Clinic to expand services in South L.A.

Angela Cruz wouldn’t have access to health care without St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. The South Central Los Angeles resident lives near St. John’s clinics at Hoover and West 58th Streets.

“St. John’s is vital to this community. Because whether or not we have money to pay for health insurance, we are able to receive medical services and attention,” Cruz said through a translator.

imageThe St. John’s clinics are located on the corner of Hoover Street and W 58th Street in South Central.

On Wednesday morning, St. John’s broke ground for an expansion project on two of its clinics.

The clinics provide health care services for residents of South Central Los Angeles. The organization hopes that the expansion will help it serve an additional 8,968 people a year.

“We are throwing the first punch in creating a health reform zone in South Los Angeles because our community deserves nothing less,” said St. John’s President Jim Mangia.

imageJim Mangia

With the expansion, 15 exam rooms and eight dental chairs will be added to the Louis C Frayser and S. Mark Taper Health Centers. The project is projected to cost $11.2 million.

St. John’s provides more than 100,000 health care visits a year in South Los Angeles where the lack of health care access is staggering compared to the other parts of the state.

In South Los Angeles the ratio of residents to physicians is 8,603:1, while the statewide ratio is only 190:1, according to St. John’s.

L.A. Care is a public health plan that helps low income individuals and families afford health services. The organization refers a lot of their clients to St. John’s clinics. Its president, Howard Kahn, said the St. John’s expansion is a step in the right direction to providing universal health care by 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“We need an expanded St. John’s to deal with the heal needs of South Los Angeles,” Kahn said. “When health reform rolls out there are going to be a lot more people eligible for this care and the expansion will help us provide that.”

The project is set to be complete by the Spring.

Conference seeks to take the next step in health care for South L.A.

“From Declaration to Action!” That was the theme of this year’s Second Annual South Los Angeles Health & Human Rights Conference, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on December 10, 2010.

The call to action comes after the drafting last year of a South Los Angeles Declaration of Health and Human Rights.

The declaration calls for the right to: health and behavioral health, education and employment, housing and a safe environment, food and food sovereignty, and dignity and safety.

With the declaration in hand, the community, health, labor activists and residents, were fired up to take turn those words into tangible approaches that will bring better health care to South Los Angeles.

“It’s time for movement again,” declared keynote speaker Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. County Supervisor for the Second District. Ridley-Thomas reminded the audience of how much has changed in the year since the group first gathered.

“Last year at this time, we didn’t have a health reform bill in the nation’s capital. There is a lot of debate about the issue itself, but when you think it, it is to be considered progress, significant progress.”

Many areas of Los Angeles County face deep and chronic problems, such as homelessness, unemployment, lack of health care access and violence. But the situation is particularly daunting in South L.A. where there is “widespread and intractable poverty,” according to Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Centers.

“Seventy-nine percent of children who live in South Los Angeles live below the federal poverty line,” said Mangia at a briefing before the conference began. “There’s an intense concentration of poverty in South L.A., so we feel that by building this movement, beginning in South Los Angeles, we can create an example of what a health and human rights movement needs.”

imageListen to Jim Mangia speak about the moral and economic need for healthcare for all:

imageEl Salvador’s Vice Minister of Public Health and Welfare, Dr. Violeta Menjivar, joined the conference to speak about her country’s adoption of a program to provide free medical care. The effort is a participatory model of health services that is now in 74 municipalities. The government plans to add 49 more in 2011 and eventually cover the entire country.

Conference participants plans to rally later in the day at the site of the demolished Orthopaedic Hospital on 23rd Street between Flower and Figueroa. Developer Geoff Palmer wants to build luxury apartments on the site; activists want to keep it zoned for healthcare services for the area’s underserved residents.

A broad-base of organizations are the driving force behind the South Los Angeles Health & Human Rights initiative, including SEIU-UHW, Community Health Councils, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy), Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches and the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers.