A movement and mission often start with a story about people coming together around a common, simple goal, and building something beyond their wildest dreams. Such a story brought us to Cornelius, Ore, where Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center (VGMHC) began in the unlikeliest of all places — a three car garage. But where VGMHC started to provide care is not as important as why: the death of a child that could have been prevented with timely access to care. In 1975, beautiful six-year old Virginia Garcia and her farmworker parents traveled from their home in Mission, Texas to California and Oregon to work in the fields. Along the way Virginia cut her foot, and by the time they reached Oregon it had become infected. Economic, language and cultural barriers to healthcare, prevented her family receiving appropriate care when they desperately needed it. Days after receiving treatment, Virginia died on June 17, 1975. Determined to never let such a tragedy happen again, the community built a healthcare home for people in need, including migrant seasonal farmworkers. Not only has VGMHC endured over the years, but the health center is also cutting edge when it comes to healthcare delivery.
VGMHC has 16 sites, including a brand new Wellness Center that is state-of-the-art, with a parking lot that has charging stations for hybrid cars. The health center now serves over 42,000 patients, more than half of which live in poverty. Nineteen percent of their patients are still migrant or seasonal farmworkers, and nearly half are under 21 years of age. Yet, VGMHC is a fully integrated Patient Centered Medical/Health Home that provides excellent healthcare services to the insured and uninsured alike. It also operates a wellness facility, the Cornelius Wellness Center, to support the organization’s integrated model of care and focus on managing chronic health conditions.
“Virginia Garcia is here to provide the best care to those who need it most,” said CEO Gil Munoz. “We at Virginia Garcia are not only keeping up with the innovations in healthcare today, but we’re also becoming the model for care. We are finding new ways every day to help keep our patients healthy, including new payment methodologies, team-based care and wellness classes. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come!”
The health center also works with a local hospital to connect people with a primary care provider after they visited the emergency department or were admitted. The results have been dramatic, according to Munoz. Among those patients, emergency department visits dropped by 76 percent and inpatient visits dropped 82 percent.
“We had heard that focusing on so-called ‘hot spotters’ was important and we have seen that it does work,” Munoz told a reporter with the publication HCE Exchange [see article]. “Before enrollment in the program patients had more than $4 million in total charges that included emergency services, inpatient services, and ambulatory surgery. After enrollment, those charges drop to $1.5 million.”
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