Community health is crucial for a happy community. When community members are healthy, they can easily make contributions that will benefit the society. Thanks to local community health centers and the people working in each site, people can easily receive the healthcare assistance they need.
If one needs to see a specialist, they can receive a timely referral. People can also enjoy more affordable medical services. The sad part is, not all community health centers are given much importance, and it shows during the new normal.
A community health center is a place where everyone is welcome to ask for medical help. But then, not many people turn to community health centers in times of a medical crisis. Most of the time, underserved communities are the ones that badly need medical help, but their health centers are unable to cater to their needs.
How the Pandemic Exposed the Weaknesses of Community Health Centers
Many community health centers in underserved communities lack the funds to keep up with the growing demand for affordable healthcare. Before the crisis, community health workers can still resolve the challenges of running a community health center. But when the pandemic came, the demand for community healthcare increased.
Most of the people that comprise underserved communities are people of color. They are usually the ones that cannot afford healthcare. They turn to community health centers whenever they need medical help.
During the crisis, most community health centers are providing drive-through COVID-19 tests. More than half of the people who tested and are confirmed positive of COVID-19 are people of color. Due to the rising cases and increasing need to accommodate COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, community health centers needed more funding to support their operations.
The problem is, not all health centers in every community in the world are getting enough support. Even before the crisis, many centers lacked the necessary tools, equipment, and medications needed to treat their people with common conditions and diseases. This is why people who lack healthcare access are left with no choice but to turn to hospitals. They then have to pay an enormous amount of money to receive the proper medical support.
Financial Challenges of Community Health Centers
Since more people are getting sick during the crisis, health centers in every community need more funds to support response efforts. They need more than just the proper medications to treat symptoms, test kits to confirm cases, and beds to cater to more patients. Centers also need more supplies like medical storage carts, narcotics cabinets, personal protective equipment, and the right technology to support telehealth.
The lack of funding is also affecting the way health centers operate in communities. Not all patients that require testing are being tested because their lack the funds to obtain more test kits. Others have to endure angry and frustrated patients who have been waiting for a long time only to find out that they won’t be tested the same day.
Community Health Center Staffs During the Crisis
The crisis exposed community health center staff to people suffering from COVID-19. Despite their attempts to reduce the transmission of the virus, many are unable to work after getting the virus. This made it tricky for centers to operate when they lacked the manpower to accommodate patient visits.
Some healthcare providers now make use of telehealth to offer healthcare services to people sheltering in place. They know that more people would rather stay at home than risk exposure when visiting a healthcare professional. During the crisis, more healthcare workers are offering services over the phone or online.
Staffing issues can continue if healthcare workers continue to feel neglected, especially during the crisis. Even before the pandemic, many healthcare workers were underpaid. This can strengthen one’s decision to leave their post in hopes of finding better job opportunities elsewhere.
There is already a staff shortage in community health centers after some personnel fell ill because of the virus. Staffing issues along with financial struggles led to the closure of many community health centers. If this keeps up, people may no longer have anything to help them address their medical worries.
Community health centers play a huge role in improving and addressing the medical concerns of local community members. But the pandemic made everything more complicated. The crisis exposed numerous pain points in community health; that includes understaffing and lack of funding in underserved areas. These issues must be addressed asap if we want the necessary help to reach underserved communities when they need it the most.