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Community clinic burdened with success

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County’s Community Care Clinic is a victim of its own success.

The problem: too many patients seeking care from an exhausted staff. The larger problem is finding the money to remedy those problems.

The low-cost health clinic often has so many patients staffers have to turn people away before the doors officially open because the numbers of patients seeking service exceeds the ability of staff to help them. The clinic takes place two nights a week for two hours each night at the family planning offices in the County Commons.

“People are waiting in line every night,” said Jill Roy, the clinic administrator. “We often have to close the door before we open the door because we have too many people waiting.”

Staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses from Centura Health and High Country Health Care, the Community Care Clinic is designed to give medical care to the county’s uninsured and low-income residents. For the most part, those patients are service workers who don’t speak English.

“Sixty-five percent are non-English speaking,” Roy said. “Basically, we serve people in the service industry. The typical patient is Hispanic, from two weeks old to 87.”

Patients are charged on a sliding scale, paying from $5 to $30 a visit.

The clinic has grown at a breakneck pace, and Roy said it’s now approaching a critical point.

“When the doors opened (in 1994), we had six patients a night,” Roy told the Summit County commissioners during an update on the program July 8. “Now we’ve got 16 (patients). We’ve grown about 33 percent a year.

“The doctors and nurses have been volunteering, and they’re getting tired. They used to come in and treat six kids a night with an ear infection. Now 45 percent of the patient base is seeking primary care with very complicated situations. That’s a lot for (the doctors and nurses) at the end of a day.”

The clinic is funded by several grants, from the Summit Foundation, area towns and private donors. But to ensure its future, Roy thinks it needs enough money to pay a doctor and a nurse. She plans to seek larger grants this year than in previous years.

“I never know until December what grants I’m going to get, so we do go year by year,” Roy said.

Roy said she hopes the donor community will honor those requests. She points to some serious problems the clinic has helped avert, such as a single case of Hepatitis A that triggered a countywide wave of prevention efforts. The clinic also treats a fair share of sexually transmitted diseases.

“We do see a lot of acute infectious disease in people who could not afford care anywhere else,” said Dr. Karen Wyatt.

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com


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