-- — Thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, efforts to create a Southeast Indiana Health Center are closer to becoming a reality.
On June 19, two community forums were held at the Sherman House to inform the public about why the center is needed, what data has been collected and what is being done to move the project forward.
Connie DeBurger, SIHC board of directors vice president, announced, “We want to partner with you because we want to help improve the health of our communities .... (and) we know healthy families lead to healthy communities.”
President Geralyn Litzinger pointed out, “We had a gut feeling a year ago in April and felt there was a need because the emergency room was being overutilized with people unable to pay for the services .... Data has shown we have a lot of people in Franklin and Ripley counties who are uninsured and are utilizing the ER for primary care.”
It was also discovered that about 5,000 people are living in poverty and are uninsured in the two communities, she revealed.
The clinic will be geared to the Volunteers in Medicine model. Marjorie Hamrell, VIM clinic development director, Vermont, who has worked with the organization for 10 years, reports, “So many people who go through the system don’t have health insurance, and they wait at least one month before they even go to the emergency room .... These folks get sicker, die younger and do not get good health care.
“Folks we care about are really suffering .... With health care reform, many will not be able to afford insurance.
“VIM is a nonprofit, national organization. Our goal is to promote and guide the development of a national network of clinics .... We have 91 clinics across the U.S. and about 20 in the development stages,” she noted.
Persons who qualify (please see box) will receive free medical care at the clinic. Hamrell emphasized, “We try to use as many retirees (physicians) as possible for volunteers, as well as practicing providers.”
Having this center in a community is a win-win situation, she added. “It saves lives; reduces insurance; keeps the family intact; reduces ER visits; mobilizes retired physicians, other health care workers and volunteers; enables practicing physicians to practice pure medicine; and creates a strong, vibrant, more productive workplace/community.
“It’s a wonderful way for a community to say, ‘We can take care of folks.’”
Litzinger stressed, “This is not a hospital initiative .... (but) the clinic will be set up just like any other quality primary care clinic.” However, some services, like immunizations, will not be available because organizers don’t want to duplicate services already in place.
Dental care will not be offered the first year, but “it is a goal we would like to strive for.”
She emphasized, “We still have a lot of work to do. We don’t have a building or a solid revenue stream, but we know what we have to look at.” The group hopes to have a building in the Batesville area because of its central location for the two counties.
Looking at a three-year plan, “we expect to see about 1,500 patients by the end of the third year. We will initially be open 20 hours per week Monday through Friday.
“It will be staffed by volunteers. Steve (Glaser) has been rallying the troops, and we have interested providers. We do recognize we probably need a paid provider, like a nurse practitioner about 10 hours a week ... (and) our goal is to have a clinic manager to oversee the operations,” the president reported.
The cost for the clinic is estimated to be $228,000 for year one and up to $285,000 by year three. “We don’t have any cash cow, but have a lot of local and regional grants we’re looking at .... We are also going to need in-kind donations.
“This is a community initiative, so we’re looking to the community for help .... We need providers, nursing staff, clerical staff, people to greet patients as they come in.”
For more information on how to help, persons can contact any board member or litzinger at 933-5145 or geralyn. firstname.lastname@example.org.