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Southern California Weekly Funders’ Discussion on COVID 19 - April 9 : Resources and Notes

Publication date: 
Thursday, April 9, 2020

The purpose of the Weekly Calls is to create a platform through which funders in Southern California can share how they are responding to COVID-19, collectively identify unmet needs, help funders connect and align with one another, and discover how SCG can support your work. 


  • Conrado E. Bárzaga, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Desert Healthcare District & Foundation
  • Elaine Batchlor, MD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital
  • Carol Kim, Vice President, Community Investments & Government and Public Affairs, Health Net
  • Lourdes Olivares, Chief Operations Officer, Via Care




Desert Healthcare District & Foundation

Conrado E. Bárzaga, MD, Chief Executive Officer

  • Mission: Desert Healthcare District & Foundation supports health and wellness programs. Early on, the foundation was preparing for the impacts of COVID-19 by asking community members about their needs.
  • Response Efforts: Desert Healthcare District & Foundation has been providing financial support to human service organizations serving vulnerable community members. They have also formed a Collaborative Fund with local organizations. In addition, a number of Foundations supported the Economic Protecting Plan to provide community members with financial resources during this crisis. Desert Healthcare District & Foundation continues to support food banks and donation centers. Currently, they are working on building a website to provide information in English and Spanish. They are also ensuring the coordination of public health hospitals and local clinics. Lastly, they are working on increasing test capacity to over 10,000 tests in the coming weeks.
  • Community Challenges: There are disparities within geographical regions between the East and the West where COVID-19 is deeply impacting communities of color. About 21% of the population is uninsured. As a result of this, patients are using ER, urgent care, and healthcare homes as their primary healthcare providers.


Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital

Elaine Batchlor, MD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer

  • Community Reach: Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital is a private safety-net hospital that serves a population of over one million people in South Los Angeles. 
  • Current Challenges: The community of South Los Angeles has a deficit of 12,000 providers (500 primary care providers and 700 specialty care providers). As a result of this, patients are challenged with healthcare access and use the hospital’s emergency department as their medical home. With the exception of maternity, nearly all care, including surgeries, comes through an emergency. As a result of the historic gap in physicians and services, there is a huge reservoir of chronic illnesses that are poorly treated such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart, and pulmonary disease, all impacted negatively by the COVID virus.
  • What the Hospital is Doing: MLKCH has cared for all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, since its opening in 2015. In an effort to meet the community needs generated by COVID-19, the hospital has shifted gears to find the most innovative and responsive ways to provide care. It has significantly expanded telehealth services, from virtual on-demand doctor visits to bedside family visits with patients in isolation to use of artificial intelligence providing answers online to community member health questions—part of the community health information campaign the hospital has launched. Like all hospitals trained in crisis response, MLKCH has also created an incident command center staffed by medical, logistical, operational, and other essential roles that coordinate all activities related to the virus. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital is suffering from the same shortages as hospitals nationwide in medical supplies, such as N95 masks, face shields, isolation gowns, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer.
  • Protecting Hospital Staff: ​​​​​The number one priority is to protect the healthcare workers that are on the frontline. By protecting healthcare workers, the hospital is able to continue to support patients. Staff is trained and informed about how to respond to COVID-19. There has been an increase in adding staffing, physicians, equipment, and beds as the hospital prepares for an influx of COVID-19 cases. 
  • Community Efforts: Community, donors, and staff have helped source materials for the hospital.  Medical tents set up outside the emergency department, ventilators contributed by corporate donors, and a food drive with local restaurants are among these efforts.  The hospital’s emergency fund has additionally received a gratifying number of outright gifts locally and nationally.
  • Concern for Long-term: The lack of access to healthcare, associated with long-standing chronic illnesses in the community, is a concern. After COVID-19 is over, deep inequities in our healthcare system, evident now in the increased mortality rate in vulnerable communities must be addressed.  


Health Net

Carol Kim, Vice President, Community Investments & Government and Public Affairs

  • Health Net: Serves 3 million patients in California, 2 million of which are on Medi-Cal. 1 million of them are living in LA County.
  • Two-fold Approach: Health Net has focused on the continuity of care and access for members and community relief and response work.
  • Increasing Telehealth Capacity: Health Net is working with federal and state regulators to ensure access to care during “ social distancing.” To do this, Health Net is waiving all COVID-19 costs to members and has invested in expanding telehealth capacity for providers and safety-net clinics. Nonetheless, Health Net recognizes that not all providers and safety net clinics are created equal in terms of their ability to deliver services through telehealth. For this reason, HealhtNet announced nearly $6 million in one-time funding opportunities to support telehealth capacity and capability. However, this funding does not meet all the needs of organizations or clinics. In just one week, Health Net received nearly 300 applications that total to a $32 million funding request for community relief and response fund.
  • What Philanthropy Can Do: Medical and safety net providers are struggling to stay open. Many small independent practices that vulnerable populations are operating with slim margins and are at risk of closing.  Philanthropy can help nonprofits and healthcare providers by supporting emergency operational funding.


Via Care

Lourdes Olivares, Chief Operations Officer

  • Mission: Provides service to 12 zip codes in East LA, working primarily with Latino monolingual speakers and an increasing Asian population.
  • Community Outreach & Needs: There are generational differences among patients that contribute to the different needs of each region. What has been fundamental for Via Care is educating the patient population. As a result of language barriers and misinformation, Via Care has had to be creative with their outreach. Signage has been used to invite patients to enter the clinic regardless of immigration status. Also, by utilizing the platform EMR, Via Care has been able to send out emails and text messages to patients. Social media avenues are also used to educate patients about COVID-19.
  • Utilizing Technology: All in-person appointments have become telephonic and televideo.
  • Supporting Clinic Staff: The clinic is committed to retaining staff. It's been four weeks since the clinic has stopped receiving non-essential visits. Staff members are required to take temperature throughout the day to check for the virus. The goal is to keep their staff, families, and patients safe.  
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