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Free Clinic Patients Run Gamut From Chronic Diseases To Sniffles

Abuse Is Not A Problem


Patients seen by the Fulton County Free Clinic run the gamut.

They range from persons with chronic diseases whose health won’t let them work again, to young people who need a physical to start a job.

One thing those at the clinic have not seen is abuse of it.

“It’s just not an issue,” said Randall Bowman, Archbold physician, and the chairman and president of the clinic.

Nor has the clinic had problems finding medical staff willing to work the one night each week the clinic is open. Bowman said there is a long list of nurses who are willing to volunteer.

“I can’t say it’s been a problem,” he said.

The clinic opened its doors in August 2007. It serves persons who don’t have health insurance through their employer and can’t afford to purchase coverage on their own.

Numbers

The free clinic sees patients between the ages of 18 and 64. There are programs for youngsters, and once a person reaches 65, they are eligible for the federal Medicare program.

Between Jan. 1 and July 31, the free clinic saw 181 patients.

There were 101 patients between the ages of 35 and 54. There were 55 patients in the 45-54 age group, making it the largest single group.

By far, the largest group to use the clinic is women, which made up 129, or about 71%, of the patients.

The largest ethnic group to use the clinic was Caucasians. Out of the 181 patients, 148, or about 82%, were Caucasian. Another 30 patients were Hispanic.

The majority of clinic patients, 64, are from Wauseon, but a significant number come from other communities.

There were 38 from Delta, 18 from Archbold, 16 from Fayette, 14 from Lyons, 13 from Swanton, 11 from Pettisville, and five from Metamora.

Bowman said the clinic has “a modest budget in light of the services we are able to provide.”

The budget “hasn’t required a lot of concern or worry. It’s very manageable.”

Recently, a fund-raiser at an Archbold restaurant brought in about $1,200.

What They See

Denise Nofziger, clinic coordinator, said the clinic sees about six to eight patients a night.

“We see a lot of diabetics,” she said. “Newly diagnosed diabetics and diabetics who haven’t seen a doctor in eight to 14 years, because they couldn’t afford to see one.”

The clinic works with diabetes educators from FCHC and has been able to help diabetics get the medications they need.

Bowman said controlling diabetes is important to avoid eye problems, kidney problems, and vascular troubles.

The clinic also sees a lot of patients with untreated high blood pressure. Controlling hypertension reduces a person’s risk of stroke, heart attack, and eye problems.

“When we first opened, we saw a group of people who were not getting care, and were very at-risk. Now that we’ve been open, we see less of that need,” Bowman said.

For some patients, the need is not so drastic. They may need treatment for a sore throat.

“We see about the same things you would expect to see in a medical practice of this size,” Bowman said.

“The clinic is such a great community effort,” said Cindy Rose, director of nursing for the Fulton County Health Department.

The Fulton County Health Center provides space for the clinic on the ground floor of the health center’s medical offi ce building. The clinic is open on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 pm to 8 pm.

“The space is quiet in the evening,” Bowman said.

The donation of space by FCHC, “has been huge. If we had to pay rent, we would have to do a ton more fund-raising. That’s a major cost-saver,” he said.

The health department also lends a great deal of support.

Rose said all patients call the health department for an appointment.

She determines whether a patient is eligible; in order to be seen, a person’s income must be 150% or less of the federal poverty guideline.

The guideline has not changed since the clinic opened.

In many cases, a person seen by the clinic can be enrolled in other programs. For example, women with certain health issues can be referred to a women’s health program.

The ability to ferret out programs to help patients is a key partnership, Bowman said.

Camaraderie

Bowman said those who work at the clinic feel a sense of camaraderie, a spirit of teamwork.

That’s part of the reason the clinic is looking towards having more than one physician on hand.

Plus, he said, the nurses seem to enjoy the sense of providing a service to people.

Rose said for nurses, it’s an opportunity to work with other nurses from different areas; for example, health department nurses get a chance to work with hospital nurses.

Bowman said those who work there want to make sure everyone who needs the services is aware of its existence. They work with churches and community agencies, and speak at groups and service organizations.

“We don’t have a huge advertising budget,” he said.- David Pugh


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