It’s a Monday morning at the Lantana Clinic and Marta Rodriguez is seated at her desk in a tiny second-floor office space facing a large walk-up window. She moves at lightning speed. She reaches from ringing phone to computer to patient files as if she has ten hands. Unfortunately, on the day we met, she can barely speak. Laryngitis robbed her of her voice but not her energy, smile or willingness to provide first-class service to every client who showed up at her window every five minutes.
Marta’s job as Enrollment Representative for the Health Care District’s Eligibility Department is to collect patient applications for District Cares health coverage, along with all of the necessary documents for new members and those who are renewing their eligibility. Clients come with a lot of questions and Marta has knowledgeable answers for all of them…even if she has to whisper.
A Non-Stop Job
Did I mention that her phone doesn’t stop ringing? Besides clients, hospitals are calling Marta about patient application status, sending her documentation and asking questions about the eligibility process. At the same time, her fellow Eligibility colleagues pop in to her workspace to receive new documents and follow up with her on various cases. During my career with the Health Department of Palm Beach County, where I served as the Medical Director of the Lantana Clinic and then as the Medical Director for the District’s C. L. Brumback Primary Care Clinics, I have passed Marta’s window a million times. I assumed her job simply entailed handing out health coverage applications.
A Window of Opportunity
Now, after spending a morning observing her multi-task with efficiency and compassion, I gained a whole new respect for this important staff position in which Marta has served proficiently for the past ten years. What seems like a typical governmental service window is anything but. Marta’s window leads to opportunity for better health care and access to much needed medical and social services. Marta is literally a health whisperer to her clients and serves as a critical liaison to bridge those most in need in our community with the care they require, but could not otherwise afford.
To qualify for District Cares, applicants must be Palm Beach County residents who are not eligible for other state or federal health coverage programs. For many clients, the application process is the first necessary step to see a physician, which is something many have not done in years. As a result, serious health conditions that could have been prevented early on have worsened, advancing unnecessarily without the appropriate treatment and prescription medication.
Marta helps them navigate the application process. She is quick to show District Cares’ members the phone number on their card so they can call and schedule their much-needed first appointment at the Brumback Clinics.
“I love my job”
It’s no wonder Marta remains the calm in a storm of activity. Marta grew up in Puerto Rico in a household with eight sisters and six brothers. As the middle child of 14 siblings, Marta knew she wanted to help care for others and attended school to be a Licensed Practical Nurse. At age 19, she moved to Florida.
Once here, she met her husband. They had a son and a daughter and now have three granddaughters. Marta was working both as a fitness trainer and at a local high school cafeteria handling the accounting and inventory when she first heard about the Health Care District. She says a gym member told her it was
a great place to work and recommended she apply for a position.
Marta applied for a job in the Mail Room and was hired. When an opening surfaced in the Eligibility Department, Marta transferred and has been there ever since. “I love my job,” she said. “I enjoy it because I like people. I like going to sleep at night knowing that I’ve helped people.”
You can tell that Marta and her colleagues with the Eligibility Team at the Lantana Clinic like helping people. They are in sync with each other and the needs of their clients. Their initial goal is to provide clients with clear instructions and quality customer service to address the members’ questions and individual situations related to their unique application process. The staff then coordinates the processing of these applications as quickly as possible so the members receive the health coverage they need in a timely fashion.
Marta says recently, on two separate occasions, an applicant came to her window in tears. The first time, the client was so distraught, Marta couldn’t understand what she was saying. Marta invited her to have a seat so they could talk. The client broke down and shared her concerns about her health and mounting medical bills.
Marta asked her colleague Gina Dieujuste, Enrollment Analyst, to assist. Gina patiently reviewed with the client the documents she needed to complete her District Cares application and the application was soon approved.
When the client returned to Marta’s window for the second time, she started to shake and was barely able to stand. Marta called for help. Marta’s colleague Mary Diaz, Enrollment Analyst, responded and a nurse from the Brumback Clinics, which is located in the same building in Lantana, came upstairs to assist and assess the client. The nurse called 911 and an ambulance rushed the client to the hospital.
Marta says several days later, the client returned calm, happy and grateful. She wanted to thank Marta in person for recognizing that she needed emergency care. “l felt blessed that she came back to say thank you,” Marta said.
Closing Gaps, Expanding Access
The daily efforts of Marta and the team of Eligibility professionals go above and beyond processing paperwork. Their efforts are the essence of what our mission means to the community. Every day they help to close gaps in care and expand access to health services in Palm Beach County.
From left to right: Lizet Fernandez, Enrollment Analyst; Mary Diaz, Enrollment Analyst; Gina Diejuste, Enrollment Analyst, Lynval Spence, Enrollment Analyst; Marta Rodriguez, Enrollment Representative; Belma Andric, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Ofcer; Gary Chiappa, Eligibility Coordinator and Marjorie Masse, Enrollment Analyst. Not pictured: Valerie Aliotta, Enrollment Analyst; and Ronni Lapides, Director of Eligibility.