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South Phoenix still lacks access to medical care despite COVID-19

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Posted at 7:44 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 21:50:58-05

PHOENIX — With COVID-19 cases on the rise and a vaccine not available to the general public yet, the community still relies on hospitals for coronavirus treatment.

So, why does South Phoenix, a community with a large Latino population that has been disproportionately affected during the pandemic, only have a small hospital?

The ABC15 Investigators visited area code 85041 since it’s now one of the top five zip codes for coronavirus cases in the Valley.

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Where do those who are sick go in case of an emergency?

“For years, the community has been asking for a hospital in South Phoenix, but the community always hears that there’s not a lot of people here for a hospital,” said Petra Falcon, a longtime South Phoenix resident and Executive Director of Promise Arizona, a pro-immigrant rights organization.

“One lady went to the hospital you’re talking about at 51st and Baseline and she was sent from there to Good Sam and they can’t really handle a whole lot.”

The only hospital in the South Mountain area is closer to Laveen than it is to South Phoenix.

“It’s very critical because we’re an immigrant community. We’re a low-income community and most people are not going to have access to healthcare because they don’t have a healthcare plan. So, imagine in times of urgency, they’re going to be running around looking for a place that would take them,” said Falcon.

But, Valleywise Health Center says they will take them. “Everybody needs the opportunity to have access to good quality healthcare, no matter who you are where you come from, what you speak or the color of your skin,” said Barbara Harding, Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Services at Valleywise Health.

She says the new facility opened in August and has the capacity to help the South Phoenix community with their healthcare needs. The public clinic is located on 35th and Southern avenues.

Harding says they take all patients regardless of health insurance and immigration status. “It makes no difference. We’re here to serve the population and the community so please don’t be afraid, please come.”

Valleywise clinics have free COVID-19 testing, a laboratory on site, a pharmacy and even its own community pantry to help patients with diabetes to keep a healthy lifestyle. But, if you need treatment for COVID-19, you may need to be transferred to their hospital.

“It depends on your situation. If something is immediate, the ambulance will take you to the closest facility, otherwise we can take you to our hospital on Roosevelt where you can be seen there,” said Harding.

Still, it's a great resource for the community, especially when you don’t have insurance and you have no place else to go.

Mary Rose Wilcox., the Chairwoman of the Valleywise Health system, says it’s critical for the South Phoenix community to know that they're not alone.

“Come here and we’ll work with you. Even though we can’t put you in a hospital immediately in five minutes, we can do it in 20 minutes, so the continuity of care that we can provide is tremendous,” stated Wilcox.

Wilcox says she hopes the information about their services can get to the community quickly.

For Falcon, the biggest challenge is yet to come. “On vaccines. That’s going to be very critical for people to know where they can go and perhaps for people that speak Spanish, that’s going to be a really big issue.”

You can find more information on Valleywise on their website.

The South Phoenix location mentioned in this article is at: 5650 S 35th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85041