Patients Must Wait Month For Health Clinic Appointments

Categories: Government, Health
Bring a magazine. It's going to be a while.
New patients now wait 30 days for an appointment at San Francisco public health clinics. That marathon delay is thanks in part to challenges incorporating new patients added to the government system as a result of Healthy San Francisco, the 2006 program providing free health care to some uninsured local residents.

According to the City Controller's just-released Government Barometer analysis of city program performance using figures from August:

The wait time for a new patient appointment at a primary care clinic increased 55.0% from the prior year (August 2009), from 20 days to 31 days. This increase can be attributed to continued pressure to manage new Healthy San Francisco patients, among other demands.

We wrote about the city's stretched-thin health care bureaucracy this spring, when the average wait for new patients was 29 days. Healthy San Francisco director Tangerine Brigham said the system ramped up to absorb more than 12,000 new patients.

"We knew that, in order to do this program effectively, we had to expand capacity internally and externally, and we've been purposeful in using those additional dollars to do both," Brigham said. Most Healthy San Francisco enrollees have used their new benefits to obtain services that were once available only to those receiving other forms of public health care. Now, San Francisco's indigent care system has had to make room for middle-class people.

We've left a message with Department of Public Health spokeswoman Eileen Shields requesting comment on the new report, and we'll fill you in when she gets back to us.

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