As Community Health Centers (CHCs) mark a year of administering vaccines to underserved Missourians, the needs of the pandemic have strained their services.
More than 40% of centers report they do not have enough staff to keep up the vaccination pace.
Rodney Hummer, vice president of strategy for the Missouri Primary Care Association and a registered nurse, said in addition to COVID testing and shots, health centers have also maintained primary care, dental care, and behavioral health visits.
He emphasized they are trusted members of the community, and work to answer any questions about the virus or vaccines without judgment.
“The nurses, doctors, community health workers, they’re all living, breathing members of the fabric of the communities,” Hummer asserted. “They’re trusted individuals, and so, people can go to them for answers.”
He noted despite shortages of health care workers across the state, the community aspect of their mission to serve keeps CHCs going. Nationwide, they have provided 19.2 million COVID shots in the last year, with more than two-thirds of recipients identifying as people of color.
CHCs accept patients, no matter their income or health insurance status. Hummer added their emphasis in providing care is on equity.
“Ensuring that those in underserved, inner-city neighborhoods, as well as rural areas — with oftentimes no internet and no cellphone service — that they also have access to health care during the pandemic,” Hummer outlined. “That’s our long suit.”
Dr. Anne Gaglioti, associate professor of family medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine and senior strategic adviser at the National Center for Primary Care, said many health care workers have been through trauma during the pandemic, and CHC staffs are no exception.
“I know that they are tired, and they’ve experienced a huge amount of loss,” Gaglioti explained. “Despite that, they’re still coming to work every day and caring for folks, caring for their neighbors.”
There are fewer COVID-19 deaths and infections in places where a health center is located, according to research from the National Association of Community Health Centers and Morehouse’s National COVID-19 Resiliency Network.
(Photo Courtesy of MU Health Care via Missouri Independent)