Bridget, our editor, conducted the survey of local community clinics that was the subject of an article earlier this week. In the comments section of that article she shared some of the emotional impressions she had about the different clinics and the plight of Catherine's Care Center. I thought her comments deserved more prominence, so I have posted them here as an article. Please take the time to read the Editor's thoughts on this important matter.
Dear L.A.W. Readers...
I thought it might be helpful to let you all know some additional details about the clinic survey that we did recently to help round out the facts a little better. The quantitative elements of the survey can be identified easily whereas the more personal elements of what I experienced can't be, so I want to elaborate a little further for your benefit.
I was the surveyor.
I did call around town to find out what each clinic had to offer based upon:
1. health issue,
3. home location,
4. my work status,
6. lack of insurance.
My goal was to find out if they took the uninsured, the costs, what they offered and how quickly an appointment could be made. It was an eye opening project in many ways. I also stuck only with clinics that seemed to work with adults (could do children and the elderly too).
I am happy to report that every clinic treated me with complete respect. I was concerned that soon as they heard of my part time work status and lower income with no insurance that I might be treated poorly (I had some issues like this after college and know first hand how cold and distant the medical community can be in some areas if you don't meet their all important "who are you insured by" criteria).
Each clinic representative took time to ask me important questions and lead me into their network of how things are done and why. They all let me know that they could help and how. If they could not, almost all provided references so, I was not left out there alone. I was impressed at the courtesy they extended to me and expect it is the same to other callers and patients.
A few of the clinics (Catherine's Care Center, Sparta Health Center, Ferguson, The Salvation Army Health Clinic and The Westside Health Center) seemed to offer the most information, assistance and caring for the average patient. Many seemed to take my problem personal and do all they could to help. That was impressive and rewarding. I would have felt in good hands had my issue been real.
The most disappointing clinics were Belknap and Burton. These either had no openings at all or none for many weeks or months down the road (rather inconvient to those who have serious issues needing a real doctor or nurse now and yet can't afford the cost an emergency room would charge).
Wege turned out to be an unlikely choice for anyone needing lower income/uninsured care. The writing was on the wall as their voice mail system upon calling in states that they take all major insurance programs. Nice - except for the uninsured. You know right away things might not go well after this...and it didn't. I eventually spoke to one person who was nice but, once they heard my story and no insurance shipped me off to someone else for help. From there, they quoted high charges just to see the doctor, lab costs and future medicine would have to be paid for as well (no price given) and there was no openings until July sometime. So...Wege might certainly provide good care but, only to those who have time on their hands and some bucks in their pocket.
Catherine's stood alone as the only clinic that addressed if I did not have an income or insurance but, still needed help I would not be turned away. They would find a way to help anyway they could. This was heart warming to know that their mission to service everyone and anyone is not just on paper. St. Mary's may have taken the "MERCY" out of their care but, others clearly have not. Good for them.
The largest negative I felt throughout this half day process was how hard it must be for those who are low income and possibly uninsured to just FIND a clinic. I spent hours researching who to call, making contact and interviewing clinics for my options and choices. I had yet to even make the final appointment, find transportation there and get the care I had been seeking. I worry that may people don't even get as far as I did as it takes time to research clinics (via phone books, internet and references) and then the costs to call, drive there and more.
This process cemented in my mind that many of these clinics are needed throughout the region as they service diverse populations of people with different issues (health, age, income, work status, family issues and more). Each clinic is important also from a location stand point. Many patients can't drive long distances to find care -it needs to be local. Some of the clinics were close, others much farther out. I'm sure that makes a difference to those in need who have to walk, bike, take the bus, etc.
It was clear from the time of my call to setting an appointment that most of these clinics are VERY busy as often I would need to wait a few days to be seen (only two could see me within 48 hours max - the rest longer). Waiting times were reasonable considering my issue but, the number of patients being seen appeared to be sizable and eliminating even one would make a big impact in the local community that it services. Any clinic that is targeted for closer does not make sense to this Editor. Clearly...the need remains great and the services still slim. More assistance to these clinics is needed NOT less.
Those staffing and working these clinics deserve praise for all they do to those in need in the community. They appear to do a fine job from what I uncovered and from what I hear.
The solution....hopefully the funding partners and locals will continue to support these clinics as much as they can so, that good health care is available for everyone and not just the forunate among us.
Editor of The L.A.W.