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Our fraying safety net

Post by David Seago on March 31, 2008 at 5:05 pm with No Comments »
March 31, 2008 5:05 pm

Chuck Kleeberg has two missions: One is running Pierce County’s planning department; the other is chairing the board of his church’s free neighborhood health clinic.

Our earlier posting about the difficulties facing Community Health Care prompted this note from Kleeberg. Trinity Presbyterian is located near Sixth and Division near Tacoma’s Hilltop community.

There are two volunteer-staffed, free medical clinics that operate in Tacoma. Neighborhood Clinic is affiliated with St. Leo’s and sees about 2,000 patients per year (2 nights a week with 2 docs). Trinity Neighborhood Clinic is affiliated with Trinity Presbyterian and sees about 500 per year (one night a week with 1 doc) .

I have been the board chair of the latter for the last few years. We consider ourselves the carpet under the safety net that Community Health Care (and other low income providers) provides to their 35,000 patients. Trinity also has a free mobile dental clinic affiliated with the church. Carpet, underneath.

We’re feeling the pinch this year. We have turned away patients, especially kids who needed school physicals, so we could treat ill patients. Since the medical staff at our clinics are volunteers, our costs are low. Most of our budget goes to prescriptions. Other costs are for maintenance services, board insurance, and a part-time staffer to make sure we have volunteers. Our funding comes from other churches and grants. We average $30 per patient visit.

Think what that average will be when our sick overflow visit emergency rooms in the city. We will all have to bear those costs eventually.

We like to think that we are different from those who visit these clinics. I am sure that Community Health sees the retired school teachers, the waitresses, the self employed contractors and the fresh-faced kids we see. They are our neighbors. They have made no more poor choices than we have; they just happened to be a little closer to the line than we are.

Taking notice
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