Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Borrego Health Fails Again


Last updated 10/6/2020 at 12:19pm

The Borrego Community Health Foundation (BCHF) missed an opportunity with the pandemic to demonstrate that it’s as concerned about the health of the Borrego Community as it is about increasing income.

The Borrego Springs Endowment Fund (BSEF) stepped up to organize the community’s education and response to COVID-19, while the local medical resource, the community clinic, has been noticeably absent from any significant public outreach. With Town Hall Zooms, the Endowment Fund, organized and sponsored the early posting of an informational webpage. Constant updating, and offering valuable information and counsel on the pandemic, has helped many find the resilience needed to get through these chaotic times.

During the Endowments’ last town hall Zoom, Borrego was lauded by county medical leaders and professionals as an extraordinary example of people coming together, and acting proactively to contain the pandemic’s spread. The BSEF COVID-19 Task Force was singled out with praise for spearheading a campaign to protect the community.

The mental health professional from the BCHF gave a notable presentation on building resilience, as a healthy way of coping for individuals and a community.

“Resilience,” explained Dr. Sherry Gandy, psychologist representing the Borrego Springs Clinic, “is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.” Unfortunately, this valuable presentation was limited to the registered Zoom participants.

The panel of professionals, commenting on the town hall Zoom meeting pointed out that The Task Force’s early outreach to the community was not only the first attempt to organize a community response, but unique in the county. Individual panelists congratulated the organizers of the COVID-19 Task Force, and pointed out ways it has contributed to actions that lead to resiliency such as connecting with the community, building relationships, reaching out to help others, practicing safe health guidelines, and fostering hope and setting goals.

The Endowment Fund deserves praise for the work of its COVID-19 Task Force, and for filling the void left by the Borrego Springs Community Clinic. Why didn’t the team of executives at Borrego Community Health Foundation recognize the need to educate and organize the community? Borrego Health’s representatives on the Zoom panels have delivered some important information, including the presentation on resiliency and the mental health issues arising from the pandemic.

Yet, they have only spoken out when invited and hosted by the Endowment Fund. The clinic failed the community by not taking the initiative. BCHF should have been the first to provide a webpage, and other materials for community consumption. Directions to appropriate staff, particularly in the area of mental health would be very helpful. With so many challenges, beyond contracting the virus, like the emotional and financial impacts of the pandemic, the clinic, rather than laying off professionals, should have supplemented its professional capacity and public outreach.

The following is a list of missed opportunities, as well as professional responsibilities the clinic ignored.

- Developing a Borrego Springs COVID-19 information and response webpage; posting the number of local cases, and recent research information on the virus and its spread. Then there are the related impacts on people such as mental health, stress, anxiety, depression. The clinic could send someone to the Zoom panel, but was not forthcoming in the public arena. Fortunately, the Endowment Fund took up the cudgel. Unfortunately, their reach is limited, while the clinic has the contacts and names of the most at-risk community members, and owes their patients more than an occasional text, or public testing.

- Explaining and acknowledging the mental health issues by advertising the symptoms, as well as mental health services and contacts for clinic therapists.

- Offering free flu and other vaccines for children and seniors as a priority.

- Taking an active role in mask distribution. The local Soroptimist Club and community volunteers quickly filled this need early into the pandemic by organizing the production of masks, education on the importance of covering one’s face, and distribution to businesses. There was no support from the clinic.

- Contributing generously to the food bank. Surely serving the poorest and most vulnerable populations in Borrego, the clinic should have been the first to see the needs, arising from the economic consequences of the pandemic. Again, another need where local business owners such as the Wermers’ and Fredericks’ and churches took the lead, collecting food, packaging, and distribution by volunteers and multiple service organizations.

- Finally, the clinic could and should have been especially pro-active in outreach to the Spanish speaking community, a group that data nationwide shows have been hurt the most by the virus and the resulting economic downturn.

Thank goodness for the generous and thoughtful people in Borrego who stepped forward to fill critical needs during the pandemic. So many have volunteered, giving time and donations. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Borrego Community Health Foundation spent some of its budget of $334 million, during this severe health crisis, doing more than talking about resilience, by actually helping the community become resilient and safe?