Fresno County public health officials host a press briefing on Tuesday. Photo by Ben Hensley

published on February 8, 2022 - 3:43 PM
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The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held a press conference on Tuesday announcing the approval of up to $6 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for Community Regional Medical Center, Clovis Community Medical Center and Saint Agnes Medical Center.

Allotting the $6 million immediately for the three medical centers was deemed necessary due to the strain on the health care system.

“This is much needed support for additional staffing and surge beds across the system,” said John Kass, Vice President of Operations at Community Regional Medical Center.

In total, Fresno County received $194 million in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the ARPA in 2021.

Addressing public health issues — such as the pandemic — are expenses eligible for these funds.

While numbers are currently trending down, Fresno County experienced a huge surge in COVID-19 cases since the start of the new year. This directly affected the health and availability of medical workers as well, with Kass adding that during the Omicron surge, CRMC had a high of 700 staff quarantined.

The funds allocated should help to mitigate some of the strains put on local facilities from these increased numbers.

Robyn E. Gonzales, vice president of operations at Clovis Community Medical Center, said that early on in the pandemic, she urged public health workers to work together.

“We talked among ourselves about how important it would be that we were able to partner with our public health friends,” Gonzales said. “This collaborative relationship, this is what it’s for.”

The approved ARPA funding must be spent before the end of 2024.

Funding is also being allocated to non-profit organizations such as the Marjaree Mason Center.

Other non-profits will also have the opportunity to talk about programs that could be assisted by the emergency funding.

The funding provided will also be allocated to projects that will have lasting impact in the community.

When expanding on the allocation of funds, Dr. Rais Vohra said, “Hospitals are partnering with public health, public health has to partner with behavioral health. We all need to work together in a system.”

Vohra went on to say that the pandemic helped build partnerships in the medical and behavioral health systems that he said was, at times, fragmented.

“What we’re trying to do is really plug the gaps. A lot of times that requires bringing in nurses and other skilled professionals from other areas,” Vohra said. “All of those really require expenditure of resources, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

David Luchini, director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said that despite falling numbers, the community can’t let its guard down.

“Get vaccinated, stay home when sick, and please wear a mask indoors until these case numbers are farther down.”

He went on to thank the board for approving the original funding last summer and also thanked public health workers for their continued dedication.

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