid-January, the clinic will open Wednesdays and Fridays as well, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
From start to finish, the project took 18 months. Hospital officials had hoped the clinic would be up and running sooner than that, but they ran into zoning issues that took some time to iron out, said Kathy Kolodje, a spokeswoman for Children's Hospital of Orange County.
The price tag for the clinic, $500,000, was funded through donations from the Pacific Care Foundation, a grant from the Health Care Foundation of Orange County and the Children's Hospital. Operating costs are expected to run about $450,000 a year, again covered through grants and Children's Hospital funding, Kolodje said.
Hospital and club officials hope to see similar partnerships spring up in other areas of the county, state, even nation.
"We're very excited about this, and we're hoping to make this the first of other clinics at other Boys & Girls Clubs," Kolodje said. "We're hoping this will be a pilot project. We may not be able to take it nationally, but other hospitals can."
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A full-service pediatric clinic at the Boys & Girls Club in Santa Ana opens for patients Oct. 27.
Source: Children's Hospital of Orange County