Spanish Catholic Center Transitions Patients in Gaithersburg

July 17, 2003

After sending out 1,200 letters to current and former patients over the past month, the Spanish Catholic Center continues transitioning the patients from its Gaithersburg medical clinic to alternative care in Montgomery County. Two of five programs at the Gaithersburg office, including the medical clinic and social services, were suspended last Friday, July 11, due to economic conditions. The Spanish Catholic Center offers extensive community services at three sites, in Gaithersburg, Langley Park and Mt. Pleasant.

“The decision to suspend these two programs was heartwrenching,” said Father Don Lippert, director of the Spanish Catholic Center. “Our Board of Directors spent nearly eight months assessing how to close a $500,000 financial gap caused by increasing demands for services and flat resources. Last year alone, the Center lost over half of the funds it received from the United Way – a loss of more than $100,000. That, combined with our current economic climate, has taken its toll.”

In April, Fr. Don alerted the Montgomery County Council that clinic services may have to be suspended. In mid-June, the Center’s Board did make that decision, the Gaithersburg staff was informed and steps were taken to transition patients over the following month. These steps included

1. Sending 1,200 packets to all current and former patients, with a letter (English/Spanish) about the suspension of services, information on their options, including getting copies of their records or having them transferred to another provider or one of the two other Spanish Catholic Center clinics, a list of alternative providers and a release form for record transfer.

2. Sending a second mailing to alert current patients of the date of their next appointment.

3. Fr. Don working with the Primary Care Coalition and its individual members, as well as Lynn Frank, Chief of Public Health Services for Montgomery County, to ensure a smooth transition.

4. Center staff contacting patients who are receiving prescription medication to provide them with needed medicine until they could choose a new provider.

5. The Center working with the Community Clinic and others to ensure patients with chronic difficulties, such as diabetes, would receive uninterrupted care.

6. Announcements made to the community, including at the nearby Catholic church, on the Spanish Catholic Center’s weekly radio show on Radio America (WACA AM) and in El Pregonero, the Spanish-language newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

“Our primary concern always has been making sure the patients are cared for. We are grateful to the Primary Care Coalition and its members, and to the county’s medical services staff, for their assistance during this difficult transition. Our hope and goal is to one day be able to again provide medical care in this part of the county,” said Fr. Don.

The Spanish Catholic Center, an agency of the Archdiocese of Washington, was founded in 1967. Each year, over 56,000 services, including medical and dental care, social services, education, employment and English as a Second Language are provided to nearly 38,000 people in the metropolitan region, mostly new immigrants. The Center has a $3.5 million budget and is audited annually by a national firm.

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]