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Are poor suffering because of cuts at Jackson Health System?

Miami Herald, August 15, 2011

When Myrtle Holmes, 56, wants to get an appointment at Jackson's clinic in Overtown, she says she sometimes has a hard time getting through on the phone. When she does, she's often told it may take 60 to 90 days to see a doctor -- a huge wait for a diabetic with several chronic conditions. "I'm smart. I know what I have to do when I need care," says Holmes, who until recently was uninsured. "I go to the emergency room." That often ends up costing taxpayers huge sums at Jackson Memorial Hospital, say healthcare experts, rather than a few bucks spent on her primary care at Jefferson Reaves Sr. Health Center, which is operated by the Jackson Health System.  "It doesn't make sense," says Darryl Reaves, son of the man the clinic is named after and a member of its board. "We're trying to explain to Jackson that we can save money for their system and keep people healthier." Leaders of the Reaves center and another Jackson-run clinic -- the Dr. Rafael A. Peñalver Clinic in Little Havana -- complain that in its financial distress, Jackson has damaged primary care for the poor by cutbacks, elimination of pharmacy services and dental care, and forcing uninsured patients to go to Jackson Memorial to register for discount services before returning to the clinics for treatment. Jackson has also raised fees the poor must pay out of their own pockets for their care.