Health Services for Those Who Need It Most
Suzan Martinez de Gonzales and Lydia Macklin are both demonstrative types. Nothing shows this shared characteristic more effectively than when the two women start talking about the school services provided by La Clinica De Familia. They both were taking measures so as not to appear “unprofessional” as they expressed their enthusiasm about this important part of the services provided by the local health care organization.
“I’m sitting on my hands!” exclaimed Martinez de Gonzales, LCDF’s CEO.
“Me, too!” laughed Macklin, a Family Nurse Practitioner who is the Clinical Director of the School Based Clinics. “It’s my heart and my passion, and I was trying not to use my hands too much. I just get so excited.”
That passion is clearly evident as the two, along with La Clinica’s Chief Operations Officer Virgil Medina, talk about the importance of school-based healthcare to the overall LCDF plan.
La Clinica currently has five high schools with a clinic on campus – Centennial, Santa Teresa, Gadsden, Chaparral, and Rio Grande Preparatory. Santa Teresa is the only site-built school-based clinic in the state and is open full time (8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; and 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Wednesday). The other school clinics are open four hours each day, a total of 20 hours per week.
The clinics are staffed by Nurse Practitioners or Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and provide a variety of services – medical, behavioral, and, in the case of Santa Teresa, dental. All services are confidential, which helps the students feel the clinic is an extension of the school.
“It’s part of what makes the students feel safe,” Medina said. “A safe environment is a priority.”
“At first, everyone assumed, including us, that it would be mostly family planning-type services,” Martinez de Gonzales said. “It turned out that was not the case.”
“The medical services we provide help keep the students in school,” she continued. “That’s one of our main goals. It’s hard to make up the days they miss, they get further and further behind. It can take a week to make up just one class not to mention being out for three days or a week due to illness. There is a direct correlation between absenteeism and the drop-out rate. Healthy students make great students and we want these kids to have every possible advantage. An in-school clinic is a huge benefit in that regard.”
There is also an educational element to the clinics as providers are available to make classroom presentations on subjects ranging from obesity to behavioral health issues. The clinic staff is very supportive of school activities, and Medina feels that reinforces the feeling that the clinic is an integral part of the school.
“During registration and open houses we give tours of the clinic,” he continued. “Often the parents are amazed because they weren’t aware these services were available for their children.”
“It is so important that the kids learn and understand what healthcare is,” said Macklin, “and know where to get it. We want the future generations to be healthier.”
“And as young adults, they will need to know how to get healthcare for their children,” Martinez de Gonzales elaborated. “Seeking out their primary care provider is much more convenient, less time consuming, and less expensive than going to the ER or urgent care.”
“One of our goals is for the students to take that information and knowledge back to their families,” Macklin continued. “That might bring the family into one of our sister clinics. Then the family’s health starts to improve, and it spreads to the rest of the community.”
The idea that a group, such as a family, can have a positive outcome from a healthcare experience and from that experience the information and well-being reaches and affects the rest of the community is part of a larger concept known as “Population Health.”
A key element of Population Health is access to healthcare. Being able to see a medical provider after work or on the weekend is important to the clients LCDF serves. It should also be noted that all patients – regardless of their primary care provider – have “open access” when it comes to being able to see a doctor or nurse practitioner at LCDF clinics. If the medical facility or office they normally go to is closed, for example, they can still be seen at La Clinica. Three of their clinics are extending their hours. Sunland Park, Anthony, and the Las Cruces facility will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It is hoped that eventually the new Central Medical facility will be open 24 hours.
And what about Central Medical?
As far as Central’s timeline, the facility will be open in late October or early November and the old Memorial Hospital/City of Las Cruces office facility will not only be a significant addition to the area population’s healthcare options but also give an economic shot in the arm to downtown.
“Naturally, people want to know what’s going on there,” Medina said. “I tell them it may not be apparent from the outside at this point, but plenty is happening.”
That always seems to be the case for La Clinica De Familia – plenty happening. And while there may be some literal “sitting on hands,” is there any of that in the figurative sense? Far from it. According to Martinez de Gonzales, the mission is always “to give our patients the services that they need. And the ones in the most need – the underinsured and the uninsured – are the ones who should have the best care. We are committed to that.”