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Severe storm causes $500,000 in damages to low-income clinic in South LA

LADWP races to restore power to North Hollywood senior center
LADWP races to restore power to North Hollywood senior center 02:32

A brand new medical clinic serving under and uninsured families in South Los Angeles is now in disrepair after heavy rainfall tore through their 50-year-old building.

"The weight of the water made the roof collapse and as it went down, it hit the sprinkler system, the main pipe," said Dr. Edgar Chavez, CEO of the Universal Community Health Center. "I'm talking about a 4-inch pipe and so a gush of water came in on top of the rain that was happening."

The Universal Community Health Center continues to provide services despite suffering $500,000 in damages. Dr. Edgar Chavez

The clinic is the culmination of Dr. Edgar Chavez's medical career, bringing state-of-the-art medical, behavioral and preventative services to low-income and immigrant families in South Los Angeles like Karen Alvarez's family. 

"My son had COVID, and right here, the doctor was very good," said Alvarez. "And it's cheaper than other clinics."

Unwilling to close because of the crucial service that the clinic provides, Chavez and his team have reverted to operating at a 30% capacity, despite almost all of their equipment being submerged and half of the rooms unusable. In total, the building suffered $500,000 in damages. Chavez spent $3 million to open the health center last November. 

"Because we're a vital clinic of the community, we don't want to shut down," said Chavez. "We're trying to bring supplies from other clinics, trying to spread out some of the staff that we have because we can't really support all of them so that we can continue providing services."

Chavez said one silver lining to the whole ordeal is that the dental equipment actually arrived late, missing the storm. In total, the blessing in disguise saved his $300,000 worth of equipment.

With the long list of insurance claims he has to file and with another storm system rolling in, Chavez said his hands are full but said he'll never give up on his clinic and patients like Alvarez. 

"Continuing to prove the services is super important because these patients don't have anywhere else to go," said Chavez.

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