The Sun (San Bernardino) Upland HIV/AIDS clinic could close due to cut in federal funding

In News by AHF

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
POSTED: 01/14/14, 4:33 PM PST | UPDATED: 3 HRS AGO

SAN BERNARDINO >> Staff and patients from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Upland clinic gathered at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to complain about the county terminating its contract with the clinic to provide funding through the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

Termination of the contract could shutter the clinic, which has been in operation for the last 13 years, and reroute patients to primary care physicians under new healthcare reform laws.

“Patient transition is an immediate concern for AHF because it will directly impact the continuum of care for people living with HIV and AIDS,” Patricia Bermudez, director of grants administration for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told county supervisors Tuesday. “We really have a focus on patient care. We would like our patients to receive the best health care possible given that they are a high acuity and high-needs population in the county.”

She said AHF has been receiving funding from the county through the Ryan White program for the last six years. Its most recent award through the federal program was for $360,000, and the contract ends on Feb. 28.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides health care and advocacy for more than 200,000 patients in 28 countries infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS.

AHF administrators put in a bid for another contract and more funding, but received a letter dated Jan. 8 from the county’s Department of Human Services informing them AHF had not been recommended for another contract.

The Affordable Health Care Act has forced the county to steer some of its traditional healthcare programs toward Covered California, where individuals who previously did not qualify for Medicare and Medicaid services now qualify, county Public Health Director Trudy Raymundo said.

She said HIV and AIDS patients can be linked to the healthcare services they need under the new system.

“One of the major tenets behind healthcare reform is the idea of integrated medical homes – linkages to specialists or other ancillary services,” Raymundo said.

For the patients who have sought treatment and services at the Upland clinic, news that it could be closing if funding is cut was sobering news. Some shared their concerns with the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m afraid if the clinic closes it will take me longer to go to a new clinic and it will affect my health,” said patient Olga Ruvalcaba, who addressed the board in Spanish and had a friend interpret in English for the board.

She said she has been living with HIV for 12 years, has two daughters and was previously homeless before AHF began getting her treatment and helped her find a home.

Patient Mel Menjivar said he was recently diagnosed with HIV and has been an AHF patient for the last month.

“With funding being denied to AHF Upland clinic, I’m worried that some of the quality (of health care) that I may receive may be diminished or that care may not be there,” Menjivar said. “I don’t feel comfortable going to any facility where the staff doesn’t understand my medical needs.”

Patients complained that the Department of Public Health offices, where they can get treatment and where they would have to go if the AHF clinic closes, are only open on Fridays.

Raymundo said she will be meeting with Bermudez and other AHF administrators (this) morning to discuss the transition.

“It’s to have that informal discussion on why we’re making this recommendation, our thought process behind it and some of our ideas on why we are moving in this direction,” Raymundo said.

Joe Nelson
Joe Nelson covers San Bernardino County for The Sun, Daily Bulletin and Redlands Daily Facts. Reach the author at [email protected] or follow Joe on Twitter: @sbcountynow.

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