August 2, 2021
As California continues to make gains in vaccinations and we begin to emerge from the isolation of the past 16 months, it is important to take time to reflect on where we have been and how the pandemic has changed us.
I had the opportunity to gather with some staff for the first time in many months at an outdoor wedding reception. We greeted one another with great joy and appreciation for what we had come through together. It felt good to connect with one another in-person and share stories of our pandemic experience and plans for better days. One conversation from that day has stayed with me more than the others.
One staff member approached me and shared, “I have to tell you that just before I left home to come to this reception, my mom was reading one of your recent blog posts. She told me how proud she was of where I was working and the work that we were doing.”
She went on to share – with tears in her eyes – that her mother is an immigrant and that what I wrote in that blog about our community health centers and their work deeply resonated with her. She related to it directly and appreciated her daughter’s work that much more. The post spoke about the impacts to our communities from the pandemic, how the crisis was affecting essential workers and vulnerable populations, and the inspiring response from our member community health centers to maintain access to care while offering testing and care for COVID-19 patients and the broader community.
Our conversation served as a reminder to me to make time to talk about what we do. Sharing our stories about the life-giving and lifesaving work our members perform, day in and day out, is a powerful way for all of us to connect and to collectively heal as we move forward.
What we do matters.
The work of our network of community health centers is more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has strained our public health, our health care and social safety net systems. The injustices that we have witnessed in detention centers at the U.S. Border, among uninsured members of our communities who experienced delays in care, and the crisis that so many families have experienced because of the economic impacts of the pandemic, speak to the moral imperative of our work and what we do every day.
The realities we have experienced in the past 16 months have served to remind us of who we are and why our work is so important. Together, between April 2020 and July 2021, HCP member health centers tested 181,086 community members for COVID-19. This effort helped to identify over 20,036 cases of COVID-19 infection and connected individuals to care. To date, HCP member health centers report that 110,147 patients have initiated the vaccination series and 91,827 are fully vaccinated. Telehealth visits account for nearly 40% of visits and utilization of health services is slowly rising closer to pre-pandemic levels.
These numbers are important. They represent the people who benefit from the heroic efforts of our members’ providers and allied health professionals, who put their and their families’ health and safety at risk by coming to work every day. They represent populations that are underserved, linguistically isolated, disenfranchised, and those who have experienced the worst impacts of this pandemic. Staff and providers from our member health centers have volunteered at community vaccination events and traveled to the border regions to assist with crisis response efforts. Our health centers have also called, texted, and visited patients to ask if they need help with housing, food access, or transportation and connected those in need with community supports.
I want to thank all the staff from our member health centers for this commitment and perseverance in the face of so many challenges. I believe we will emerge from this pandemic with new perspective on the importance of our mission and the important work that lies ahead.
I look forward to partnering with you to move beyond talking about racial injustice to leading the way toward health equity for all whom we serve, to elevating the role of primary care as the cornerstone of community health, and to accelerating the growth of our network to meet the demand for high quality, compassionate health care for all.
As we take these steps forward together, and while the horizon is still not yet cleared from the threat of the virus, let’s remember to use the common sense from all that we’ve learned: get vaccinated. The rise in current infections, illnesses, and hospitalizations among those not yet vaccinated demonstrates vaccines’ effectiveness. And remember to follow public health guidelines, practice social distancing when called for, handwash and sanitize when appropriate. These simple steps are easy, practical, and they work!
Henry N. Tuttle
President and Chief Executive Officer