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La Clinica Medica Latina esta cresciendo muy rapido


More than a decade ago, when Ava Eagles told a job interviewer for a nursing position in Des Moines that she was bilingual, that qualification was met with little more than a laugh.

“You’ll never have to worry about using that in Des Moines,” she was told.

Today, Eagles, an advanced registered nurse practitioner at the Clinica Medica Latina de Des Moines, or the Des Moines Latin American Clinic, is part of a new practice that is proving how valuable bilingual medical professionals have become in Central Iowa.

The clinic, which opened in November in the Capitol Medical Office Building, 1300 Des Moines St., has since accepted nearly 600 new Spanish-speaking patients. The growing practice already has plans to expand its clinical space within the next year.

“I have been remarkably impressed with how the Latino community has embraced this clinic,” said Dr. Jose Angel, a physician affiliated with Mercy Medical Center who founded the private clinic with his own money. “The intent of the clinic was to have a Spanish-language, culturally identifiable clinic that the community would feel is theirs, and they do. Our mission is to provide first-rate, quality, American-style health care in Spanish to the residents of Central Iowa, and to do that in a clinic that’s self-sustaining, and we’ve been very successful.”

Within the next 12 months, Angel hopes to expand the small clinic space within the East Side building to include 10 examination rooms, a minor-procedure room and a full-service laboratory.

Though the clinic’s core functions are self-supporting, it is reaching out to several community and health-care foundations, among them the Mercy Foundation, the Wellmark Foundation, the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation and Catholic Charities, to find areas of need in which it might receive funding to provide services.

Two other Mercy-affiliated physicians, Dr. Lynn Smits, an emergency room physician, and Dr. Jose Aguilar, a family practice physician, currently provide their services at no charge to the clinic, and it’s possible that a corps of volunteers may grow, Angel said.

Because each provider and the four-person staff is bilingual, there is no need for translators, which increases the comfort level of the Spanish-speaking families that visit, said Ana Maria Romero, the office manager. “I think that that makes the difference with the older patients,” she said. “It feels like family. I think that is important.”

Angel said a common scenario is that a Latino family’s younger children may be citizens and have health insurance, while the parents and older siblings do not because they weren’t born in the United States. About 40 percent of the clinic’s patients are uninsured, so the clinic provides a sliding scale of fees, or in some cases free services such as immunizations.

“We’re going to treat the entire family, not just those who have insurance,” Angel said. “And the families appreciate us working with them.”

Another Des Moines clinic, La Clinica de la Esperanza, provides free services to Latinos with funding from the Neighborhood Health Initiative. The patients who visit Angel’s clinic, however, typically want to pay for the services provided.

“They’re proud that they can come in and get first-rate health care and pay for it,” Angel said. “They want to show their children that this is the American way of doing things. They’re not looking for a free ride. And I think the patients are sophisticated enough to appreciate quality health care.”

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