Enquirer Herald

Health report points to ‘insufficient’ network to meet needs in York County

York County residents without insurance or on Medicaid face barriers to medical care, says a recently completed assessment of the county’s health needs.

The lack of insurance means people are not getting basic or preventive care. The problem gets worse with speciality care, according to the assessment, especially dental care.

Transportation and language problems are also barriers to care. Trust, too, is an issue because the assessment says undocumented residents are reluctant to seek care.

The assessment was done by the Duke Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research. It was commissioned by Catawba Care, the agency which provides AIDS testing and medical care in York, Chester and Lancaster counties.

The assessment said there is a “insufficient” health care network to meet the needs of York County residents. It suggests there is a need for another comprehensive, community health care center, possibly located on Cherry Road or along Dave Lyle Boulevard close to downtown, easily accessible to low-income residents.

Researchers studied health needs in York County, but concentrated much of its efforts in downtown Rock Hill where there are high levels of poverty and unemployment.

“The data speaks loudly,” said Dr. Susan Reif of the Duke Center for Health Policy, who presented the assessment Wednesday during a church service at Agape International Ministries in downtown Rock Hill. Those attending were asked to fill out a survey for additional information for the assessment.

“Compared to South Carolina, Rock Hill is not out of the range,” Reif said. “What is out of range is South Carolina in general where there are high mortality rates, high rates of heart disease and diabetes. It is not good enough to be as good as South Carolina.”

Key findings included:

• 41 percent of those surveyed reported they do not have a primary doctor.

• Just over a third of respondents said their primary source of care was a “crisis service,” with 18 percent going to urgent care centers and 18 percent to the emergency room.

• 42 percent said they needed primary care last year but did not go to a doctor.

Ernest Brown, executive director of North Central Family Medical Center, did not dispute the findings, but said the information did not go far enough.

He said there are many reasons people don’t seek health care.

At North Central people must give the center financial information to become qualified for care. “They don’t want to give us information and go to the emergency room,” he said.

Brown also said some don’t seek care because of the co-pays which are charged because North Central is a federally qualified medical center. He said co-pays are based on an ability to pay. A community indigent care fund could be established to help those who can’t pay at North Central or other medical offices, he said.

While North Central sees 10,000 patients a year, Brown said the center still has the capacity to see more, especially in the area of pediatrics. He said if there was a need for another community center, North Central could easily expand its operations.