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Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo joins SEIU Community Clinic Workers in Urging that the State Address Worker Shortages in Community Clinics in CA

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LOS ANGELES – Today, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo joined Service Employees International Union (SEIU) locals and workers at community clinics not yet organized with a union at Clinica Romero in Los Angeles in calling on the Newsom Administration and legislature to commit to $1,000 retention payments for an estimated 70,000 frontline health care workers at California’s community clinics.  

“As California works on providing healthcare to all people regardless of immigration status, it is dire that community clinics have the resources and staff necessary to meet those demands. Our state is facing a shortage of healthcare workers and we must do all we can to empower, engage and retain this workforce. Providing healthcare access to the most vulnerable in our society is a reflection of our values and as such, a priority for my office,” said Assemblymember Carrillo.  

Community clinic workers, in coalition with community clinic CEOs and Presidents, are advocating for $75 million for retention payments to be included in a “budget trailer bill” before the end of the month; SEIU healthcare workers who have led the effort to save community clinics across California from the brink of collapse said that retention payments would be a major breakthrough in their efforts to save and improve care for patients served by community health centers. More than 70% of community health center patients are people of color, one in two are Latino, and more than half fall 100% under the federal poverty line. 

“I couldn’t be more proud to stand with SEIU members to advance California’s progress on healthy equity,” Sen. Hertzberg said. “As California opens Medi-Cal to those who need it, regardless of immigration status, our community health centers will have an even more important role serving communities in need by compassionate workers who reflect our diverse communities.”

“We are trying the best that we can, but our clinics are reaching a breaking point,” said Anselmo Espinoza, a lead medical assistant at Clinica Romero and a member of SEIU 721. “Since COVID, we have far fewer staff, and more healthcare workers leave community clinics for higher-paying jobs. We are urging lawmakers to help us fix this ongoing problem of not having enough workers and also providing relief to the clinic workers that remain.”

Community health centers across California were facing a financial and staffing crisis before the pandemic – then their revenue and workforce were walloped by COVID-19. Clinic budget shortfalls have led to longer wait times and diminished care for patients. 

“Many caregivers are leaving to get better pay elsewhere,” said Maria Castillo of Modesto, who relies on the community clinic Golden Valley Health Center for her son’s mental health and primary health needs. “My son’s first doctor left for a private hospital, and we couldn’t afford to follow him there. It’s hard to even get an appointment now. We have shown up for appointments and waited for over an hour just to hear that they are running behind and can’t see him. They have to reschedule or cancel appointments all the time because there’s no one available to see my son. That means my son has had to wait longer and longer to receive the medication he needs.”

“Community clinics like ours are serving an increasing number of patients, many of whom have complex and chronic illnesses, but we are struggling to cover expenses and to retain healthcare workers”, said Carlos Vaquerano, CEO of Clinica Romero. “Our patients deserve to have access to the best care possible, but that is impossible to achieve without investment in the retention of workers. Clinic leaders from across the state are standing with our patients, labor, and elected lawmakers to make sure that California takes immediate action for retention payments for more than 70,000 community clinic workers in our state.”

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