Six fast years at free clinic

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Time flies when you’re having fun — or doing good deeds.

Or, in the case of Western Tidewater Free Clinic, doing both.

The clinic, which this month marks six years of service to the region’s underserved, honored former board members and installed new officers at a Monday night reception.


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The clinic has much to celebrate, having served more than 2,000 patients during 30,000-plus clinical visits since opening its doors in cramped quarters on Godwin Boulevard in 2007.

Now in more spacious digs on Meade Parkway, the clinic continues to serve the health-care needs of the estimated 23,000 residents of Suffolk, Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight who do not qualify for government-funded health care and do not have employer-provided health insurance. A surprising 18 percent of Western Tidewater adults fall in that gap, and the free clinic, with the help of many donors and volunteers, has worked tirelessly to fill it.

The clinic provides primary non-emergency care, case management, dental services, laboratory and diagnostic testing and prescription medications to adults from ages 19 to 64 who live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $46,100 in household income.

Nearly 60 percent of the clinic’s patients live in Suffolk, 22 percent in Isle of Wight County, 13 percent in Franklin and 8 percent in Southampton County. Eighty-one percent are older than 40. Two-thirds are women. Better than a third work full or part time.

Ninety-five percent of the clinic’s services relate to treatment and management of chronic illness such as hypertension, cardiac disease and diabetes. The clinic has dispensed medication with a combined retail value of more than $9 million.

Treatment of these uninsured patients would otherwise fall to private providers, whose charity care often results in higher costs for private-pay patients and higher insurance premiums for those of us on employer plans.

The clinic continues to need donations and volunteer hours.

A terrific role model is Caroline Martin, former board chairman and a former executive director of the clinic who recently passed the gavel to veteran board member Stephie Broadwater.

Martin, a former Suffolk Rotary First Citizen, was commended Monday night with a resolution that marveled, only half-jokingly, at her capacity to pack 28 hours of productivity into a 24-hour day, or nine days into a seven-day week.

Such was Martin’s commitment to the free clinic, which owes much of its early success to her efforts.

Fortunately, one doesn’t have to be a Caroline Martin to make a difference. An annual donation or a few volunteer hours a month will go a long way toward ensuring the clinic’s ongoing success. To explore possibilities, call the free clinic at 923-1060.