By Roel Godinez
US Congressman 49th District, Mike Levin, visited the Vale Terrace Vista Community Clinic (VCC) this Wednesday morning just before the official opening of his new Oceanside District office. Levin and his District Director, Francine Busby, were welcomed by the VCC CEO Fernando Sañudo. Accompanying them were Vice President of Government Affairs at Health Center Partners of Southern California Timothy Fraser, VCC Chief Development Officer Betsy Heightman, and Doctor Kelly Motadel; all of whom were ready to answer the congressman’s questions throughout the tour and the conference that followed.
“VCC contacted me in Washington to let me know about the great work that they are doing so I decided to follow up and see it for myself” said Levin. “I think it’s important when you’re serving as a representative that you don’t just read about it, you go out and see it for yourself. So that’s what I’ve always tried to do.”
Levin seemed quite impressed by the clinic’s rooms, medical equipment, staff, and children’s amenities. Throughout the tour, Sañudo described the history of the Clinic and the funding that created it. Founded by a group of volunteers in 1972, the VCC has grown to be a vital part of its city, now serving one in four Vista residents. There are currently seven other VCC locations spread out across Southern California. During the conference, Sañudo revealed that the 2019 fiscal year’s budget for the VCC was over $58 million.
Despite the seemingly large budget, the VCC still struggles to handle the growing influx of patients, especially those of low incomes. In Vista, 17% of the total population is uninsured and 73% of the low income population is served by health care community clinic programs while in Oceanside, 12.3% of the total population is uninsured and 49% of the low income population is served by said programs. While the VCC continues to receive new patients, the building and the staff remain the same size. This in turn has led to overcrowded rooms and long work hours for the medical professionals. This has progressed to the point that one of the conference rooms was converted to an opioid treatment center.
The VCC is already taking action by supporting several local bills that would affect the allocation of more federal funds towards healthcare, bills that Mike Levin was adamant about supporting.
“I hope that a couple of those pieces of legislation that the Clinic is interested in pursuing, whether it be student loan repayment for doctors to make sure that we get the best medical professionals or it’s more federal funding for community clinics, can be advanced through continued conversation,” he said.
Levin explicitly mentioned how he would continue to support the Affordable Care Act while simultaneously working against President Donald Trump’s budget cuts on federal health care funding. Such cutbacks would directly affect the operation of the VCC and its clients.
Throughout his campaign, Levin promised to lower prescription prices, protect those with pre-existing conditions, and support Medicaid For All. Today, he is taking steps towards fulfilling those campaign promises.
“I’m definitely going to be visiting Tri-City Medical Center,” he said, “I’d love to come back and see the other clinics in the county. This was definitely an important visit today.”