Doctors and staff at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights aim to decrease the amount of amputations that diabetic patients face. The Los Angeles Times reports low-income people often face amputations more than others, citing a study that found the rate of amputations in East Los Angeles was eight times higher than in some of California’s richest neighborhoods.
People who are diabetic can lose sensation in their feet over time and a wound in those extremities may not recover, eventually becoming infected. Diabetes also impacts a person’s immune system which hinders the patient’s ability to fight off that infection. The Times writes that there are more than 7,000 leg or foot amputations each year among diabetics in California.
Accommodations and methods at White Memorial’s Center for Limb Preservation and Advanced Wound Care provides treatment that are typically not available to poorer people, the Times reports. This includes having a lower check-in counter so people in wheelchairs can sign themselves in and using medical maggots to clear a wound that has a combination of living and dead flesh instead of amputating. White Memorial has also been able to buy a machine that more accurately identifies a patient’s wounded area allowing doctors to only remove a small portion of the foot instead of amputating it entirely. The clinic also helps patients live with the disease providing them education and setting them up with a nutritionist and endocrinologist.
Seventy-five percent of patients who lose a leg due to diabetes die within five years of the operation.
The Times writes amputation preventative methods like the kind that White Memorial offers have come about due to the Affordable Care Act. More hospitals are now paid a lump sum of money to provide care for patients for a year rather than billing their services as needed.
Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have not targeted the way doctors are paid and even if they do, it is still unclear if hospital programs like White Memorial’s Center for Limb Preservation and Advanced Wound Care would cease as preventative programs may be an effective way for hospitals to save money.
Photo above from Twitter user Doug Duffield.