ST. GABRIEL — A nonprofit health clinic in Iberville Parish and two more from the New Orleans area joined forces this week with the Honduran Consulate in New Orleans in an effort to make health care more accessible to the Hispanic community in south Louisiana.
In Iberville Parish, some 40 percent of the patient base of the St. Gabriel Health Clinic is Latino, said CEO Victor Kirk.
“We know that for those that are residents from other countries, they are going to have a relationship with these government representatives,” Kirk said Wednesday. “The consul general’s office technically became ambassadors of that country here in the U.S., and we decided it was time to form a relationship with them by taking this first step to reach out to the Hispanic community.”
The St. Gabriel Health Clinic manages a stand-alone location in St. Gabriel, as well as two school-based clinics on the east bank of Iberville Parish.
Kirk said each nonprofit health clinic has seen the numbers of Hispanic people walking into their facilitates for medical attention increase since Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. Census data estimate more than 200,000 Latinos reside in Louisiana; however, Kirk says that figure could be sharply higher because a large number of Hispanic immigrants have entered the country illegally.
The new agreement, the result of six months of negotiations, will steer those registered with the consulate toward a network of health care providers in the region that could help them get the speciality care they need but may be discouraged to do so because of language and cultural barriers.
“It’s often difficult for them to find speciality care providers that will take cash and charge them lower rates,” Kirk explained. “We benefit from this because it’s a very tight-knit community. The consulate is the official agency of their government, and our people are going to be stationed there in those offices.”
Uninsured patients at the St. Gabriel Health Clinic receive health care on a sliding fee scale based on family size and household income standards established by the federal government. The clinic also provides services to Medicare and insured patients.
Kirk said in a news release his clinic will conduct preventive medical screenings — like cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose tests — at Honduran Consulate-related events. The clinic will also provide referrals and appointments for any additional medical, mental or dental needs for Latino patients.
“This is something we’ve been doing that no one ever knew about,” Kirk said. “We think there are at least 27,000 Hispanics just in the greater Baton Rouge area. We just realize we needed to expand our reach.”
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