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There are thousands of people all over the Bay Area who need a doctor’s care for conditions that have nothing to do with the coronavirus and most will still see their regular doctors.
However, people in low income communities and those with no health insurance are at an increased risk of COVID-19 if their underlying health issues are not treated and there are more of those people because the loss of jobs has led to the loss of insurance.
This is where community clinics are providing a valuable safety net, one in particular is the San Francisco Free Clinic.
Gerardo Sujede is picking up much needed medications. He has diabetes, a heart condition and high blood pressure — each serious enough by itself, all the more serious because of COVID-19.
“For me, I’m very much concerned because I’m aware that with every health condition it’s very much affected if coronavirus affects us,” Sujede said.
Sujede knows he is vulnerable. Although he is employed, he does not have insurance and those are the people the San Francisco Free Clinic serves.
“These are the people having disastrous outcomes if they are infected with the virus. These are the people dying for the most part so it is critical they continue their care, stay on meds, stay in touch with caregivers,” Dr. Richard Gibbs said.
The San Francisco Free Clinic has been providing free health care for people with no insurance for more than 25 years.
Co-founded by Dr. Tricia Gibbs and her husband Dr. Richard Gibb, the clinic is normally bustling with warm and supportive staff and volunteers helping patients with all kinds of health needs.
“Full range of chronic and acute conditions, asthma, pulmonary like most general medical clinics and see injuries and wounds,” Richard said.
The clinic has classes for stress reduction, heart health and nutrition, eye exams and more, that’s during normal times.
On Wednesday, it is masks and scrubs and staff taking temperatures, lots of greeting patients at the door with their medications, and lots of tele-medicine.
All examples of the value of all community clinics throughout the Bay Area keeping low income and communities of color healthy during this pandemic.
Especially since recent data has confirmed dramatic racial disparities in COVID-19 infections.
“The other thing about community clinics, they really take care of minority and underserved populations in places where they exist. Health care disparities were existing before COVID virus came along but the virus has really exacerbated that and highlighted the tremendous inequities in our medical system,” Tricia said.
The Gibbs are optimistic that the health care system will adjust and do better when this crisis has passed but Gerardo Sujede is grateful right now.
“This clinic is very helpful for me because I can’t afford to buy some medicine because it’s too expensive, also for check ups for doctors because we cannot afford the price, so that’s why I’m very thankful,” Sujede said.