Local health centers face closure without federal funding
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - Local community health centers lost over $2 million in funding because Congress did not renew a health funding bill last October.
Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Community Health of Central Washington and the Yakima Valley Farm Worker's Clinic are now running on reserve funds and said those funds are about to run out.
Neighborhood Health Chairman Don Hinman said they'll be out of money at the end of the month and if Congress doesn't get something done by then, some health clinics may be forced to close.
"It's important that we get our funding," he said. "At Neighborhood Health, we have about 20 percent of our patients are totally uninsured."
Hinman said the funding is important to keep health care affordable in Yakima County.
Corrie Blythe is the Manager of Aging and Long Term Care of Southeast Washington and said these clinics in our area provide medical and dental care to the most vulnerable and underserved of Yakima County.
"Without this increased funding, we'll have more people attending their medical care through emergency rooms or worse yet from my perspective, not seeking medical care at all," Blythe said.
There is also concern about recruiting quality doctors to the Yakima area.
Doctor Mike Maples of Community Health of Central Washington said Yakima County can't compete with the high salaries metropolitan areas are able to offer.
"Our doctors that we're trying to recruit on average have more than $200,000 in debt," Maples said. "So without loan repayment, recruiting to areas like ours would be extremely difficult."
Maples said these programs are needed to bring quality care to communities like ours.
Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation authorizing two years of funding for community health centers, it now heads to the Senate.