Like many women throughout Connecticut, Isabella Vasquez of New Britain has missed or postponed health care appointments due to the pandemic. For the 23-year-old house cleaner, postponing medical appointments became necessary when the COVID-19 crisis affected childcare for her 2-year-old son. “I would have to not go to my appointments sometimes because I didn’t have childcare,” she said. “When COVID struck, that’s when daycare became less reliable.” If her son sneezed or had a runny nose, daycare would not accept him, Vasquez explained. More women than men have either missed medical appointments or postponed the care they thought they needed during the height of the pandemic, according to a recent DataHaven survey released in October of more than 5,000 randomly selected state residents.
When she became a nurse 10 years ago, Sara Keiling never expected that she’d be wearing a pink hard hat and a life jacket and climbing a steep, 30-foot ladder to vaccinate her patients in a global pandemic. But that’s what she and other nurses from the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center in New Haven have been doing since May to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 90 crew members on oil tankers that regularly arrive in the port. The nurses provide the shots on board the ships because many of the crew members lack valid visas. The crew members are among 200,000 merchant seafarers worldwide who have been unable to leave their ships in many ports due to strict COVID-19 restrictions. Some have been at sea for more than 18 months, and getting vaccinated means they can finally take shore leave or go home, David Heindel, chairman of the seafarers section of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, said.
Leslie Radcliffe looks ahead to the planned reopening of Connecticut’s economy beginning on May 20 with a mix of hope and anxiety. Hope, because people in her working-class Hill neighborhood in New Haven will be able to return to work, but anxiety because she’s worried that the “reopening” won’t go smoothly. In particular, she is concerned about testing for coronavirus. Will there be enough testing so the disease won’t catch fire again and threaten the lives and livelihoods in her predominantly black and Latinx neighborhood? Radcliffe, an administrative assistant at Yale University, has been working from home, but last week she began driving her brother to his job at Costco.
Community health centers that provide medical care to 400,000 low-income patients throughout the state are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic by shifting to telemedicine and reconfiguring the way the staff is offering in-person health services. But like many hospitals and businesses throughout the state, they are also facing deep financial losses during the public health emergency. Nevertheless, they continue to provide frontline medical services—from essential wellness checks such as childhood immunizations to COVID-19 screenings, officials said. “They are the frontline helping patients get to the right place at the right time during this very difficult circumstance,” said Ken Lalime, chief executive officer of the Cheshire-based Community Health Center Association of Connecticut. “It’s what they do all the time, but during this crisis, it becomes incredibly important.”
A network of community health centers throughout the state provides health care for about 11% of the state’s population by offering services on a sliding scale for those who don’t have insurance and by accepting Medicaid, Lalime said.
Bit by bit, regulation by regulation, the Trump administration – followed by a notable list of states — has been shrinking women’s access to birth control and abortion services. From packing the courts with anti-choice judges to repeated (failed) attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the White House has done its best to push reproductive freedom off the table. So, when a Connecticut hospital and two neighborhood health centers announced plans to collaborate and become the New Haven Primary Care Consortium, the conversation quickly turned to women’s reproductive health—as it should. Yale New Haven Hospital and two local federally qualified health centers proposed to merge services recently, with the clinics that serve adults, women’s reproductive needs and children moving to 150 Sargent Drive (Long Wharf). This is a big deal for the state’s health care landscape.
Homeless people tend to have trust issues, but when Phil Costello approaches they typically greet him like family. That’s because Costello, the clinical director for homeless care at Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center in New Haven, puts effort into building relationships and trust so he can get people the medical care they need. Quentin Staggers, homeless for nearly a decade, credits Costello with saving his life. He awoke one day on a bench on the New Haven Green with a blinding headache. He saw Costello and asked for help.
Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHCs) in Connecticut have expanded services, upped their staffing and renovated their facilities mostly due to increased revenue streams from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Connecticut and the 30 other states that opted for the ACA Medicaid expansion program have benefitted from billions of dollars in additional core grant funding, with Connecticut receiving $150.7 million from 2011 to 2016, according to a January report by the Congressional Research Service. Health centers in Connecticut used some of that funding to hire professionals to enroll thousands of residents in health insurance—residents who were previously uninsured and used the centers for their health care. Now the centers are serving about 70,000 more insured patients, mostly covered by Husky Health plans. The cost of treating uninsured patients has declined by about $10 million since 2012, according to Deb Polun, director of government affairs and media relations at the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut.
Thousands of Connecticut children could potentially avert hunger and gain access to healthy foods under proposed legislation to raise a federal nutrition program’s age limit. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is co-sponsoring legislation that aims to change the age limit for children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) from 5 to 6. She recently introduced a bill with U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez of California. The bill – called the Wise Investment in our Children Act, or WIC Act – would help eliminate a prevalent “nutrition gap” among 5-year-olds in the United States, said DeLauro. WIC provides nutrition services for low-income children up until their fifth birthday when, according to DeLauro, it is assumed they will enter kindergarten and become eligible for free or reduced-priced school meals.
Rising rates of chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country, have health care providers more vigilant than ever in screening those most at risk. “It’s part of our routine” to offer chlamydia screenings to all women ages 16 to 24, said Dr. Alix Pose, quality assurance director at Optimus Healthcare. The company operates health clinics throughout Bridgeport, at several Stamford locations and in Stratford. Optimus doctors are increasingly urging women to be screened for chlamydia at their annual gynecological exams, Pose said. About 66 percent of their patients ages 16 to 24 are currently screened.