CenCal Health, the publicly sponsored health plan for Medi-Cal in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, has procured and is in the process of delivering 100,000 disposable face masks, 100,000 disposable gloves and 20,000 protective gowns to local healthcare workers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

A health care worker unloads a delivery of personal protective equipment.

A health care worker unloads a delivery of personal protective equipment. (Courtesy photo)

With this donation of personal protective equipment (PPE), CenCal Health continues its commitment to community health and safety even during this unprecedented event. CenCal Health has more than 175,000 members on the Central Coast, providing health care coverage to about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County.

“When presented with challenges, the local health care community has always worked together and everyone helps as they can,” said CenCal Health CEO Bob Freeman. “This is one way for CenCal Health to help during this very serious challenge.”

The health plan heard of the availability of the product by an established supplier and moved quickly to secure more than $250,000 worth of PPE for its network hospitals, physicians and clinics.

“Our top goal is always to take care of our members through close support and partnership with our providers,” Freeman said. “Doing what we can to help protect our health care providers is clearly of great importance, making the PPE purchase decision a very easy one.”

On April 17, facility staff from CenCal Health began to deliver PPE to the following locations:

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Cottage Health, Dignity Health, Sansum Clinic, Lompoc Valley Medical Center, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, Pacific Central Coast Health Centers, Central Coast Pediatrics, Jackson Medical Group, Buellton Medical Group, Santa Ynez Tribal Health, Visiting Nurses Association, MedCenter Inc. urgent care clinics, First Choice Physician Partners; and individual physicians including Drs. Himat Tank, Agusto Casteñada, Albert Hawkins, Eric Levy, Jeffrey Kaplan, Peter Krause, Robert Barry and Peter Statti.

The deliveries will continue as shipments arrive and the order is completed by about May 1.

“With this support, we will be able to supply the healthcare providers in our community who are short of supplies,” said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, director of Santa Barbara County Public Health. “We have a rigorous algorithm to distribute these supplies, community-wide. Because of this donation, we will protect our most critical infrastructure, our health care providers and first responders.

“I want to underscore how grateful and appreciative we are that CenCal Health is working to keep our healthcare workers and first responders safe.”

CenCal Health’s response to the novel coronavirus includes a new webpage containing member-focused questions and answers. Anyone can access this information, in English and Spanish, at cencalhealth.org/coronavirus.

The content includes guidance related to COVID-19 concerns such as who is at greatest risk for serious illness, how to best protect oneself, whom to call should a member have symptoms, and links to updated information from reliable sources.

The plan also reports increasing local enrollment in reaction to the huge job loss being experienced, with the accompanying loss of health insurance. “We’re working to reach out to those needing coverage,” said Freeman. “Many of the expected newly eligible may have never heard of Medi-Cal, or never thought they’d qualify.”

There are multiple ways to apply for Medi-Cal coverage including online at www.mybenefitscalwin.org, and through www.CoveredCA.com. CenCal Health’s website offers additional information on how to apply at www.cencalhealth.org/howtoapply. CenCal Health does not determine Medi-Cal eligibility; eligibility and enrollment are determined by the applicant’s local department of social services.

For more about CenCal Health, visit cencalhealth.org.