The money is coming at a time when Pueblo County’s COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise once again. MORE: Pueblo crime beat: Judicial building broken into Wednesday; Sunflower Bank robbed Tuesday
“We’re very grateful for the funding,” said Donald Moore, the CEO of PCHC. “It means that we have the resources that we need to serve the community, which is what our role is; to provide health care to those in need. It’s counterintuitive during a year ripe with a public health crisis, but PCHC actually saw about 4,000 fewer patients in 2020 than in 2019. Moore said this was due to people avoiding primary care services and non-urgent appointments during the pandemic in order to avoid public exposure. They put off things like pap smears, immunizations and annual physical exams.
In 2019, PCHC saw approximately 28,000 patients. That’s about one in six Pueblo County residents. This means that as the pandemic eases up and people feel more comfortable coming in for that “delayed and forgotten care,” the health center is expecting a need to quickly increase its capacity. The American Rescue Plan money will help them increase staff and grow operations to meet that demand.
Moore said that 80% of the households PCHC serves live at or below the poverty level. PCHC disproportionately provides care for minority populations and people with chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. “Community health centers are a big answer to the equity issue because of the target population we serve.”
“Organizations are starting to ramp up and open up again,” Moore said. “We’ve got these vaccine clinics, we’ve got lots of health care and public health activities going on, and we’re going to go through a period of time where we staff up to keep up with the needs.” PCHC did not lay anyone off during the pandemic. But Moore said they did not have the resources to hire replacements for employees who left.
Moore said he hopes to also ramp up telehealth services as a result of more patients relying on remote care during the pandemic. He said it’s a long-term investment that will make PCHC a more robust and efficient provider. “One of the good things that’s come out of the pandemic is we’ve really developed a strong capability of telehealth and we’ve upped our game with technology and being able to offer those services. The funding will help us continue to improve and develop that,” he said. The money will also be used to purchase adequate personal protective equipment and to grow the center’s vaccination capacity as more doses become available.
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