Philadelphia Health Centers Treating Mostly Poor Blacks, Hispanics Have Five-Month Average Wait Times, Report Finds
The average wait time to obtain a doctor's appointment at Philadelphia-area public health centers is more than five months, compared with 15 days in New York City and seven days in Baltimore, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Philadelphia Office of the Controller, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
According to the city Department of Public Health, there are eight public health centers throughout the city, and the majority of the 85,000 patients who visited them in 2007 were poor blacks and Hispanics. Nearly half of the black and Hispanic patients were uninsured, according to the Inquirer.
The report also cited problems at area pharmacies. According to the report, pharmacists at city clinics fill more than 300 prescriptions daily, sometimes taking as little as 75 seconds per prescription. The pharmacies do not have methods to track inventory, pharmacy hours are limited, and the insurance verification system is inadequate. The report made recommendations to the health department for improvements, including immediately hiring more pharmacists, mandating prescription counseling unless a patient signs a waiver and verifying insurance during the intake process.
Tom Storey, director of ambulatory services for the health department, said he would focus on the recommendations, adding that his goal is to reduce appointment wait times to 30 days through additional staffing. Storey said a $3 million increase approved for the department's fiscal year 2009 budget would go toward those goals (Gregory, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/10).
The report is available online (.pdf).