Reflections on the Ajo Community Forum on Healthcare

On October 9th, in partnership with the Children’s Action Alliance and our hosts, the Desert Senita Community Health Center, the CRH co-sponsored a community town hall type meeting on healthcare in Ajo, Arizona. While Ajo is part of Pima County, it is a good two and a half hour drive from Tucson. An old copper mining town that is struggling economically, the vitality and energy of the community residents was evident last night during the discussions about healthcare issues.

Why does the CRH participate in these types of town hall meetings? We believe it is important to hear directly from the citizens of rural communities about their needs and ideas for healthcare services. Each rural community has their own healthcare story and last night we heard Ajo’s story. Ajo does not have a hospital in the community but it does have a strong community health care in Desert Senita. Desert Senita has 58 employees and offers a wide range of services from primary and specialist care to dental, pharmacy and laboratory services. They also provide the residents of Ajo with access to specialty services, both by bringing in specialists from urban centers on a regular basis and through telemedicine.

Fran Driver, the CEO of Desert Senita, spoke at the event and fielded several questions from the audience. She would like to offer more services to the community but is limited by space and financial resources. There are some services such as dialysis which would be of great benefit to the community but of which there does not exist a sufficient number of patients to justify the service. At the same time, there are other services such as pharmacy and physical therapy which they are actively trying to expand. In addition, there are challenges in recruiting and retaining health professionals to rural communities. In Ajo, one concern is the lack of available housing for health professionals.

Our Center will continue to work with the Desert Senita Community Health Center and other health decision makers and community leaders in Ajo on these issues. A full report from the town hall will be posted on our website in the coming weeks. You can read our report from the Marana community forum on healthcare here.

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