This image depicts a healthcare practitioner in the process of conducting a blood pressure examination upon a seated male patient in a clinical setting. (Photo courtesy of Mandie Mills/CDC)

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to integrate the county’s health care system, making it easier for patients to receive the specialized care they need.

The board unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of a plan by the county’s Health Department and Administrative Office and Natividad Medical Center to coordinate patient care services.

Monterey County Director of Health Elsa Jimenez argued that the structure of the county’s current health system places the burden on patients to seek out care through the “complex and sometimes unorganized systems that we’ve created.

“Currently our system is fragmented, services are siloed,” she said. “And when you think about the demographics in our community, which tends to be an aging population, a population that may only speak Spanish or another indigenous language that may not necessarily be able to access our systems, it really puts a huge responsibility on them.”

County and Natividad officials argued other large, multi-county health systems like Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente have already integrated their patient care networks, and that doing so will lead to improved patient and staff satisfaction.

In addition to approving the plan, the board approved the creation of an ad hoc committee that will oversee the unification of the county’s health care system.

As part of the vote, county Supervisors Chris Lopez and Wendy Root Askew were appointed to serve on the committee.

Root Askew noted that, after she broke her arm last year, her doctor gave her a referral for physical therapy. That referral allowed her to schedule her appointment in the same health care office within five minutes.

“Right now, our county clinic patients don’t have that ability to have that kind of integrated care,” she said. “They deserve to have that kind of integrated care, and the responsibility for creating this system lies on us.”

County health and Natividad officials did not give a timeline for when the system will be fully integrated, as it will require multiple steps, including cost analyses and the alignment of medical record archives.