Philadelphia-area community health clinics are slated to receive $1.5 million in federal funds, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this week at the Fairmount Primary Care Center in North Philadelphia.
“This is at the heart of our administration’s effort to improve access,” she said.
The funds are part of a $730 million federal grant program being rolled out this year, aimed at boosting access to health care and creating related jobs. According to Sebelius, the Obama administration plans on spending $11 billion on community health clinics over the next five years.
“This is largest infusion of dollars in the history of the country,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who was on hand for the announcement at the center, which is in his district. “It’s real help for real people.”
Community health clinics offer a range of services to residents, insured and uninsured, at an average cost of $1.64 per patient per day, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.
“The staff at community health centers do it all on an extremely small budget,” Sebelius said.
Nationally, clinics have seen their patient numbers grow, said the health secretary, noting that since 2009, the 8,500 community clinics have about 23 million patients — up from 20 million. Roughly one-third of those patients are uninsured.
Community health centers also tend to serve low-income and minority patients. According to the NACHC, 71 percent of community center clients live below the poverty line, nationally. Approximately 27 percent of health center patients are African-American, and 35 percent Hispanic.
The Fairmount Primary Care Center, which is part of a system of six clinics — Delaware Valley Community Health — in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, provides health, dental, behavioral health, pediatrics and women’s health services to 42,000 patients.
With its share of the federal funds, clinic officials said they would add a new dispensary, expand the waiting room and update the air conditioning and heating systems.
In addition to providing much needed health care in communities that often lack other resources, community health clinics also provide jobs. The NACHC estimates that health centers created $20 billion in economic activity in 2010 and expected that figure to rise to nearly $54 billion by 2015.
Sebelius said the federal grants spent this year would stimulate the broader economy.
“It really creates a ripple effect throughout the community,” she said.
Since 2009, clinics have created about 20,000 jobs.
The officials gathered at the clinic Tuesday also took the opportunity to voice their support for the president’s health care reform. The law is under review by the Supreme Court and administration officials are worried that justices could strike it down.
Mayor Michael Nutter, a very vocal supporter, praised the president for making sure it got done.
“President Barack Obama brought us the best affordable health care plan this country has ever seen,” he said.