Friday, May 28, 2021

City's HIV/STD Clinic Closed for Fourteen Months

The City announced its STD/HIV Clinic will reopen June 7th.  Funny, I hadn't heard the clinics had been closed.  The City Clerk wrote yesterday:

In mid-March the clinics were postponed due to staff being redirected to work on Covid.  
I asked if that was 2020 or 2021?  The clerk's answer:

March 2020. I haven’t been able to find anything in our press releases regarding an announcement, I believe it was in conjunction with closing city facilities to public traffic.

City Emergency declarations make no mention of the clinic's closure in mid-March 2020.  The only indication the city was reducing public health services came on March 26th in a partner update.

Nursing Division 

Due to the increased Public Health duties with COVID-19, the Immunization Clinic will be postponed until Tuesday April 7, 2020. This is subject to change, if needed.

The federal government granted the city over $1 million to spend on COVID related expenditures.  At no point did City management recommend an increase in Nursing Department resources to ensure ongoing public health services. 

In the middle of a pandemic City Council approved a decrease in Nursing Department funding and a cut for the Hazards Division, responsible for public health emergency preparedness and response.   

Vaccinations began without the city health department as an administration site.  The City's began offering COVID vaccinations on January 6th of this year.  

I had surgery in March 2020 just as COVID preparations consumed our community.  Shannon Medical Center limited the number of visitors the day of my surgery.  By September I saw my primary care physician in person.   Providers and patients took precautions, but necessary healthcare was being delivered.  

Where does HIV/STD diagnosis and treatment fit into necessary health services?  The STD clinic has been fully funded by a Section 1115 federal grant since 2013.  The grant application stated:

There is no Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic at the San Angelo‐Tom Green County Health Department, nor any available space, and therefore, hundreds of patients needs are not being met.

The STD clinic never really closed while the city sought federal funding. A nurse told council on December 4, 2012 the clinic was still treating STD patients.

"Anyone who is identified as positive by the state can be treated through us."

The city is historically hesitant to spend its money on public health services but is happy to utilize federal/state funds.  COVID is the latest evidence of this pattern.

How can a public health clinic close for fourteen months with not a peep from city staff to City Council or the general public?  It's surprisingly, head shaking San Angelo. 

Update 5-31-21:  The city received $2.2 million in COVID funding from three rounds, $1.1 million in CARES Act funding, $636,480 from Texas Department of Emergency Management and $582,000 in federal grant money.

Update 6-3-21:  Why is it important for critical public health programs to be ongoing?  "Geneticists and infectious disease specialists there have uncovered potentially dangerous coronavirus mutations in a 36-year-old woman with uncontrolled HIV who was unable to shake the SARS-CoV-2 virus for close to eight months. The driving force behind the patient’s rapid accumulation of genetic changes is probably her impaired immune response due to her unsuccessfully treated HIV, the researchers said."

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