Miguel Anda and his staff provide an array of medical services at the AltaMed Health Clinic in the Ramona Gardens housing complex. Photo by Ivan Villanueva
That’s because the on-site clinic at Ramona Gardens, one of three similar public housing clinics AltaMed runs””along with William Mead in Lincoln Heights and Estrada Courts in East L.A.”” is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The healthcare non-profit offers an array of medical services, such as physicals, pediatric care, wellness care, as well as treatment for chronic conditions like dibetes, hypertenstion and high cholesterol.
As a physician assistant for AltaMed, Anda has been rotating shifts in these three areas for the last eight years. Although Anda admits servicing these communities hasn’t always been easy, he says he wouldn’t trade his job for any other.
Boyle Heights Beat spoke to Anda about his work at the on-site community clinic.
BHB:What’s it like to work at an on-site public housing clinic?
Each housing clinic has its own uniqueness to it. Some of the sites look a little rougher, I guess you can say, but the people are not different. Coming here, you get a different vibe. People are really appreciative of what we do. I’ve been here eight years and when I walk to the corner, people will greet me with a ‘Hi doctor,’”” even the young and the old because in some way or another, I might be taking care of their mother or their brother. Sometimes the patients themselves will wave to me. So they know we’re here”¦I call these clinics, the little engines that could, they just keep going.
BHB: Are all your patients from Ramona Gardens?
No. I would say that around 50% of our patients are local. And when I say local, I mean the local areas like Ramona Gardens, City Terrace, Lincoln Heights. The rest come from as far as West Covina, Azusa or the [San Fernando] Valley. I don’t know how they find us, but it must be when they are in the emergency room, the county facility or in a private one, and they are told this facility will be able to help them. When they do come, we enroll them in a no-cost county program. After a while, we win them over and then they don’t mind driving from West Covina, the Valley or even the airport”” they’ll make the trip.
BHB: Has it been beneficial to have an on-site clinic in Ramona Gardens?
Oh, it’s definitely a benefit. We have a lot of patients, especially in this area, who don’t have transportation. They say they find it easy to be able to walk over to our clinic. Even though we don’t open everyday, we are able to work around their schedule. We do have an urgent care program available where, if they get sick on a day we are not here, they are able to access other locations in East L.A. I have patients of all ages tell me how they can just walk over and how great that is.
BHB: Do you have to see a certain number of patients each week?
Although we are a non-profit, the bottom line is that we do try to get as many patients in as we can. Our overall goal has shifted a little bit. Our focus now is on quality. I have patients who are dropped to me from the ER and didn’t know they were diabetic, had high blood pressure or cholestorol, so we try to pick them up and manage them. We try to do best for the patients. I tell them, ‘look we are going to do for you what they do on the Westside, we are not going to treat you any different.’
BHB:How will the new Affordable Care Act affect this clinic in your opinion?
We see it a positive thing. As a medical professional this is something I felt was needed. But we are going to see what happens. I don’t know if we are going to be more busy or less, or whether we’re going to be able to accommodate more patients. Questions that not even the government will forsee will come up here I think. I’m sure there’s a lot of people living here that will now come to us because of that too. We have flyers about it and we all here take the time to explain it to them. Also, AltaMed has set up locations and hotlines for those who have any questions.