La Red offers full service health care, with extras
La Red Health Center in Georgetown, now in its eighth year of operation, has grown exponentially since it first started in February 2001 as a 24/7 telephone medical hotline. La Red, or “the network” in Spanish, initially operated as a hotline for the growing number of non-English speaking individuals under La Esperanza Community Center. People could call in and be referred to physician with Spanish-speaking abilities.
“Initially, it was a secretary, a nurse and me,” said Dr. Fabricio Alarcon of La Red. “Well, it was just me answering the phones in the beginning.”
Alarcon said La Red grew out of that referral service after a great need was seen in the community. The idea to bring it together as a full-fledged primary-care office was the brainchild of Dr. Gonzalo Martinez.
The center now has buildings on both sides of Market Street in Georgetown, employs more than 30 people and has 1,500 patient visits a month. Although the center first started out as a resource for the non-English-speaking community, which has grown in Sussex County the past decade, they see all types of patients, with a wide variety of insurance plans and no insurance at all.
“We have grown from the beginning, when we were assisting mostly the Hispanic population,” explained Chief Operating Officer Kay Malone. “We are now at about 70 percent Hispanic and 30 percent other, either African-American or Caucasian. We are really trying to hammer it in that we are open to anybody that needs healthcare.”
Malone said they take most types of insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, and have a sliding scale for the uninsured in which people pay based on their income and family size. More than half of their patients are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and they rely on donations to provide medical care to uninsured and underinsured individuals in Sussex County.
La Red is a Delaware 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and the only Federally Qualified Health Center in Sussex County. According to their Web site, the operation transformed to an independent, federally and privately supported ambulatory care center in February 2001 from local funding and funding through the Office of Rural Health Policy’s Rural Health Outreach Grant program. They then secured professional provider services, referral agreements and state contracts for services, to meet the life-cycle medical needs of Sussex County residents.
“In April 2003, La Red Health Center officially completed the transition as a ‘collaborative project’ belonging to La Esperanza Community Center to a separately incorporated, non-profit organization governed by a user majority Board of Directors. The Board is assisted by a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of community experts from Public Health, hospital administration and the local business community.
“As of April 2004, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) designated La Red Health Center as the only Federally Qualified Health Center in Sussex County, Delaware and, in April 2005, the Health Resources & Services Administration designated La Red Health Center as a full-fledged Federally Qualified Health Center under the President’s REACH Initiative.”
Currently, they employ an internist, a family-practice physician and a nurse practitioner. They have recently started to take on more pediatrics, just in the past two years and care for “babies through geriatrics,” according to Malone.
They operate the same way as a primary-care physician in that they do referrals to specialists and surgeons. In fact, according to Alacon, they provide more than an ordinary primary-care office because they offer so much under one (or two) roofs.
In addition to the internist, family-practice physician and nurse practitioner, they have a certified nurse midwife on staff and contract with two OB/GYNs, one each from Beebe and Naticoke hospitals, for prenatal care and deliveries.
Also, in the same building as prenatal care, they have a licensed social worker and clinical counseling for behavioral health. Malone said they also have an active HIV-AIDS detection/protection program.
For pediatric and adolescent patients, they provide infant care, childhood immunizations, chronic disease management, acute illness treatment, lead-poisoning screenings, school and sports physicals, vision screenings and childhood nutrition counseling.
For adults and seniors, they provide acute illness treatment; chronic disease management; flu, pneumonia and tetanus shots, and other immunizations; and employment screenings and physicals. They also can do blood-pressure checks, hearts-disease checks, cholesterol and diabetes checks, etc.
They also provide classes in diabetes management, nutrition, smoking cessation and parenting, as well as comprehensive women’s health care, including routine gynecological and obstetrical care. Each provider is board-certified or board-eligible.
Malone said they also employ four people whose sole responsibility is outreach, one each in four fields, including early prenatal care and immunizations.
“We have the Promotor outreach program, where we go out into the neighborhoods and churches and try to bridge the gap between the population and health care,” she said.
These workers can also provide translation services for patients in cases where they might need to be referred to a specialist or schedule a surgery and need help understanding their rights and responsibilities. La Red also can either provide for or find transportation for patients as needed.
Malone said a typical day at La Red is people crowded into the waiting room and employees not only doing their jobs but really taking it seriously and caring about the people they are helping.
“It’s unique,” said Malone, of La Red and the service it provides. “The thing I love about working here is I don’t know anyone who works here that’s not an advocate for patients. The willingness to get people in, give them transportation if they need it, it’s just a very caring kind of place to work and to be.”
In the future, they expect to continue growing and are currently recruiting for another family practice physician and an OB/GYN.
La Red Health Center is located at 505 West Market Street in Georgetown. They can be reached at (302) 855-1233. For more information, visit www.laredhealthcenter.org online.