By Barry Jantz, CEO, Grossmont Healthcare District
The Grossmont Healthcare District is protecting the healthcare safety net during the COVID-19 crisis by joining forces with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, local healthcare organizations, and local media partners in support of our most vulnerable residents.
As a healthcare district which leases its hospital operations to Sharp HealthCare through a public/private partnership, it has been a shared priority to respond to the immediate health care needs emerging within East San Diego County during this unprecedented public health emergency.
Supporting Our Frontline Hospital Workers
As the pandemic began to overwhelm local hospitals in April, the District Board of Directors voted to provide $5,000 for the Staff Food Pantry at Sharp Grossmont Hospital to support its healthcare workers, which was established by hospital staff for its employees to pick up essential food and supply items. Hospital and district officials both recognize that frontline healthcare workers are unable to go to the store and get items they need for their families, either because the items are gone from the shelves or the employees are exhausted by the end of grueling, long shifts.
In late spring, the district also partnered with local grower Good Earth Plants to donate more than 550 indoor/outdoor plants to frontline hospital staff during a drive-by plant giveaway. This opportunity for appreciation resulted from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on San Diego County’s wholesale plant greenhouses, which led to tens of thousands of dollars of unsold indoor plants otherwise destined for the landfill.
Helping Nonprofits and Clinics Treat the Underserved
During the same time period, the board of directors also authorized an emergency grant program for COVID-19 relief funding in support of area community clinics. The funding allocation includes up to $25,000 for any non-profit, out-patient, direct care community healthcare provider within GHD to be utilized for COVID-19 relief support. Many of the area community clinics engaged with healthcare district officials to express dire need for personal protective equipment, in short supply while the clinic caregivers screen a significantly increased number of area residents during the COVID-19 crisis. In some cases, the clinics utilized the grant funds to expand telehealth capabilities, a significant need during the pandemic.
In addition to emergency funding, the district also partnered with the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation (known as Champions for Health) to create a virtual space via Zoom for more than 30 grantees to meet in late April and discuss the pandemic’s impact on client needs, and share resources with one another to better understand where there are gaps and opportunities for further education or support.
Partnering with Local Media to Share Public Resources
The district has also sponsored a popular local online publication, East County Magazine, to create and maintain a COVID-19 Local Resource Center. This online guide lists helpful resources from local, state and federal government, as well as from private and philanthropic organizations. Help includes grants, loans, stimulus funds, emergency food distributions, rides, seminars for business owners, education resources, activities to do at home, working from home tips, financial relief for renters and homeowners, relief from utility and insurance bills, resources for crime victims, mental health, abuse and addiction services including virtual meetings, how to file for unemployment and other aid, scams to avoid, volunteer opportunities, emergency alert services, and more.
One local reader said of the resource, “One less thing to worry about. I appreciate the information on where there are places for people who need food. Sometimes it comes to making a car payment and not eating or having your car repossessed. These are tough times.”
Increasing Our Health Information Library’s Online Education and Curbside Pickup Services
The Grossmont Healthcare District also operates Herrick Community Health Care Library, a public resource which specializes in consumer health information and research assistance onsite and online. Although the library closed due to pandemic restrictions in mid-March, staff has been available by phone and email to help residents. The team has also launched the library’s first blog, email list, and several other virtual education tools such as “book briefs” in subsequent weeks.
The library reopened with curbside pickup service on June 30, more than three months after the library’s closure. Curbside services allow patrons to borrow from the library collection of books, DVDs, magazines, and pamphlets, all of which have a health focus. Library staff curate resources that are designed to help people of all ages and backgrounds gain more understanding of their health, especially since time spent with healthcare providers can be limited. Making the library collection accessible in this way puts health and wellness information, personal stories, and entertainment back