Community Support, Making a Difference for 45 Years
by Dr. Emily Ptaszek, president and CEO, Healthcare Network
In 2022, Healthcare Network celebrates 45 years of serving Collier County. Looking back, one thing still rings true to this day – Healthcare Network exists because people care.
With the community’s support, our team has grown tremendously since 1977. At first, the organization operated out of trailers in Immokalee and consisted of a handful of concerned citizens caring for underserved farmworkers.
Today, Healthcare Network has nearly 400 doctors, nurses, dentists, behavioral health providers, pharmacists and support staff who provide accessible, affordable, quality and culturally appropriate healthcare to more than 50,000 patients each year, including nearly half of the children in Collier County.
During the pandemic, we continued providing essential primary and preventative services while also deploying a multilingual COVID-19 Response Team to address health inequities that became even more apparent during the pandemic. We also found innovative ways to reach our patients, including mobile units and telehealth visits. In total, we provided more than $15 million in uncompensated care.
Every day, patients of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs and experiences come to us. For many, the journey is not easy. They face a multitude of obstacles such as access to reliable transportation, the ability to take time off from work or other responsibilities, communication concerns, confusion about the healthcare system and fear and/or distrust. However, these individuals come to us because they know Healthcare Network will not turn them away. They will always be treated with compassion and respect, regardless of their circumstances.
This includes patients like Maria. A resident of Immokalee in her early 60s, Maria has been a patient of Healthcare Network for many years. Her team is helping her manage several chronic health conditions, including COPD and high blood pressure as well as behavioral health concerns. Living on a limited budget, Maria is able to use the organization’s sliding fee discount to access the critical help she needs.
Not being able to breathe is scary. It started with a nagging cough, tightness in my chest and bouts of fatigue. I kind of put it off, thinking it wasn’t serious and it would go away… but it became more frequent. When my primary care provider at Healthcare Network diagnosed me with COPD, I didn’t really know what it was, but he took time to help me understand and made sure I had the care I needed to stay healthy.
I live with COPD every day. Some days are not so good. On bad days when I have trouble breathing, I get scared and anxious, which makes breathing worse. During a visit with my medical doctor, he suggested I talk with the in-office psychologist.
At first, I was not sure, but I liked that the psychologist’s office was just down the hall. I am glad I went. She made me comfortable and taught me how to manage my anxiety. She also helped me when my mom died… Then COVID got me feeling down… she has helped me a lot over the years.
As we celebrate our remarkable history, we continue to look ahead and develop programs to improve health equity. Soon we will offer convenient care to support patients who need immediate, same-day healthcare outside traditional practice hours, and psychology practices in Golden Gate and Immokalee dedicated to treating more intensive mental health concerns such as severe depression and anxiety. Additionally, based on the tremendous impact and success of our COVID-19 Response Team, we will expand our outreach program where health worker teams will reach beyond our center walls to deliver healthcare directly to underserved families throughout Collier County.
Access to primary care is the cornerstone for building a strong, healthy community. And while we have made great strides over the last 45 years, the need for comprehensive affordable healthcare continues to grow, especially in our rapidly expanding area. We ask you to join us in celebrating our history while looking to the future and the ways we can continue to create a safe, healthy and caring environment, together.
Dr. Emily Ptaszek is CEO of Healthcare Network, which provided 131,523 patient visits, delivered 3.5 newborns per day, filled 60,025 prescriptions, and saw 24,270 children in 2020. For more about Healthcare Network’s impact or to donate, visit healthcareswfl.org.
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