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Community Support Helping Venice Family Clinic Serve Patients During Pandemic

Because of an outpouring of community support and dedication from its staff, Venice Family Clinic has been able to continue to provide high-quality health care and other services to its nearly 28,000 patients during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Clinic recently released a report detailing the extensive support it received from mid-March through June and how that support made its services possible when the pandemic required the nonprofit community health center to shift to virtual heath care visits.

Community support and staff dedication also made possible its transition of educational and Children First Early Head Start programs to online and the expansion of its free and healthy food distributions to people in need. In addition, the Clinic was able to adapt its street medicine program to safely care for people experiencing homelessness and help secure housing for them.

Community members donated nearly 74,000 face masks, bottles of hand sanitizer and many other much-needed items to provide health care. Donors contributed generously, and volunteers, like Keerthana Sivathasan, an undergraduate pre-med student at UCLA, gave countless hours calling patients to check in on how they were doing during the pandemic.
“During a time when social interaction and communication is limited, I can make a difference by making them feel like someone is out there for them and cares about them, which can be a very hard thought to maintain during such a strenuous time,” Sivathasan said. “This is an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life, and I hope we all continue to listen and help each other whenever others may need it.”

Naveena Ponnusamy, Venice Family Clinic chief development and communications officer, said the response from supporters has been “remarkable. We were able to shrink the revenue gap from canceled appointments and quickly transition to a new way of operating that continues to evolve as the situation with the virus evolves. The initial response has been heartening and affirming, and we know we can count on this support for the many months to come when it will continue to be greatly needed.”

With the community’s support, Venice Family Clinic has kept its five main clinics open since the start of the pandemic. It initially shifted to telehealth for 67% of appointments to ensure the safety of patients and staff and continues to evaluate the safety of providing in-person visits and adjust accordingly.

It increased its distribution of free and healthy food, delivering more than 170,000 pounds of food to patients and community members in need. The Clinic’s homeless services program is helping to secure housing for its patients through Project Roomkey, providing care at shelters created in response to the pandemic and assisting in COVID-19 testing for people experiencing homelessness.

“We are so thankful for the community’s generosity in providing us the tools we needed to adapt our protocols and services so that we are providing the safest and most effective care for our patients and staff,” said Anita Zamora, Venice Family Clinic’s deputy director and chief operating officer. “The only thing constant through all of this is change. During these stressful times, it is very comforting to know that we have a supportive community behind us providing the resources we need.”

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