By Katie Sobiech
October 1st of this year marked a new day in healthcare for the Akron area.
Faithful Servants Mission (FSM), a 501c3, faith-based health care organization, opened their doors to provide free care for the uninsured. The warm, welcoming clinic provides urgent care services for the working poor who do not have health insurance.
“The hope is to combine churches and the medical profession to provide care for people who are uninsured,” Sue Meyer, Medical Director, said.
At the end of their visit, patients don’t owe a penny.
This brings in many of the sick and hurting that have not been cared for while saving them from costly emergency room visits that they cannot afford.
Those qualified for the clinic must be uninsured, plus at or below 200% of the poverty level. FSM cannot see individuals on Medicaid or Medicare due to the Ohio Immunity Law.
“I think that there’s a large underserved population. Typically we’re used to working with Medicare patients that are provided for,” Paul Laconte, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Doctor and volunteer said.
Deb Henderson, RN at the Akron Children’s Hospital for 34 years and also a volunteer, agrees.
“The way that healthcare is heading there are a lot of uninsured people out there. We’ve had people come in that can’t afford to get their prescriptions refilled so this clinic has opened up a place for people like that to go,” Henderson said.
This fills a great gap in traditional health care.
“If you’re really, really poor you get public assistance to give you care. If you have a good job, you get insurance. This is the population that falls through the cracks that just doesn’t have the resources,” Meyer explained.
“A lot of them are looking for work or are in jobs and just don’t have insurance because they’re jobs can’t afford to pay it. So it’s the working poor – the working population. Their uninsured because their companies can’t afford insurance,” Meyer continued.
The goal of FSM is to keep patients out of the ER – which can rack up very heavy costs.
The clinic provides the opportunity for patients to take care of smaller issues before they lead to bigger ones that require more expensive care.
“The goal is that if we take care of the people with urgent matters it prevents them from getting into worse straits,” Meyer said.
“It’s very expensive and most of these people have no money,” she continued.
“We had one patient show up with heart failure, one with pneumonia and another with thyroid problems. People tend to wait until the very last minute when they come to this clinic but we can connect them with services they need,” Laconte said.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to intervene in the future in those kinds of cases so that the patients won’t end up unable to work (because they waited too long to get care),” Meyer said.
Working with Hospitals and Churches
Nearly 16 area churches are now on board with this mission. And Meyers says “The hospitals have been wonderful in supporting the ideas”.
“If we take you and you have bronchitis and don’t get help, 2 weeks from now you’re gonna be in the hospital with pneumonia. If we take care of you right now we save that whole hospitalization. So it’s a win/win for the patients and the hospitals. It also gives an avenue for the churches to get involved,” Meyer said.
This takes a large burden off area hospitals so that they can focus on other patients.
“All the hospital systems in this area take people that are uninsured and can’t pay and take care of them. It’s charity care from their standpoint. So if we take this chunk of people out of their emergency room that can’t afford to be there, then they have that much more money to devote to those people that really need to be in the emergency room,” Meyer explained.
Local churches are also teaming together to raise money for medications and supplies to be given away at the pharmacy.
“It’s really been a very wonderful thing to watch these groups come together, mesh, serve, have fun and say ‘I wish I could do this all the time’,” Meyer said, “It’s just a different feeling when you’re doing it from a servants heart as opposed to ‘I gotta go to work today’.”
“It gives the church an outlet,” she continued.
Best of the Best Care
“We want (patients) to get the best care they can possibly get in town and I can tell you that looking at the doctors that are serving, they are. Some of the best physicians in the whole area are taking care of them,” Meyer said.
Skilled doctors and nurses volunteer their time to care for each individual.
“The physicians and nurses that are volunteering are the cream of the crop in the community. They’re the best of the best because they have a heart to serve people that are not so fortunate,” Meyer said.
How it runs
The clinic is open from 5:30 to 9:30 every night and completely run by volunteers. Sixty doctors and 80 nurses are on the volunteer list. Eighty volunteers are signed up to run the front desk. The community has shown a huge outpouring of support.
“If they’re really, really sick we’ll send them to the emergency room, but if they’re kind of in between and just need an IV or fluids or something, we can keep them for that period of time,” Meyer said.
They are different than OPEN M, a local charity clinic, in the sense that they don’t do continuity care. These are one-time visits.
“OPEN M will take them on as a patient, just like your doctor would. We decided to go with the urgent care concept, so if you’re really sick, you don’t have a doctor and need someone to take care of what’s going on right now, that’s what we’re here for,” Meyer said.
Though they don’t see patients on a continual basis, they do refer them to clinics that do.
To find out more about this clinic make sure to visit their website:www.faithfulservantscarecenter.org . And don’t miss Part Two of the story .