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Neighborhood Clinics Buying Time

Donations Keep Neighborhood Clinics Afloat for Time Being


Friday, July 12, 2013

A coalition of Santa Barbara’s most prominent foundations have donated $250,000 to the financially beleaguered Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, keeping the low-cost, frontline medical provider for thousands of Santa Barbara’s low-income and working families afloat long enough to fashion a longer-term solution. According to a press release from the Santa Barbara Foundation, another $350,000 has been committed if the neighborhood clinics meet certain mileposts in what’s billed as the hundred-day plan.

The clinics have been struggling with a host of financial and operational issues for the past five years, staying alive only by eating into its reserves. Compounding matters, if not causing them, has been a change of leadership at the top and a number of layoffs of upper-management players.

At a time of massive change throughout the health-care universe — the Affordable Care Act is slated to go into effect next year; Cottage and Sansum are pursuing merger talks — there was consensus throughout the health-care community that the clinics, whatever their institutional shortcomings, should not be allowed to fail. For 17,000 largely uninsured, low-income and predominantly Latino families, the clinics provide their only avenue of medical care. Without the clinics, many of these individuals would seek treatment at emergency rooms run by Cottage Hospital. Not only would this exacerbate existing emergency-room congestion, but it would be exceptionally expensive and inefficient.

Recognizing this, Cottage paid the costs to hire a private health-care consultant to analyze various ways key functions now provided by the clinics could be maintained, whether as part of the Neighborhood Clinics or some other institutional entity. In the meantime, the board of the Neighborhood Clinics has been charged with devising a business plan that will remedy five of the key deficiencies that put them behind the eight ball in the first place.