Dr. Raul Ruiz continues to lead his campaign to combat poor access to healthcare in rural communities by organizing another community forum in southern California to discuss the issue. The brainchild of Dr. Raul Ruiz, an emergency room physician at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative has held more than half a dozen community meetings this year following a Desert Sun report that highlighted east valley health care disparities. The Palm Springs community has areas of great wealth, yet at least 20% of the residents in the area lack health insurance at all. In the surrounding small towns of Mecca, Oasis and Thermal, there is roughly one doctor for every 3,000 people; by striking comparison, Palm Springs has one doctor per 193 people.
Health care officials and advocates blame poverty, rising health care costs, lack of insurance and doctors, the U.S. dependence on cheap labor and the constant influx of immigrants for the crisis in Southern California. To give an idea of the poverty in the area, annually, the Flying Doctors - a nonprofit group that delivers healthcare to third world countries - makes its only American stop in the Coachella Valley of California to help address this region's growing need.
Ruiz has been an outspoken advocate for the underserved healthcare in Coachella Valley, throughout the United States and Mexico and as afar as Haiti where he was involved with significant aid relief after the earthquake. As much as he travels abroad to provide care, he has never forgotten the neighborhoods and streets in his own area. "If we can create an integrated system to get our patients out of the cracks and into the system then that would be a major success of the health care initiative," Ruiz said.