Bill would help medical centers, providers during disasters

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WINTERS — The latest in wildfire reaction legislation was introduced this week to help local health clinics and providers serve their patients during disasters.

“I am truly inspired by the rapid mobilization of health care and emergency response teams that I witnessed during the fires. However, there remains work to be done,” Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, said in a statement released Thursday.

Aguiar-Curry authored the legislation, which is co-authored by Sens. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, as well as Assemblymen Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, and Marc Levine, D-Marin.

“If anything, the recent wildfires highlighted reforms that need to be addressed. Bureaucracy shouldn’t prevent care, and health providers must not be made to worry about being reimbursed for emergency health services while they’re risking their lives to care for their neighbors in a disaster,” Aguiar-Curry said.

The October wildfires in Northern California destroyed more than 14,700 homes, including three in Solano County, and 728 businesses. Those businesses included some medical facilities, including Vista Campus, which is Santa Rosa Community Health’s largest center.

“This meant 24,000 of the 50,000 patients lost their medical home where they receive comprehensive primary care and mental health services, and hundreds of medical and administrative staff jobs that were also displaced,” the statement said.

The bill, according to Aguiar-Curry, would allow clinics to better serve their patients during emergencies that are declared by the state. Among the details are:

  • Allowing affected health centers to provide and be reimbursed for telephonic visits.
  • Authorizing health centers in declared emergency zones to provide and be reimbursed for services performed at shelters, evacuation centers and patients’ homes.
  • Streamlining the process for health centers to obtain temporary pharmacy clinic permits and allow clinics to use mobile pharmacies during the emergency.

It was not immediately clear if the legislation, Assembly Bill 2576, would have a fiscal impact. The bill will be heard in the Health Committee and eventually will be seen by the Appropriations Committee.

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