Partnerships – We Couldn’t Do without Them!
By Linda Tavaszi, PhD, CEO
Marin County is making great strides in closing the gap between people who have easy access to quality health care and those who don’t. But we need to do more. Partnerships, where we work together to solve problems and provide services, have become essential if we are to further improve the health of the overall community. And they can make a real difference in the lives of individual patients.
Marin Community Clinics is a case in point. Over the past few years, we have been able to see more patients, grow our services, and attain strong financial health. We haven’t done this alone. Partnerships at many levels have been key – community physicians, hospitals, educational institutions, city and county governments, public schools, food banks, businesses, other non-profit service organizations, volunteers, funders, donors…and the list goes on.
University of California
It’s not every community clinic that is blessed with having internationally-known dental, nursing or optometry schools close by. Marin Community Clinics is fortunate to have partnerships with three schools associated with the at University of California.
Each year, we serve as a clinical training site for approximately 35 nurse practitioner, midwifery, optometry, medical, and dental students. In turn, the students provide care to our patients under the guidance and supervision of our clinicians. It’s truly a “win-win” – future clinicians train in a real-life environment, we are able to see more patients, and both our staff and patients benefit from the latest knowledge coming from the university setting.
San Francisco/Marin Food Bank & Extra Food
Despite the overall wealth in Marin, there are many who cannot afford to put healthy food on the table, resulting in a host of potential health problems.
Once a week, at both our Novato and San Rafael Clinics, we host free Community Health Hubs. Hundreds of people attend each session and hundreds of pounds of fresh produce and other nutritious food are generously delivered by the SF/Marin Food Bank and ExtraFood.org. In addition, participants receive nutrition education, screenings for chronic disease, and participate in Zumba dancing to demonstrate the importance of exercise.
It’s been a great success.
Partnership Profile: Marin Cancer Care
In Marin, we are fortunate to have strong medical expertise in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Marin Cancer Care, Marin General Hospital (MGH), Novato Community Hospital, and Kaiser Permanente are among the dedicated cancer providers serving Marin’s low-income residents.
Marin Cancer Care has been serving the community since it was founded by Peter Eisenberg, MD in 1978. What began as a solo practice is now a group of nine medical oncologists/hematologists and radiation oncologists. They provide a range of services, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and treatments for blood disorders, end of life care, follow up care and complementary/integrative medicine.
Nationally known for the compassionate, state-of-the art care they provide, as well as their participation in clinical trials, they have a longstanding commitment to helping the medically underserved.
In 2015 alone, Marin Cancer Care diagnosed and/or treated 112 low-income patients. Some have insurance through Medi-Cal or the state’s Partnership for Health program, and some have no insurance at all; about 50% were Marin Community Clinics patients. Patients are referred by MGH following surgery, the MGH emergency department, other physicians, and by Marin Community Clinics primary care physicians and specialists.
“We will see anyone, regardless of ability to pay,” reports Dr. Eisenberg. “No one is turned away. If a patient with insurance cannot afford the $20 co-pay because he/she is only making $15/hour, we don’t collect it. If they don’t have insurance at all and can’t afford to pay for the care, we don’t charge them.”
But at Marin Cancer Care, it is about more than financial generosity. “It’s hard enough having cancer, but when you add financial problems and other life challenges, it can be even more difficult. We go the extra mile because we believe that everyone deserves good care.”
If the patient has advanced cancer, the Marin Cancer Care physician may become the primary care provider, seeing the patient every few weeks. All patients are screened for the possibility of participating in new and exciting clinical trials. If language is an issue, a translator is provided; and, a social worker from MGH is also available to assist.
“We simply couldn’t imagine not doing this,” concludes Dr. Eisenberg. “I am very lucky to have been able to practice with partners who are so generous of heart and socially committed.”
Linda Tavaszi, Marin Community Clinics CEO, sums it up:
“Marin Cancer Care is a prime example of how the community has come together to serve those in need. Our heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Eisenberg for the role he has played in developing cancer care in Marin, to the team at Marin Cancer Care, and to all of our medical partners who care for cancer patients.”