The new East Valley Community Health Center at 420 S. Glendora Ave. in West Covina opened its new facility last week.
Alicia Mardini, chief executive officer, stands in front of waiting room. The day the clinic opened the new building was filled to capacity.
WEST COVINA — There are those who talk about healthcare and those who do something about it. In the doer category are Alicia Mardini and the folks at the East Valley Community Health Center.
This place opened its new, 25,000-square-foot building about a week ago here. It is three times the size of its old building. One the day it opened, the patients waited outside the building. The clinic reached capacity that same day.
Filling a need — helping the poor and the uninsured get basic healthcare — is what Mardini and East Valley Community Health Center do. They see 120 patients a day (and that doesn’t count those here for blood work or lab visits). It adds up to 45,000-50,000 patient visits a year.
“About 90 percent of our patients are people who work,” explained Mardini. “Some of them have more than one job.”
The bulk of those patients are in their 40s and 50s. They work at blue collar jobs for employers who do not offer healthcare insurance. These are the working poor. They do not qualify for Medi-Cal because they work!
Mardini said it is crucial for the clinic to see Medi-Cal patients as well because the state reimburses for those. However, looming state cutbacks has put that revenue supply in jeopardy.
Also, with the state cutting back on the payments for doctors, fewer and fewer specialists are taking Medi-Cal patients.
It’s incredible that in our country, right here in West Covina, people can’t get to see a doctor. In Los Angeles County, all the public-private clinics and county clinics running at full capacity can take about 1 million people, leaving almost 2 million uninsured residents without access to healthcare. That’s just in the county.
“These are the people that if we don’t treat them, they end up in the emergency rooms,” Mardini said.
The group took a big chance when it decided to build a new facility. It received $6 million from private donors, including the Ahmanson Foundation. But it still needed to take out a mortgage for the balance — about $4 million. That gives Mardini more wrinkles on her forehead.
But the idea was to expand staff and see 50 percent more patients within the next five years. Those expansion plans are on hold. In fact, that may not happen because it faces state budget cuts that may require the clinic borrow money to stay open in the second half of the fiscal year. Instead of hiring additional medical staff, it may have to use that money to paying off its loans.
“We know we will make it. It is just very hard,” Mardini said.