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Economic Crisis Spurs Demand for Community Benefit Programs

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 - Danbury, CT

The health care safety net provided by Danbury Hospital and its wide range of “community benefit” endeavors has become even more crucial in the wake of the nation’s economic crisis.

At a time when other institutions are scaling back, Danbury Hospital has intensified is efforts to serve the community by providing more than $64 million in health resources.

And with the economic downturn deepening, community and hospital officials expect the number of adults and children depending on Danbury Hospital’s community benefit programs to escalate.

Touching the lives of thousands

The hospital’s community benefit efforts touch the lives of thousands, ranging from needy residents with little or no health insurance who receive subsidized care to members of the broader community who have access to free health screenings, education seminars and outreach programs.

Do the right thing

Danbury Hospital undertakes these endeavors for several reasons:

First, it’s the right thing to do. “Part of our mission is to advance the health and well-being of the community,” said Patrick Broderick, MD, chair of Emergency Medicine at Danbury Hospital and volunteer medical director of AmeriCares Free Clinic of Danbury.

Second, keeping the community healthy with screenings, medical care, education and more enables providers to identify problems early when they are easier and less costly to treat.

Danbury Hospital’s commitment to the community takes on many facets:

Emergency care, no questions asked

Patients needing immediate medical care are never turned away, regardless of their ability to pay.

Funding government insurance shortfalls

Medicare and Medicaid patients comprise a significant percentage of those who receive health care services at Danbury Hospital. Yet government reimbursements for these medical services do not cover the costs. The hospital receives just 70 cents on a dollar of the cost of serving a Medicaid patient. The hospital also incurs substantial debt from people who walk away from their bills.

Helping neighbors in need

Danbury Hospital’s Seifert & Ford Family Community Health Center provides adults and children with medical and dental care, along with assistance accessing community, state and federal resources. “We’re seeing many of our neighbors with a multitude of needs,” said William Delaney, MD, the center’s medical director. He expects an increase in the number of patient visits in the near future as more people qualify for state assistance because they have lost their jobs and health benefits.

Initiatives such as Wellness on Wheels, the mobile health clinic sponsored by Danbury Health Systems, Inc., serves hundreds of needy adults and children, many without any other access to care.

Community outreach

The hospital offers scores of free outreach programs, educational events and clinical sponsorships each year. The ever-popular Children’s Day, for example, draws thousands of area families each year.

Medical education

Physicians, nurses and allied health professionals from Danbury Hospital and the region benefit from medical education programs. This year, for example, more than 250 clinicians attended an all-day hospital-sponsored symposium on spinal cord injury treatments featuring researchers from the world renowned Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Safeguarding public health

Danbury Hospital’s partnership with the city of Danbury insures residents receive the “full continuum of care,” said Scott LeRoy, director of the city’s Health Department. “Danbury Hospital has been extremely helpful in allowing the city to maintain a certain level of public health services. Partnerships are key, especially in an era of hard economic times when you must find imaginative and alternative ways to continue providing services.”

Among the numerous hospital-city collaborations: The hospital provides free laboratory services to middle and high school students at school-based health centers. Homeless individuals receive free medical care from the hospital. The city’s Tuberculosis Clinic is located in the Seifert & Ford Family Community Health Center. The city’s Office of Community Medicine partners with the Danbury Visiting Nurse Association (a member of Danbury Health Systems, Inc.) for influenza prevention.

Linking with volunteer clinics

Hospital-community partnerships keep people healthy while ultimately reducing health care costs. Karen Gottlieb, RN, MBA, executive director of AmeriCares Free Clinics, said the organization’s ability to provide quality medical care at AmeriCares Free Clinic of Danbury hinges on the hospital. Danbury Hospital provides clinic patients with free laboratory services; diagnostic testing; Emergency Department visits; consultations with specialists through the hospital’s Seifert & Ford Family Community Health Center; and in some cases, specialized surgery and inpatient care. All at not cost.

“We could not have a quality program without Danbury Hospital’s ongoing support,” said Gottlieb. She conservatively estimates the contribution from Danbury Hospital and the Danbury Office of Physician Services at more than $5 million since 1997, not including millions more spent on tests, follow-up visits and surgery which the clinic does not track. “Danbury Hospital goes above and beyond what hospitals in other communities offer our clinics. They are phenomenal.”

Bracing for increasing community needs

AmeriCares Free Clinic of Danbury has seen a 15 percent increase in the number of adults seeking services compared to last year, when the clinic handled 3,600 patient visits. The clinic provides health care to Danbury area adults who have no health insurance and are living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. “It’s heart breaking,” said Gottlieb, of the patients who simply walk away when they see the packed waiting room. “The need is much more than 15 percent, but that is all we can handle. There is no question that the economy is impacting people from all walks of life.”

Broderick expects the need for collaboration to intensify as volunteer clinics face funding shortages and hospitals see more uninsured and underinsured patients due to the economy.

“This situation will put a strain on hospitals that don’t have relationships with volunteer-based organizations in their communities,” he said. “Danbury Hospital is fortunate to have such strong partnerships with community and city entities. Everyone benefits.”

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with New York Medical College, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders and radiology. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board certified in their specialties.

Danbury Hospital is ranked in the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country for overall clinical performance by HealthGrades®, a leading independent health care rating organization. It is the only health care facility in Connecticut ranked among the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for overall clinical performance five years in a row.




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