A team of administrators, doctors, nurses, a chaplain, and other health professionals from Cleveland Clinic’s Lutheran Hospital met with Bishop Nelson Perez on Feb. 6 to discuss the hospital’s Hispanic Clinic.
Lutheran Hospital, located on Cleveland’s West Side, serves an area with a large Spanish-speaking population and offers comprehensive services to meet their health care needs. The 203-bed hospital opened in 1896. Its specialties are orthopedics and spine, behavioral health and chronic wound care, in addition to many other services.
The bishop discussed the health needs of the Hispanic population and how the Diocese of Cleveland could help the hospital with its community outreach and wellness initiatives. Bishop Perez has a background in mental health and said he was happy to see that Lutheran offers resources to help people struggling with these issues.
Hospital officials explained how they recognized a need for improved health services among Spanish-speaking residents and decided they needed to do better. Their multi-faceted approach included seeking bilingual health professionals, including doctors, nurses and others who could speak to the patients in their native language and who understood the culture. Since 2013, the hospital’s Hispanic Clinic has been making inroads to better serve its Spanish-speaking residents by consolidating these services at Lutheran to make things easier for the patients and families. They also offer services in other areas where there are pockets of Hispanics, including Lorain.
Diabetes and obesity are among the health issues facing many Hispanics, so hospital staffers employ a variety of outreach services, including working with students to help educate them on healthy food choices and the importance of exercise. That program, now in its third year, has been successful. They said with youngsters adopting healthier lifestyles, it should begin spreading throughout the community. The objective is to help people live healthier lives and to encourage them to get regular checkups and to follow the advice of health professionals.
Having a doctor, nurse or other caregivers who can explain things to the patient is a major part of the clinic’s success, they said. And having the services located in the community is easier for the patients who may be fearful of travelling to a large hospital and having to deal with unfamiliar surroundings, parking and other stressful things – all of which can be barriers to receiving needed health care.
Bishop Perez asked how the diocese could help. He mentioned collaborating with Catholic Charities as one way that medical professional could help expand their services and programs into the Hispanic community. In the past, the bishop said he served as a convener to help bring clergy members together to tackle some of these issues. A health ministry program and possible revival of the parish nurse program also were mentioned.
The bishop said the Hispanic population is not going away. In fact, with more than 150,000 people of Hispanic background in Cuyahoga County, it continues to grow. In recent months, that number grew, partly as a result of Puerto Ricans fleeing their hurricane-ravaged island. Nationally, he said 60 percent of Catholics 18 or younger are of Hispanic background and 51 percent of the population 25 and younger are Catholic. Being of Cuban heritage, Bishop Perez is familiar with many of the issues facing those of the various Hispanic cultures, including Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Argentinians and others.
Hospital officials estimated about 5 percent of the Hispanic population is uninsured and about 40 percent are covered by Medicaid, but all receive the care they need.
They said the Cleveland Clinic philosophy is patients first, but they look at the patients as people.
“It’s a culture at Lutheran,” one nurse said. “If you need help, we’ll help – whatever you need.”