Friday,  June 5 Update

This week I was seeing a patient I’ve been working with for a couple of years now. We talked about his medication, his health, where he is living now, and his future plans. After his blood work, I bought in his bag of medications. He stopped before leaving and told me, “I just want to thank you all here for helping us homeless guys. I don’t know what I would do without you.” While I felt grateful that he took the time to share this encouragement, I mostly felt anger. He shouldn’t have to be thanking me for primary health care. What kind of world is it where people experiencing homelessness expect to go without care?

His words seemed especially poignant because when he started his care with Good Sam, he had severe respiratory disease. I remember many visits where he literally couldn’t breathe. Breathing should be the expectation, not a privilege.

In the midst of a pandemic already wrought with racial disparities, recent events demonstrate the pervasiveness of racism in our country. My work at Good Sam is largely mitigating the physical impact inequity. At the clinic this week, I also saw a patient who left the clinic on a stretcher just a month ago. “I honestly wasn’t sure I would see you again,” I told him. He smiles, “Guys from my neighborhood don’t live to be my age so I guess God has more for me to do.” He’s right. As a black man from a poor neighborhood, he has exceeded the life expectancy for the census tract he was born in.

For Good Sam, this week has been a time to consider how we work toward health equity and what more we can be doing. We have had some recent positive steps forward in our COVID-19 response and increasing access to care. We hosted our Virtual Institute on responding to COVID-19, where 48 people from 7 states attended to talk about how charitable clinics respond to COVID-19. We launched a walk-up COVID-19 testing clinic in our outdoor pavilion, thanks to a partnership with CVS. Primary care visits are increasing, and our dental department is back to 5 days a week. But, there is so much work to be done. Work to do individually and work to do collectively. And while we are working to address the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reminded of a much more pervasive, devastating pandemic: racism. No matter how much we improve our COVID-19 response, saving lives depends on our collective ability to confront racism and inequity in this country.

Breanna Lathrop, DNP, MPH, FNP-BC
Chief Operating Officer
Good Samaritan Health Center

Friday, May 22 Video UPDATE