With free clinic’s success, focus moves to other health issues

Published 10:56 pm Thursday, October 16, 2008

An idea that sprang to life following a community health forum two and a half years ago has resulted in free health care for more than 700 patients since then.

Now that the Western Tidewater Free Clinic is an established part of the community, members of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community have decided it is time for another forum to find out what are the area’s medical needs that still remain unfulfilled.

“It’s time to reenergize the community to find out what else (needs to be done),” said Caroline Martin, co-chair of the forum.

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The free forum will be held Oct. 28 at the Suffolk Hilton Garden Inn from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Breakfast will be served, and the forum will begin at 8:15 a.m. Tables will be marked with items representing various aspects of health care – safety, access, education, wellness and fitness, and the like – and participants can choose which area they would like to discuss as they seat themselves for breakfast, Martin said.

During thousands of office visits, the Free Clinic has served more than 700 people who have little or no medical insurance.

In 2006, the group sponsored a community health forum to talk about gaps in health care in the city, Martin said. At that gathering, the primary need identified was access to health care for the uninsured and underinsured.

With that need now being met at the Godwin Boulevard clinic, the group will use the Oct. 28 forum to identify its next priorities.

After the meal, the keynote speaker will be Richard Killingsworth, director of strategic planning and operations with Nemours Health and Prevention Services. He will speak briefly about what a healthy community really looks like, said Virginia Savage, president of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community.

After Killingsworth’s talk, participants will break out into individual discussions about their chosen topics. Knowledgeable community members in each area will facilitate the discussion, Savage said.

“They’re going to be able to get engaged,” Martin said.

To register for the forum, call 238-3261. All residents of the city of Suffolk are encouraged to participate.