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Local Leaders Call for More Community Health Clinics

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Photo by Waldo Jaquith via Flickr

Yesterday a panel of hospital and government officials voiced concerns over overcrowding in Los Angeles emergency rooms and called for the creation of more community health clinics in the county.ER overcrowding is a growing problem in California for a number of reasons.

11 Los Angeles emergency rooms have closed in the last 5 years in Los Angeles County, partly because of low reimbursements from Medicare and Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid. In addition, 2.7 million residents of LA County are uninsured, and that number is only increasing. There are too few community health clinics in the county, forcing patients to go to the emergency room for emergencies and non-emergencies alike, especially after business hours. And county clinics that provide primary care for LA County residents have been under threat of closing.

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"One of the ... critical facts here is that the ER has become the family physician," Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe said. With average costs of $1,200 per ER visit and the lack of continuity of care for patients seen there, neither the ER nor the county's financial reserves are equipped to handle this type of strain. It is hoped that these discussions will shed a greater light on the importance of strong, well-funded community health clinics -- for the residents of LA County and for the county's budget.

The event was hosted by Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske.