A clinic that primarily helps black, brown and immigrant clients in East Boston announced Tuesday that it opened a patient advocacy office in November in response to allegations of poor medical conditions at the facility.
Greg Wilmot, senior vice president of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, said the new office allows the center to respond to concerns more quickly.
“The Office of Patient Advocacy provides additional resources for our community members and patients to share their feedback about their experiences at the health center,” he said. “We know from feedback last year that people come to We don’t always feel safe or comfortable.”
Previously, patients could complain at the front desk, or directly to their provider. Patients can now sign up with patient advocates for issues such as concerns about being misled by a nurse, concerns about a lack of follow-up from a doctor, or interactions that generally make them uncomfortable.
“They can contact the Office of Patient Advocacy, and they will manage on behalf of the patient, making sure their concerns are documented and understood, and that we as an organization are following through,” Wilmot said.
The news came about a year after a group of Central American families, mostly undocumented, were accused of poor medical care and misconduct at the center. This includes the case of Ligia Guardago, who told GBH News she visited clinics in 2020 with a listless and sick baby. She claims that during the 20-minute check, she was told the problem was not serious. He died the next day and was taken by ambulance to Boston Medical Center.
Wilmot, who did not elaborate on the infant deaths, said cases like Guardago’s would undergo significant follow-up, including reporting to federal and local agencies and an internal review by a panel of health care professionals.
Other allegations involved children, long waiting times and a lack of trauma-informed care for patients.
Last year, nonprofit groups Centro Presente and Lawyers for Civil Rights referred the complaints to then-Attorney General Maura Healey for an investigation. Healy’s office launched an investigation, but not a formal one.
“We communicated with all parties and encouraged them to work together to address concerns raised by the community and to identify opportunities to improve the health care experience of immigrant women at health care centers,” a spokesman for the attorney general said. Office Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center told GBH that the new Office of Patient Advocacy “has engaged with 31 patients since it became operational in November 2022. All of these issues have been addressed.” The spokesperson Also wanted to provide background information that the health center sees over 100,000 patients per year.
The Office of Patient Advocacy added three staff members, and the center hopes to hire more. With the help of $7 million in funding from the state, Wilmot said, the agency will also launch later this year a new behavioral health emergency care service, which he called the first of its kind at the Massachusetts Community Health Center. One such initiative.
Tuesday’s announcement was met with lukewarm praise from local advocates seeking a formal investigation of the centre.
“It’s really good that they did it, and they finally did it,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, an immigrant advocacy group that has helped a dozen patients resolve complaints. “Why are they waiting until we have a mother who has lost a child?”
Montes said there were other complaints. Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said the center needs to do more to address these issues. In terms of improvements, the center needs more translators, reduced wait times and specialized training to overcome implicit bias, he said.
“It is not enough to have a dedicated patient advocacy office to address the deep concerns of patients and community members about health equity and discriminatory treatment,” he said.
The parties have yet to meet to discuss the patient’s case. Espinoza-Madrigal said the clinic knew the patient’s name and details of the case but declined to meet with civil rights attorneys and Centro Presente. At the same time, the clinic stated that the parties refused to meet with them.
Wilmott said no action has been taken against the vendors implicated in the complaint, but the office has cooperated with the attorney general’s office and regulators on any concerns they raise. These include the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and state departments of public health.
“We’ve had a number of regulators look into these claims,” he said. “There was one finding, as I described it, but I can’t say which cases or issues. Its remediation was ‘satisfactory’ to all regulators.”
The center collects data on patient complaints and adverse outcomes for reporting to regulators, but the Office of Patient Advocacy is an additional resource, Wilmot said. A spokesperson later told GBH News that quality and incident reporting was done in collaboration with Boston Medical Center.
“During the 2021 and 2022 calendar years, there were no identified cases that required reporting to DPH or any other regulatory authority. All cases were systematically reviewed to identify any opportunities for quality improvement and to ensure the highest quality of care for all patients,” the spokesperson said. Say.
Wilmot said the clinic has provided the nonprofit with information related to the patient and the allegations. But Espinoza-Madrigal said patients are still being held accountable.
“They want clinics to examine and re-examine their protocols and safeguards to prevent misdiagnosis and substandard care,” he said. “This should involve a third-party review of all treatment options. Together with these recommendations should be a blueprint for clinics to use to improve their services and their links with the community.”