Healthcare Disparities and Resources in South Bexar County.

Op-Ed by Al Arreola Jr, SoTX, Pres/CEO

The recent Express-News piece, “A broken system got worse: How COVID ravaged San Antonio’s South Side” by Laura Garcia, confirmed what many of us living in Bexar County already knew: that health outcomes for those living on the Southside are worse than anywhere else in the county; and that those poor health outcomes primarily impact low income people of color. Death rates from COVID were higher per capita in south Bexar County zip codes and double the mortality rate of Bexar County overall. 
 
“The most heavily affected areas tend to be farther from hospitals, and adult residents are less likely to have visited a doctor for a routine checkup within the past year.”
 
The combination of these facts demonstrates that south San Antonio needs a significant investment in healthcare, including access to emergency and palliative care.
 
The recent exposé by the Express-News is also consistent with research conducted a few years ago by the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, now known as the South Texas Business Partnership. As we learned then and now, Southsiders have to travel across town to receive emergency care. And because much of South Texas qualifies as a health desert, many residents do not seek out regular preventative care. The county can address several social determinants of health by increasing affordable healthcare options in South San Antonio and the surrounding region. 
 
Stakeholders in the county are finally waking up to the potential of the southside and thanks to several recently announced investments, including the VIDA residential community, the region is set to rebound from the COVID pandemic to be stronger than ever. But those investments must be accompanied by a serious investment by our county hospital in developing the healthcare infrastructure that has been missing for too long. 
 
The recent announcement that the County’s Public Health Division will be headquartered on the southside is a positive development.  We also want to highlight the much-needed construction of a hospital that is supposed to be located on that property to serve the surrounding residents. The clinics that were proposed will help some, but more is needed in the way of providing the serious care that this community desperately needs and deserves. As data compiled by Health Equity First demonstrates, the latest healthcare resources are distributed in areas that already have ample access to healthcare, often in the wealthiest and least diverse parts of the county. When it comes to new funding and new facilities, the indigent population on the southside has been historically overlooked. A significant investment by our county hospital district of taxpayer dollars would have an extremely positive and outsized healthcare and economic impact on our region.
 
Bexar County residents are considering who will follow Judge Nelson Wolff after his retirement and the general election being held in November.  The County Judge plays a critical role in ensuring that the county hospital provides access to healthcare across all of Bexar County.  We hope the candidates on the ballot will share our perspective of the need to expand healthcare and eliminate healthcare inequities on the Southside.  
 
The South Texas Business Partnership represents a region of San Antonio with untapped potential for expansion and growth, but in order to unlock the capability of the constituency, we need to address the social determinants of health that the area lacks, namely access to reliable medical care. 

To promote health living and habits this Saturday, August 6 we are pleased to co-host the San Antonio Sports Fit Family Challenge Finale 5K with Brooks and Councilwoman Viagran's District 3 Office.   Opening ceremonies begin at 7:30am for info about the event please visit sotxpartnership.org or contact us at info@sotxpartnership.org.