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Jewish Journal

Interfaith leaders meet with L.A. County health director

by Pierce Courchaine

June 7, 2011 | 3:51 pm

Interfaith religious leaders and citizens took aim at Los Angeles County’s health system during a meeting with L.A. County Department of Heath Director Dr. Mitchell Katz on June 6 to discuss the current state of L.A. County health care.

One LA-IAF, a community-organizing group that brings together local dues-paying organizations, including synagogues, churches, schools and unions, hosted the event at the Our Lady Queen of the Angels Church in downtown Los Angeles. Representatives from Temple Beth Am, Temple Emanuel, Temple Isaiah and Temple Judea were in attendance and spoke during and after the event about stimulating the conversation between the public and the county’s Department of Health Services about how to improve the system.

“For me, so often interfaith dialogue takes place in an abstract context,” said Rabbi Susan Leider, associate rabbi of Temple Beth Am. “And this is very, very concrete, because we are going right to where the interest of the people are.”

The June 6 event follows a Jan. 30 One LA-IAF meeting at Temple Emanuel to find ways to implement changes in local access to health care.

During the June 6 meeting downtown, which drew more than 300 attendees, one woman described her frustration with the inefficiency of scheduling and how she waited for hours for an appointment but never saw a doctor. A local registered nurse said he felt he wasn’t doing enough to help his patients, because he didn’t have the right resources.

All the while, Katz and Michael Mills, administrator at H. Claude Hudson Comprehensive Health Center, listened. After hearing public testimony, a proposal was made by One LA-IAF to the L.A. County Department of Health to begin establishing meaningful relationships with its patients, starting with the staff at H. Claude Hudson.

Mills spoke in response to the proposal, with promises of achieving progress and addressing the concerns of the citizens.

“Getting there is going to be tough,” Mills said. “But I think through a partnership that we talked about tonight, we can come up together with the best way to move that agenda forward.”

Representatives from the L.A. County Department of Health Services’ union, Service Employees International Union Local 721, also heard One LA-IAF’s proposal and promised to work on relationships with patients.

After the event, Rabbi Dara Frimmer of Temple Isaiah warned that inefficient and inadequate health care is a burden that falls on society as a whole.

“I think, with most social issues, if you are willing to look below the surface, you will see that every issue affects everyone,” Frimmer said. “And, in fact, it’s just a perception that it only affects or targets one area or one group or one neighborhood.”

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