How Obamacare will play out is anyone's guess, but local leaders and health care professionals aren't waiting to find out. They have a plan to help uninsured Oklahoma County residents get better health care.
Formation of the Oklahoma County Community Health Network is an exciting development. It's all about connections — linking the existing network of nonprofit clinics serving the poor with a health care delivery system that serves the insured population.
“This is very much the opportunity to take care of the poor and underserved by the private sector, by volunteers and by utilizing the best energies of all involved,” said Stanley Hupfeld, co-chairman of the Commission to Transform the Health Care Safety Net in Oklahoma County.
Hupfeld, the former head of one of Oklahoma's largest health care delivery systems (Integris), laid out the vision to The Oklahoman's editorial board last year. It included an organized countywide health network that handles referrals for patients needing treatment beyond what a free clinic can provide. An example is surgery. Doctors are often willing to volunteer their services, Hupfeld said, but someone must coordinate lab work and X-rays and keep track of records.
In an op-ed published in August, Hupfeld wrote that “the care of the underserved has been disjointed, disconnected and thus potentially ineffective.” Suggested was a network “that will pull together in a coordinated fashion all the resources required to have a transformational health care system for this underserved population.”
The county has as many as 100,000 lower-income residents with no health insurance. On the other hand, the area is a national leader in the number of free clinics per capita. The missing link was an effective way to connect patients at those clinics with services the clinics can't offer.
This network is emerging. It will need volunteers and support from charitable organizations. Please consider getting involved.