Spotlight: Linking Patients to Vital Primary Care

IB ImageMaria Maldonado (right) is a medical assistant (MA) in the Adolescent & Pediatrics Department at Community Health Services (CHS), Hartford's largest federally qualified health center (FQHC), where she has worked for 10 years. She and her unit's colleagues provide vital care for families and children, starting from pregnancy and birth, through infancy and childhood, and up to the age of 26.
 
Maldonado sees her role, and that of her fellow aides, as integral to the services the region's families and children need and depend on.
 
"We have a lot to do with patients' overall experience," said Maldonado, a member of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated CHS United, which represents the non-profit's medical and dental assistants. She explained that MAs help physicians and other providers achieve greater efficiencies, saying, "we do as much as we can, right up to the point-of-care."
 
"We're the providers' 'right hand;' like the paralegal is to a lawyer," Maldonado said, pointing out that MAs help reduce wait times and enable doctors to see additional patients.
 
The adolescent and pediatrics team at CHS consists of three physicians, five advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), four licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and eight MAs in addition to Maldonado. Together, they assist families with care and advice for childhood and adolescent illnesses, assist with management of chronic conditions, such as asthma, and provide check-ups and preventive care.
 
Maldonado, who lives in the capital city and completed her externship in three of the local district's school-based health centers, believes CHS serves an essential function for the region.
 
"We make it better for the hospitals,” she said, adding that the primary care provided at CHS' two area clinics results in "less people in the emergency rooms."
 
According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), treatment for patients in CHCs are a fraction of the average cost of just one emergency room visit. Additionally, they report that facilities like CHS help lower overall pediatric and adolescent primary care expenses by approximately 35 percent, principally by reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency procedures.
 
Click here for reporting on community-based efforts to reduce acute care costs in Connecticut.
 
Despite their invaluable contribution, CHCs face threatened reduced Medicaid and other critical funding under the Trump Administration's proposed federal blueprint released in May. While Congressional Republicans have so far failed in their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), its community-based primary care block grants are set to expire in September.
 
State resources are at the same time in jeopardy as the governor and lawmakers have failed to reach agreement on a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
 
Click here for recent reporting on how CHCs in Connecticut are weathering the current fiscal storm.
 
Maldonado's message to elected officials considering cuts to Medicaid, FQHC grants or state funds is to view CHCs as a prescription for the health of neighborhoods like Hartford's North End.
 
"At CHS, we show all our patients that they are important to us — no matter where they come from," she said. "We're truly a source of comfort for the people in this community," she added.
 
Click here to watch Maldonado share more about how she and her fellow MAs demonstrate the value of CHCs.
 
The goal of National Health Center Week (NHCW) is to raise awareness of the primary care that Maldonado and health professionals in CHCs across the country deliver every day. NACHC organizes the annual recognition in order to both promote their accomplishments and secure ongoing support and resources to protect, strengthen and expand efforts for patients and communities in need.
 
Click here to learn more about NHCW and for additional resources.