Borrego Health announces 218 layoffs in Riverside, San Diego county clinics

·6 min read

Borrego Health announced Wednesday that 218 employees from a number of positions in its Riverside and San Diego county offices will be laid off this summer in an effort to "ensure the sustainability of access to care" to clinics in underserved areas, said CEO Dr. Edgar Bulloch.

Borrego Health is a federally qualified health center, which means it receives funds from the federal government to provide primary care services in underserved areas. In 2021, Borrego Health served more than 120,500 patients and had more than 463,000 visits.

Among the impacted positions are 11 in nursing, 14 in nursing support, 70 in clinic support, 37 in the call center, 18 phlebotomists and eight dental staff members. No physicians or advanced practitioner providers will be laid off.

Employees will be laid off on July 24, and Borrego Health anticipates that the planned layoffs will be permanent. Affected workers will receive a 60 days notice in compliance with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Bulloch said no changes to patient care are anticipated, so clinic hours will remain the same and scheduled appointments will continue.

Offices impacted by the workforce reduction include:

Riverside County

  • Anza Community Health Center: 58-581 US Highway 371, Suite F, G, H, Anza

  • Arlanza Family Health Center: 8856 Arlington Ave., Riverside

  • Borrego Admin At Cook Street: 41-865 Boardwalk, Suite #201-213, Palm Desert

  • Borrego Admin at Iowa Street: 1700 Iowa Ave., Riverside

  • Borrego Health Specialty Care Center: 12-520 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs

  • Centro Medico Cathedral City: 69-175 Ramon Road, Cathedral City

  • Centro Medico Coachella: 55-497 Van Buren St., Thermal

  • Centro Medio Oasis: 88-775 76th Ave., Thermal

  • DHS Health & Wellness Center: 11-750 Cholla Drive, Desert Hot Springs

  • Desert Hot Springs Health Center: 66-675 Pierson Blvd., Desert Hot Springs

  • Eastside Health Center: 1970 and 1971 University Ave., Riverside

  • Jay Hoffman Health Center: 29-490 Lakeview Ave., Nuevo

  • Martha’s Village Clinic: 83-791 Date Ave., Indio

  • Palm Springs Family Health: 1100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

  • San Jacinto Health Center: 651 North State St., San Jacinto

  • Stonewall Medical Center: 68-555 Ramon Road, Cathedral City

San Diego County

  • Borrego Springs Admin/Pharmacy/Dental Offices: 587 & 590 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs

  • Borrego Medical Center: 343 Yaqui Pass Road, Borrego Springs

  • Centro Medico Escondido: 1111, 1121, 1151 East Washington, Escondido

  • Centro Medico El Cajon: 133 West Main St., El Cajon

"We understand the essentiality of keeping our clinics open, and so we are having to make some difficult decisions to ensure the sustainability of access to care for our clinics," Bulloch told The Desert Sun on Tuesday. "Our clinics are placed in these strategically underserved areas, and so there's dire access to care issues. For example, the eastern Coachella Valley, the ratio of providers to patients is 1 to 4,500."

Bulloch said the organization looked at ratios from provider benchmarks and other federally qualified health centers to determine efficient care teams. When comparing those numbers against Borrego Health's own care teams, Bulloch said "we did have some extra staff."

"The goal is to just become efficient, and I think having the care team support that can work more closely together is going to be what's going to allow us to be successful," he added.

Other operational changes include closing the Consolidated Call Center and allocating calls directly to the appropriate clinic for service. The clinic-level support staff will be adjusted to accommodate the increase in clinic call volume, according to a press release. This change is "better for patients," Bulloch said, because they will be able to speak to the customer service representatives on site at their clinic.

Martha's Village and Kitchen and Borrego Health staff celebrate the new partnership.
Martha's Village and Kitchen and Borrego Health staff celebrate the new partnership.

The news of the layoffs comes just months after the organization announced the Barstow Community Health Center in Barstow and D Street Medical Center in San Bernardino would close and layoff employees on Feb. 1. Its billing department in Borrego Springs was outsourced and laid off as well. There were 113 employees directly affected by the layoffs. The Desert Oasis Women's Clinic in Palm Springs was also closed and relocated.

Bulloch said Borrego Health did "everything that we could" for those affected employees, including sharing job openings within the company — many employees from the San Bernardino clinic were rehired at another clinic, he said — and holding job fairs for Barstow employees.

"I want the same thing to happen this time around," Bulloch said. "We want to make sure that there's a transition, there's a plan for these employees." That could include connecting them to employee assistance programs that provide help with resume writing and interview skills.

The changes also come as Borrego Health has experienced financial and legal issues in the last 18 months. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Borrego Health and Premiere Healthcare, a medical billing company that served Borrego Health, offices were raided by the FBI and state police in October 2020 as part of a criminal investigation into potential Medicare fraud. Both companies said last year that the criminal case involved a single dental clinic or a few facilities.

Months later, the California Department of Health Care Services suspended Medi-Cal payments to the Borrego Community Health Foundation, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

In regards to the Department of Justice investigation, Bulloch said the organization is "fully cooperating because we would like to have a quick resolution to this so we can move on and focus on patient care." He added that state payments for medical care were reinstated in February 2021, but Borrego Health is not being compensated for its in-house dental care.

"We have compliance monitors that are working with us to make sure that we're ... working to the utmost integrity on everything that we do, so I'm confident that we're moving forward in a positive route with the Department of Health Care Services," Bulloch said.

Upgraded Coachella clinic

Despite the difficult news, Bulloch said a new clinic will open in the City of Coachella in July.

The clinic will be located at 49-869 Calhoun St. Staff members from Centro Medico Coachella will move to the new 40,000 square foot facility.

"Our Coachella clinic is a much anticipated community project that has been in the works for several years," Bulloch said in an email. "Together with community partners such as Inland Empire Health Plan and Lab Corp, we will be increasing access to much-needed, high-quality healthcare to the people of Coachella."

There are plans to offer a variety of services at the center, such as cooking classes through Inland Empire Health Plan. An optometry area will also be offered and operated by a different entity, he said.

The current Centro Medico Coachella space, located on Coachella Valley High School's campus, will still be utilized as possibly a teen clinic in the future, but no plans are currently set.

Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at ema.sasic@desertsun.com or on Twitter @ema_sasic.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Borrego Health announces 218 layoffs in Riverside, San Diego county clinics