How Petaluma Health Center would expand in 2020 from Coastal Health Alliance, mobile services
Kathie Powell has served as the CEO of the Petaluma Health Center for 17 years and is known for her passion for ensuring everyone has access to high-quality health care.
Describe a single specific challenge your organization faced last year and why it posed such a challenge. What measures have you taken of overcome the challenge?
Our greatest challenge last year was to redesign, reorganize and rebuild both our finance and human resources departments at the same time. Having doubled in size, from 200 to over 400 employees in the previous four years, we needed a new structure in each of these departments.
We now have a world-class HR department, with a remarkable chief human resources officer, and are well on our way to have a similarly remarkable finance department, having just hired a great chief financial officer.
Both will serve us well as Coastal Health Alliance joins us in June, and we grow to 500 employees by the end of the year. This is very exciting, as combined we will provide medical, dental and behavioral health care for southern Sonoma County residents as well as the residents in west Marin County communities.
Mental health services have become a focus of health care providers in the North Bay since the series of wildfires. For your patients, what strategies have you employed to address this issue? For your employees, what are the challenges faced by your organization in addressing their post-fire needs?
The Petaluma Health Center is committed to having all of our sites open, if humanly possible, during fires (and other disasters). Our behavioral and mental health providers have received significant specialized training for treating patients affected by fires and other disasters.
During the past few years they have been available during the fires, in clinic and in shelters, to help people through these emotionally traumatic experiences. We are a close-knit family, and our providers also help our employees deal with initial emotional needs as well, including. For post-fire mental health needs, we have ensured that our employees have several options available to them, both short and long term.
What obstacles are policy and politics putting in the way of providing quality health care? How much do these challenge your organization’s ability to serve patients?
Health care policy and politics usually cause the most problems by dictating or threatening to dictate what clinical services are paid for by government, now non-governmental health care coverage.
Fifty-two percent of our patients are covered by Medi-Cal, and 11% are covered by Medicare. Each of these programs covers very specific services, diagnostics, procedures and medications, on a pre-determined timetable, and limited in scope.
Very specific providers must provide the services, or they are not “covered.” Private insurance plans are also mandated to “cover” certain services.
When services that are not “covered”, patients often go without care, or without their medications. We currently care for over 35,000 people and it takes 13 staff members to process referrals to specialists or for diagnostic services to ensure the services are “covered.”
We have half a dozen “patient navigators” who help patients work through the confusing and fragmented health care system to receive services that are “covered.”
More than 20 employees are involved in billing and collecting from both private and public insurers. These people must ensure that the correct documentation is in the health record to support the correct “codes” that are billed.