In June, I posted about an Anchorage Alaska food initiative, a prime example of my mantra: “To build a better world, start in your community.” While health care is the “buzz du jour” on Capitol Hill, the city of Hayward, California has initiated an innovative community health care solution.
The southside of Hayward, California is a neighborhood with high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime, plus residents with bad health (e.g., obesity, diabetes, etc.). Health care options are limited; thus, Hayward was considered a health care desert until late 2015. A former Director of Alameda County Health Care Services conceived a solution for improving the community’s access to care based on manpower and location. Manpower: Firefighters trained as paramedics (note: approval ratings for firefighters far exceed other public servants). Location: Fire stations are usually strategically located in a community, therefore why not build a health clinic on the campus of the fire house. Conclusion: 70 percent of the 911 calls were for medical emergencies. Some were routine and could be treated in a lower-cost setting, thus freeing up the need for more expensive E.R. visits.
Typical of most innovation, there were the naysayers. In this case the California Nurses’ Association. They believed that paramedics aren’t properly trained. Politics prevailed; the clinic was launched with a staff of nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. They are looking to eventually hire a full-time doctor. Regardless, the firefighters are close by for life saving emergencies (e.g., strokes, heart attacks) or to transport patients truly in need of the primary care provided by E.R.
Any future cuts to Medicaid would impact the Hayward clinic. But this experiment, the partnership of firefighters and health care workers is a first for California, a potential model to improve health services for other communities nationwide.
Remember: “To build a better world, start in your community.”