PROUD TO BE IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR
In 2001 I retired after working for 23 years as a Secretary in a very active Emergency Room. At first I enjoyed traveling and just plain relaxing but I soon tired of this. A stint with the Literacy Council, reading to children, did not satisfy my unrest.
Then, in 2005, I heard about a local Dr. and minister who were teaming up to start a Free Care Clinic in our County. I became very interested and signed up just as soon as they put out the call for volunteers. I’ve been with them ever since.
The first thing that surprised me was the actual NEED in our community for a Free Care Clinic. On the surface our area looks to be quite affluent and I had no idea how that masked the underlying poverty. In order for a patient to qualify for free care at the Clinic they have to prove that they are a member of the County, have no medical insurance and are living on an income that is below or just above the poverty level. Of course this cuts out all Medicare and Medicaid patients, as well as children, so the patients range from the 20’s to the mid 60’s.
These are the very people who use Emergency Rooms as their personal doctor’s offices…knowing that they are unable to pay but having no choice. This means that their charges are not written off but are absorbed in the overall hospital expense, and it’s why we, the paying public, get charged such exorbitant prices.
The first three years at the Clinic were spent in one room (approx. 20x20’) at the local Health Dept., with a corridor for a waiting room. It was incredibly short of space and the Drs., the staff and the patients literally tripped over each other.
Now we have this lovely location, complete with 4 exam rooms. At last count we have over 1800 patients who meet the stringent requirements for care. We are funded by contributions and Grants and, although some of the staff is paid, the Doctors with specialties (ENT, Heart, Orthopedic, Dental, etc.) are all volunteers. It is a dream coming true and it warms my heart to be part of it.
I can’t resist showing you “my office”. The regular staff quickly occupied the available offices so I chose the one place left where I could set up and leave my stuff…the “Electricity Room”. !!