Federal stimulus funds soon will reach the Quad-Cities as almost a million dollars flows in to help cover health costs for underserved residents.
Community Health Care, with medical facilities in Davenport, Moline and Rock Island, will receive $458,742. It’s part of the $337 million going out to 1,100 public facilities like it in the United States, all from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The funds announcement was recently made by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley. The Democrat reported that three public clinics in eastern Iowa got more than $909,000 in aid, including those in Dubuque and Waterloo.
“This money will help us to add staff and also to preserve jobs,” said George Barton, chief executive officer of the Davenport facility.
The Community Health Care organization handles 31,000 patients each year, and that number has increased by 2,000 visits annually, each of the past three years. One effect is on hospital emergency rooms run by Genesis Health System and by Trinity Regional Health System.
Some patients who have little or no health insurance tend to use emergency facilities as a main care provider. Nonprofit hospitals, such as Trinity and Genesis, are obligated to care for all individuals but costs to the organization can be staggering. For example, Genesis is expected to spend $50 million on charity and uncompensated care in 2009.
“Anything that can improve access to primary care for the underserved in our community is a wonderful thing,” said Dr. Paul Bolger, Trinity’s director of emergency medicine. “Community Health Care does a fantastic job in caring for patients in our community who don’t necessarily have access to care elsewhere.”
“Genesis continues to provide health services to the uninsured and underinsured, but if federal stimulus funding allows Community Health Care to also help more of these patients, their health and the community’s health will benefit,” said Craig Cooper, Genesis media relations coordinator.
Most of the clinic patients have some insurance but one-third do not, Barton said.
“In general, the trend is with individuals who have no or little coverage, including those working part-time,” he said. An uptick in the number of routine checkups is also in play, Barton added.
About 10 new employees will join Community Health Care this summer, Barton said. Those hired include doctors, nurses and mid-level workers.
The funds, he added, “go quickly in health care.” Federal government support is 17 percent of the clinic’s overall budget.
There will be three more opportunities for Community Health Care to apply for federal stimulus aid, Barton said. The first round of funds was intended to help with the growing number of newly unemployed individuals.
The next grants will be competitive in nature. That money will go for improved electronic record capability and more mundane items such as generators and boilers.
“We’ll be very competitive,” Barton said. “There’s as much need around here as you’ll see in the inner city.”