The cost of treating COVID-19 patients has been a financial challenge for hospitals and smaller community based providers like the Saban Community Clinic which operates four community health centers in Los Angeles.
“We have over $200,000 a month in extra medical expenses due to COVID for our doctors and nurses who are fighting everyday on the front line,” said board member Ellen Hoberman, who is hoping to raise more than $1 million Sunday night (June 14) for the clinic which has supported low income residents and the homeless population since 1967 when it opened as the Los Angeles Free Clinic. With their longtime home at the Beverly Hilton unavailable because of COVID-19, the gala will take place virtually via Zoom and include a special performance by legendary singer-songwriter Jackson Browne.
The virtual gala is a joint production with Quarantunes, an invite-only virtual live series created by board president and WME agent and partner Richard Weitz and his daughter Demi. Since the California stay-at-home order has been in place, Quarantunes has raised more than $3 million for charity and hosted hundreds of performances including Sting, Barry Manilow, Kenny Loggins, The Killers, Gloria Gaynor and Elvis Costello.
“Demi is going to be on with me and we’re going to get the momentum going and build on what’ve we’ve already raised to hit our goal of $1 million” for the clinic, said Weitz, who first raised money for the Saban Community Clinic when Quarantunes launched in March.
Usually held in November, the gala moved to June to raise money to fight the spread of COVID, which is taking a toll on the area’s growing homeless population.
LA’s annual homeless count, released earlier today (June 12) by LA Homeless Services Authority, shows a double digit increase in three out of the last four years. Up 12.7% from 2019, 41,209 people now live on the streets, in shelters and in vehicles with the city of LA and additional 25,000 experience homelessness in LA County.
Hoberman added that fundraising is needed now more than ever as the clinic’s front line fight as the cost against the respiratory illness continues to increase.
“We’re still doing all of our pharmacy deliveries —our patients are either really high risk or they have no transportation, but they still need to get their meds which we provide for free,” Hoberman says. The clinics have had to invest in new partitions and personal protective equipment and develop new guidelines for medical staff.
“The numbers are still going up and while we’re reopening businesses and thinking about safety, we have to remember that the homeless population are the forgotten people,” Hoberman said.
“They’re scared, like everybody else and the contact with the medical staff from the clinic is really important for them to know how to stay safe,” she added.
Since launching in 1967, the clinic has enjoyed generous support from the television industry and Hoberman tells Billboard despite the difficult financial times, support has remained strong.
“I’ve been so touched because I know how tough is it for the entertainment business,” said Hoberman, who noted that Amazon, Apple, Warner Media, Spotify, Viacom, CBS, Showtime, Paramount and others have all made significant donations to the clinic.
“Nearly every studio and network have stepped up to support the great work of the clinic and what it means to the entertainment business,” Weitz said.