More than a year ago, a Valley woman went to the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center after finding a lump in her breast. She was referred for a mammogram, and told she’d have to pay for the test as she lacked health insurance. Not being able to afford the procedure, she saved her money for months until she was finally able to pay for it.
“The bad news is, now it’s breast cancer. If they had caught it earlier, it might not have been so bad,” said the woman’s daughter, who added that the family was irritated to learn her mother could have gotten a free mammogram, something they said the health center should have immediately disclosed.
“Only afterwards they told her she qualified for a free mammogram. That is not right,” said the daughter, whose identity, like many sources in this article, is being withheld to protect medical privacy.
It was one of a dozen testimonials – reported by Springs residents through a translator – citing insufficient treatment at the health center and aired Wednesday night during a private meeting hosted by the Todd Trust and Community Foundation Sonoma County to learn more about how Sonoma’s Latino community perceives the clinic.
“The simple question was, ‘What’s going on in your community?’ The principal answer was, ‘The clinic, the clinic, the clinic,’” said Davin Cardenas, an organizer with the Community Foundation, who moderated the meeting of around two dozen Valley residents. “The question is, what are we going to do about it?”
Cardenas is working with the volunteer Todd Trust board to better understand the needs and concerns of the community in Boyes Hot Springs. The Todd Trust – which represents the $8.5 million estate left by Valley residents Roland and Hazel Todd – is meticulously vetting various community organizations to determine the best use of those funds to affect significant change, specifically when it comes to health and human services for low-income, minority residents in the Springs. The trust also seeks to develop leaders within the Latino community who will take an active role in deciding how the money is spent. As the Todd Trust team began reaching out in the Springs – particularly to the English Learner Advisory Councils that bring together Spanish-speaking parents at each Valley school – they consistently heard stories of mistreatment and misdiagnosis at the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center.
“They don’t treat people well,” said one woman, who shared that she went to the clinic with breathing difficulties and chest pains. “They gave me no medicine and then it turned into pneumonia and I had to go to the hospital.”
Another woman said her mother sought treatment at the health center after experiencing intense eye pain. “They told her it was nothing,” she said. “A few months later her eye started bleeding, she couldn’t work.” Her mother then went to the Point Reyes Community Health Center where, her daughter said, she received significantly better care. Other audience members agreed.
“They have much better service,” said another woman of the Marin County facility, explaining that after the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center dismissed her mother’s ailments, she sought treatment in Point Reyes where doctors immediately schedule surgery to remove her thyroid.