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Courtesy Franklin County Free Clinic
Members of the staff at Franklin County Free Clinic (from left), Lisa Mackenhimer, receptionist; Alise Culbertson, executive director; Ellen Holland, assistant director; Sarika Patel, PA-C physician assistant, Wanda English, CPhT/medication access; Martha Holloway, LPN; Dr. John Merten, medical director, serve those for whom adequate medical care would otherwise be unavailable.
Friday, September 13, 2013
This is the seventh in a series of stories profiling nonprofits that will benefit from the SML Charity Home Tour, which will be held Oct. 11-13.
The waiting room was crowded, but more welcoming than the typical doctor’s office. A quilt covered one wall and sunlight played on piles of magazines under the large window. Children’s toys spilled out of a large basket. A woman using a cane leans on the arm of a nurse as they passed by. The nurse delivered the patient to her driver and took the time to explain the woman’s situation.
In 1992, Franklin County Free Clinic opened its doors one evening a week for walk-in clients. Housed in a room in an unused school, FCFC has come a long way since its humble beginnings. This 501(c)(3) non-profit now operates four days a week, including one evening.
Services include primary and chronic care; women’s health care; diabetes care and education; and $3 medications. The pharmacy fills about 300 prescriptions each week. Dental extractions also are offered through a partnership with the Franklin County Health Department.
Alise Culbertson, the newly appointed executive director, said she is proud of the fact that FCFC staff “ takes each patient’s situations and works to identify the barriers to good health, such as unreliable transportation or inadequate access to nutritious food. Doctors, nurses and volunteers help patients build a support network of friends, relatives and community resources.”
Nineteen percent of the citizens in Franklin County are uninsured. That’s the highest percentage of any county in Virginia. The number of uninsured patients requesting services has grown substantially: In the past three years, patient visits have nearly tripled to 2,277.
While some of the exam rooms have antiquated cabinets, the equipment and medical care are state-of-the-art. Four patient rooms are kept occupied with the uninsured between the ages of 18 to 64 in need of primary care. The income of patients is less than 200 percent above the federal poverty guidelines, which for a family of four is $47,100. This population is not covered by the safety nets of Medicare and Medicaid.
FCFC currently does not accept government funding or reimbursement. However, upon implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Health Care Reform, that is expected to change. Up to 80 percent of FCFC clients may have access to expanded Medicaid or other insurance.
Unfortunately, even though someone becomes eligible for Medicaid or has private insurance, there may not be a health care provider available to serve them, especially in a large rural community.
Franklin County is a government-designated Medically Underserved Area and a Health Care Professional Shortage Area. In anticipation of the flood of patients into the mainstream health care system as a result of health care reform, FCFC is in the process of applying for Rural Health Clinic status. FCFC has created The Bernard Healthcare Center to service these new arrivals into the conventional health care system.
To compound the transition, FCFC recently received a major donation designated for a new building to house the FCFC and the Bernard Healthcare Center. It is hoped that ground can be broken in the near future so that the center will be operating by early 2014. Still, FCFC had to garner another donation to buy the land the building will sit on and must search out donations to fill the building with furniture, supplies and equipment.
Five area physicians provide clinic coverage, and donated time by retired doctors and nurses, as well as services supplied by Carilion, allow the clinic to provide $7.45 in services for every dollar donated. Operating expenses come from partnerships with United Way, Carilion, Rx Partnership Foundation, local churches, civic clubs and family foundations.
According to Culbertson, “FCFC goes the extra step to manage and catch problems before they get too bad. For instance, the diabetes management program includes routine check-ups, education and yearly medical exams. If someone with a chronic illness misses an appointment, the staff will follow up and track them down.”
For more information, contact FCFC at 489-7500 or visit bernardhealthcare.com.
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