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Commentary: Boosting local hiring at community clinics

Health care reform new grants pave way for more construction, health care jobs

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Did you hear the cheering emanating from Mission Valley last week? It wasn't due to an event at Qualcomm Stadium, but rather from health care leaders.

It just so happened that at the time of the regular monthly board meeting of the Council of Community Clinics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services coincidently announced a new round of grant funding. As a part of the Affordable Care Act, over $18 million has been awarded to community clinics in our region for new construction and renovation.

Local contractors should be applauding this new stream of construction funding, which comes just as ARRA funded construction on community clinics in Southeast and Vista winds down.

The previous funding for the two new clinics operated by San Ysidro Health Center (SYHC) and Vista Community Clinic came from the federal stimulus. Documentation shows that many local construction jobs were saved. At the SYHC site in Southeast San Diego alone, 374 different tradespersons worked on community clinic development at one time or another. In Vista, one-third of the construction workers resided in the City of Vista.

The announcement of the new federal dollars, which comes from health reform legislation will spur new clinic construction in Campo, Oceanside, Temecula and Brawley. Facilities will be expanded or renovated from Imperial Beach to Linda Vista to the Salton Sea.

How many jobs will be created? Estimates are that 120 full-time equivalent traderpersons will be needed during the construction period. By federal law, the projects must be completed within two years. Hopefully, local land use officials will do all they can to expedite these projects so that the federal dollars remain in our area and are not lost in red tape. And once the construction is completed, over 100 new permanent health care-related positions will be created.

Clearly, stimulus funding has positively affected our local economy. And funding from the Affordable Care Act is poised to continue the community clinics’ mission of providing a safety net of essential health care services for San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties. That's good news to our economy and to the approximately 300,000 people who are expected to receive some type of health care coverage - through either the Health Insurance Exchange or Medi-Cal expansion - once the full effects of Health Care Reform are felt in 2014.

The Council of Community Clinics is comprised of 16 private, non-profit health care organizations that deliver primary care services at over 100 sites in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties.

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