Along with an experienced bilingual staff, heath and wellness programs, and a connection to the Christian faith, the Esperanza Health Center has added a medical dispensary to its growing list of patient amenities.
The Esperanza Health Center, located on the 4417 N. Sixth St., is a haven for residents who want their medical care and spiritual needs met.
In May, Esperanza opened its medical dispensary to the Hunting Park community, providing residents medication on-site and at discounted prices for those who qualify.
With the dispensary on location, patients can quickly leave the center with their medication in hand without the hassle of dropping a prescription off at local pharmacies that may be too far to visit or may not accommodate their individual needs.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Esperanza Health Center aims to provide patients with affordable medication.
“It’s an advantage for your patients because they are able to get their medication right after they see their doctors,” said Anthony Velasquez, the medication dispensary manager.
As a not-for-profit Christian health care facility that caters to a predominantly Hispanic community, this is convenient for patients who do not speak English well. Some drug stores do not provide bilingual employees, which can raise language difficulties between patient and pharmacist regarding medication.
“We definitely want to avoid any barriers to a patient not getting their medication,” Velasquez said.
Hunting Park is one of the most impoverished communities in Philadelphia, with 68 percent of its residents living 200 percent below the federal poverty level. Latinos and African-Americans make up two-thirds of the neighborhood population.
With one in six Philadelphians uninsured, medication sold at discounted prices can be good for the community. Residents who receive their medication at Esperanza’s dispensary can expect to pay up to 90 percent less for similar medications at major pharmacies.
“There are discounts available for people who don’t have insurance, even on the most expensive medications,” said Tim Johnston, Esperanza’s associate medical director. “Often less than $10 to $30.”
All medication that is received by the health center is through a federal drug pricing program that allows medical centers to dispense outpatient drugs at reduced prices. Pittsburgh-based Coordinated Care Network acts as a liaison for the dispensary, providing patients with their medication in a 48-hour window.
“The main function of a dispensary is to allow patients to not have to go somewhere else to get medication, and to allow us to give discounts to patients that don’t have insurance,” nurse practitioner Deborah Moss said.
Because the Esperanza Health Center acts as a dispensary and not a pharmacy, all medication is prepackaged to order and is limited to controlled medication like antibiotics, asthma medication, diabetic medication and heart medication.
“We want to first and foremost provide the patient with the needed medication, do it efficiently and know that we’re serving the purpose of what a dispensary was put in place for,” Velasquez said.
According to Moss, they do not carry restricted medications because they have to be supervised by a pharmacist. This list includes narcotics and certain psychotropic medications that might bring up issues like misuse and criminal elements.
“There are limitations,” Moss said. “We don’t have every medication known to man.”
Velasquez said the dispensary is a greater benefit for their uninsured, self-pay patients. They also have a number of patients who have limited medical coverage and health insurance that need medication on a monthly basis.
Hunting Park resident Sheila Greene has been an Esperanza patient for 10 years and has been using the medical dispensary since it recently opened.
“It’s just a way to make it convenient,” Greene said. “The doctor prescribes meds and they’re right there.”
Patients who are unable to visit the health center can expect delivery for their medication. Greene said she used to visit the dispensary before she had difficulty walking.
“They actually have a drug store that delivers to my house,” Green said. “How cool is that?”
Velasquez said with a dispensary on site, patients receive their medication faster and physicians are able to keep track of what medications patients are taking.
“When patients are able to get their medicines here before walking out the door, that really does increase the number of patients that actually pickup their medicines,” Johnston said.
Velasquez said with patients using the Esperanza Health Center as a place to visit doctors and pickup medication, there is minimum risk of patients taking medication that can counteract with drugs prescribed from other healthcare physicians.
“We believe that [the dispensary] serves its purpose,” Velasquez said. “[Because] we get the medication at a lower price, we’re able to use the funds that we receive from the dispensary to give to the community.”