Ribbon cutting ceremony at La Red Health Center draws praise for a model vision and facility


GEORGETOWN, Del. – Some call it a field of dreams. Others describe it as a miracle in the making.

But everyone at the April 23 ribbon cutting for La Red Health Center concurred that the evolution of the organization from a 24-hour hotline to a 25,000-square-foot facility was the result of true collaboration.

“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the individuals and organizations that believe in the need for heath care access for all in Sussex County,” said Brian S. Olson, chief executive director at La Red Health Center.

More than 300 people gathered at the new 21444 Carmean Way location to applaud the center’s vision and accomplishments. Those who spoke at the ceremony included U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Congressman John Carney, HHS Region III Director Joanne Grossi, Delaware Secretary of Health and Social Services Rita Landgraf, and LRHC founders Gonzalo Martinez and Dr. Francisco Rodriguez.

Sen. Carper noted that LRHC represents a model program that provides access to affordable, high-quality, cost-effective health care for everyone, uninsured and insured. He also noted that health centers such as LRHC save everyone money because they offer people care at an earlier stage, rather than forcing individuals to wait until they have something more serious that requires greater expense.

Sen. Coons concurred and added that the construction of the new facility also represents a model of true community cooperation.

“What a wonderful lesson on the strength that we have when we come together,” said Sen. Coons.

Olson said that the need in the community is reflected in the fact that since opening on April 2, the staff has received more than 9,000 patient calls.

Patient Eleanor Backus, who also spoke at the ceremony, said she had never felt so well attended than when she first visited LRHC.

“They really listened to me. I wasn’t rushed. They took their time and they made me feel like I was part of their family,” she explained.

LRHC Medical Director Dr. Fabricio Alarcon said one of the Center’s keys to success has been the staff.

“This is a group of individuals who every day must make choices, and they make the right choices when it comes to caring for our patients,” he said.

The new facility has:

* 22 family practice exam rooms instead of 3
* 10 prenatal exam rooms instead of 3
* 7 behavioral health rooms instead of 3, in addition to a child observation area and a group counseling room
* 8 dental chairs instead of 2

LRHC co-founder Gonzalo Martinez, who made a special trip from Chile to attend the ribbon cutting, said that he couldn’t believe the dream he and Dr. Rodriguez had in 1996 — making access to health care easier for individuals falling through the cracks — had come together in such an extraordinary way.

“This is a unique health care organization,” he explained, “a model that can be used in any part of the country, in any country of the world.”