Barton eyes tobacco funds for community health clinic
The community care clinic at Barton Memorial Hospital is losing money and Barton is looking at ways to offset its losses.
Money from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement this year is already earmarked by El Dorado County for projects on the West Slope including a community health center and health-related issues at the juvenile hall. Barton is seeking a share of the revenue for its community health care clinic.
The clinic provides services for people with no insurance or who are on Medicare and Medi-Cal, government-funded insurance plans that only cover about half of the medical costs, said Kathy Cocking, Barton’s director of hospital operations. The clinic treats about 1,000 patients a month.
While the hospital is generating a profit, the clinic lost $467,264 last year. According to future projections that number could increase to more than $600,000 in the next couple of years.
“Our only source of income is payments that we get for medical care,” said Vee Gay, a Barton board member. “It is an economic reality that if you don’t have income you have to raise your rates.”
The hospital is seeking government funding to help keep patient costs at an affordable level. The Barton clinic is the only medical option for many people in the community and the hospital is absorbing the cost, Gay said.
“There is a vast percentage of people here who don’t have medical insurance, so there is no other place for them to go,” she said.
Although the clinic is an important part of the hospital, the continual economic drain could mean a reduction in services, Cocking said.
“If we don’t get financial assistance from the county, we’re going to have to discuss limiting clinic services or closing the clinic,” she said.
County Supervisors Dave Solaro and Helen Baumann will meet with Barton staff July 9 to discuss the issue.
The El Dorado County Health Department is working with the Health Alliance, which includes Barton, and county agencies to prepare a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors concerning funding for the clinic, said Gayle Erbe-Hamlin, director for the Health Department.
Simultaneously, county staff and the Health Alliance will assess the health needs of the community, which is expected to take six to nine months.
“I don’t need to be convinced at all that there is a need (at Barton) and we are positioning ourselves to help in any way, shape or form we can,” Baumann said.
The amount of funding that the county will get as a result of the settlement is uncertain, and the county is examining how the money should be spent.
El Dorado County is slated receive $47 million over an unspecified period of time from the 46-state, $206 billion Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The settlement did not stipulate how the money should be spent. This is the second year of the funding cycle.
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