Preserving privacy

Clinic works to make sure conversations stay confidential

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Most patients don't want their health issues overheard by others.

Less than two months ago, the Solano County Primary Care Clinic opened a portable annex between the primary care and dental clinic on Courage Drive where services, such as pediatrics, women's care and HIV testing, were shifted from the main building to the new five-room facility.

The reason for this makeshift building was to create better access for Solano County patients, said Freddie Smith, Solano County health services administrator for the primary care clinic and dental clinic.

As a result, a lack of privacy became an issue for some patients, especially those who visit the HIV clinic on Tuesday. They can hear conversations in the next room through the thin walls, they said.

"They moved us from the building to a portable where you can hear everything everyone is saying in the portable. It's just bad for us," said one woman, who is HIV positive.

Responding to these concerns, the Solano County Health and Social Services implemented soft music in the waiting area and within two weeks, Smith said, will hopefully install speakers inside each of the five 10-by-10 rooms to drown out conversations and employ confidentiality.

"When we first ordered the trailers, we assumed it would provide the privacy necessary based on HIPPA regulations. We never thought there would be any problems with hearing others' conversations," Smith said.

The annex was built in response to an overflow of patients, after Blue Cross took over the state contract of the County Medical Services Program in October 2005, Smith added. Consequently, the county was inundated with patients who were referred to the clinic as a source of medical care.

"We were able to immediately work on a trailer and finally get approval from the Board of Supervisors," Smith said. "It was a solution we had to come to to make sure there was access to a provider."

The Primary Care Clinic also increased its medical staff to accommodate the influx of patients and meet their demands, Smith added.

According to Dr. Mark Maus, who runs the HIV clinic on Tuesday in Fairfield, a new building will be added to the site possibly by 2008.

Meanwhile, the county will continue to find ways of smoothing out the kinks if they occur at the new facility.

"We're doing all we can. We take it seriously whenever something is brought to our attention," Smith added. "Our patient's confidentiality is our top priority and will always be."