Flu season and the tough economy are increasing demand at Parkland Hospital's primary-care centers.
Parkland's 11 community-oriented primary care centers throughout Dallas County have seen 20,000 more patients in the fiscal year that just ended compared to the previous year.
The hospital attributes the rise in part to flu season -- as well as the increasing number of people who lose their insurance after losing their job.
"Anecdotally, we think the unemployment rates have increased the volume that come to our sites, but that's difficult to ascertain given the very private confidential nature. It's not easy to talk about," said Jessica Hernandez, vice-president of Parkland's health centers.
Janelle Irwin's doctor referred her to the Parkland Health System after she lost her job -- and her insurance -- last month.
Within a few weeks of completing the paperwork, she had an appointment at the Garland Health System and found another doctor.
"It's affordable," Irwin said. "My prescriptions are cheap, and they take care of everything for me."
Hernandez said health care can take a backseat to paying rent or buying food when someone becomes unemployed. But then treatable illnesses then turn more costly, taxing families and the system.
"The more preventative work we can do on the forefront, the better off families will be," she said.
Social workers at Parkland's health centers can also refer people needing work or food to other agencies.