Central Health Responds

RECEIVED Tue., May 3, 2022

Dear Editor,
    An op-ed appeared in the April 22 edition of The Austin Chronicle about Central Health [“When It Comes to Health Care in Austin, There Can Be No Equity Without Accountability”] that included misleading and inaccurate statements about our mission to serve people with low income and combat health care inequities in Travis County. We at Central Health want to set the record straight.
    Unfortunately, pending litigation involving some members of Health Equity First, the group responsible for the editorial, prevents us from delving into specifics about some of the issues raised. The op-ed is based on the group’s “Red Flag Report” and contains misinformation and misleading allegations, some of which are related to that lawsuit against Central Health.
    Created by Travis County voters in 2004, Central Health’s mission is to improve the health of the community by caring for those who need it most. We are empowering communities with care by building a better health care system.
    Within the last month, Central Health has broken ground on two new health centers in eastern Travis County that are scheduled to open next summer. These health centers, located in Hornsby Bend and Del Valle, augment health care in some of the most underserved communities in Travis County, and residents who live in those communities are helping us design the spaces and the services that will be offered.
    We were proud to break ground with members of the Travis County Commissioners Court, Austin City Council, the Texas Senate, and many of our community partners.
    Highlights from our recently released Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report include:
    - Central Health served more than 147,000 people in 2021, a 6% year-over-year increase. That’s about one in nine Travis County residents.
    - Central Health served our patients through 204 provider locations, including community health centers, hospitals, specialists, dentists, and urgent care locations, and we expanded the number of provider locations by 16, including behavioral health, dental, and urgent care clinics.
    - Central Health funded more than half a million primary care visits through our network of providers.
    - 108,302 uninsured and/or low-income Travis County residents received health coverage through Central Health’s Medical Access Program (MAP) and MAP Basic.
    The op-ed also contained erroneous information about the integrity of how we manage our funds and the organization. Central Health receives clean audits annually from a third-party auditor and earned the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the third straight year by the Government Finance Officers Association. In addition, Central Health recently received one of the highest bond ratings (Aa2) from Moody’s as a result of conservative budgeting practices, reserve levels and liquidity, and low debt burden.
    At the request of Travis County Commissioners, in 2017, the hospital district underwent an independent, outside, third-party, five-year performance review to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization, which provided recommendations about opportunities for performance improvement. Travis County Commissioners participated in the development of the scope of the performance review and the selection of the consultant that conducted the review.
    Central Health has implemented or begun to implement many of the recommendations in the 2017 review – including the Systems Planning Review and resulting Healthcare Equity Plan (Equity-focused Service Delivery Strategic Plan). Our next performance review is planned for 2023.
    The Healthcare Equity Plan, which is already being implemented, was informed by months of research, data analysis, and community input, and will drive our work for years to come. With the recent creation of a Medical Executive Board and the hiring of several world-class doctors, Central Health is filling gaps in specialty care for people with low income, including communities of color in eastern Travis County.
    All the reports and plans referenced above are readily available on our website. We invite you to check it out at centralhealth.net/about.
Dr. Charles E. Bell, board chair of Central Health
Dr. Cynthia Brinson, board vice chair of Central Health
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