WTFC joins free clinic association

Published 9:53 pm Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Virginia Association of Free Clinics (VAFC) announced this week that the Western Tidewater Free Clinic has been approved for membership in the association.

In order to qualify for membership, the clinic had to fulfill a variety of specific qualifications measuring the clinic’s abilities on service and administrative levels.

“We have reached the standard of care that is required to be a member,” said Virginia Savage, president of the clinic. “They have very, very stringent criteria that you have to meet, not only in the patient care you give, but in terms of board governance policies, procedure, things just across the gamut.”

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To be given membership into the association, Savage said, is a validation to anyone who has helped make the clinic possible.

In fact, Savage said that becoming a member of the VAFC was a goal for the clinic even before it opened, and members of the association were “extraordinary” in helping get the clinic up to the necessary standards.

“There is no competition in the free clinic world,” Savage said. “Every free clinic wants another free clinic to prosper.”

“We are pleased to welcome the Western Tidewater Free Clinic to the VAFC network of free clinics. This organization provides dedicated and exemplary service to patients in South Hampton Roads,” said Lou Markwith, VAFC Executive Director, in a press release. “It has been a pleasure to work with dedicated volunteers and staff and watch their vision develop. Their service model focuses on patient service delivery and rigorous follow-up with every patient. The site evaluation team was impressed by the success of this volunteer/staff program and positive spirit that exists throughout the clinic.”

Along with being a tremendous achievement for the clinic, Savage added that being members of the VAFC will open the clinic up to more funding opportunities because the association disperses the money given by the Virginia Department of Health in support of free clinics.

“It’s not a huge sum of money,” Savage said. “The donations from individuals are what keep us going: individual people, individual businesses, individual churches. That’s how we are able to continue to provide care for our patients. But whenever there is a donation made to our clinic or there is more money made available for us, it’s a really big thing.”

According to statistics provided by the VAFC, more than 76,500 patients used free clinics across the state of Virginia in 2008. Free clinics also provided about $5.50 worth of medical services for every $1 expended.

Continuing in its mission to provide the best care possible, the Western Tidewater Free Clinic is currently in the midst of a search for a new executive director to replace former director, April Knight.

“We had a wonderful executive director for quite some time, and now our search to replace her is continuing” Savage said. Currently, M. Caroline Martin is serving as the interim executive director, but Savage said finding a permanent replacement is a top priority for the clinic.

“It is a very, very demanding job,” Savage said. “It’s not 40 hours a week, and there are many skill sets you would have to be in place. But we are dedicated to finding the best fit for all the clinic’s and the community’s needs.”