Free Oregon City Clinic Hopes to Meet Needs
February 10, 2012 -- Volunteers in Medicine has started a new Clackamas County nonprofit that will launch, in Oregon City, the organization’s first free clinic for the region’s low-income uninsured adults.
“The need to provide primary and preventive care to uninsured Clackamas County residents is urgent,” said Jan Hochstatter, founding board member and chairwoman. “Up to this point, there has been no free health clinic to serve uninsured residents of Clackamas County.”
In Clackamas County, an estimated 44,128 adults younger than 65 lack health insurance. In 2011, one of Oregon City’s largest employers – the Blue Heron Paper Mill – shut down, leaving 175 people and their families without jobs or health insurance, which Hochstatter says could exacerbate “an already huge problem.”
The group is dedicated to “providing quality health care within a culture of caring and respect,” and the Founders Clinic, opening this week at 700 Molalla Ave., will offer primary medical care for eligible county residents.
Medical care for routine, non-emergency and chronic medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma and heart disease will be provided.
According to Diane Wustrack, board member and chairwoman of the clinic’s fund development committee, “This ‘culture of caring’ means involving all members of the community: large and small employers, health care systems, volunteer physicians and nurses, and local citizens, all of whom pledge their support for the clinic.”
The clinic will be open on Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. for its first month, but it is hoped that medical providers will step up to allow for longer hours.
“Volunteers are supposed to have as much fun out of this as the patients benefit,” said Medical Director Mike Norris.
Norris added the clinic is volunteer-based, so he’s going to be relying on a volunteer staff of retired and active physicians supplemented by lab personnel, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, front-office workers and physician assistants.
“Volunteering at the Founders Clinic provides a rewarding opportunity to treat patients without the constraints of time and paperwork that often occurs in practicing medicine today,” Norris said.
Norris, along with a rotation of 30 other practitioners scheduling a shift a month, already have access to donated lab and X-ray equipment. They will provide comprehensive services to Founders Clinic patients, but services that cannot be provided at the clinic will be referred to a network of physicians within the region.
Doctor donates clinic’s worth of equipment
It all started in 2009, when a group of concerned people in Oregon City that included several physicians, formed a committee to look at establishing a free clinic to serve unmet health needs.
The Willamette Falls Hospital Foundation (now part of the Providence Health System) began the funding drive for a free clinic through their annual “Gala at the Falls” in 2009 and 2010, each raising more than $140,000.
The foundation wanted this project to honor the original eight doctors who founded Willamette Falls Community Hospital in 1961, so the Oregon City facility is named the Founders Clinic in their honor.
Also in 2010, the Clackamas Health Access Initiative joined forces with local health care systems to improve health care access in the county, signing an agreement with Volunteers in Medicine, a national organization dedicated to helping communities start free clinics.
The Volunteers in Medicine model began in Hilton Head, S.C., in 1994, and has more than 85 clinics across the country. This is the first one in the Portland area.
Executive Director Kristi Hoch also credited Oregon City doctor Bill Rasor with donating equipment, furniture and supplies for 95 percent of the Founders Clinic, including several exam-room tables valued between $2,000 and $10,000 each, when he closed his private practice. The new clinic has room for a dental facility (not installed yet in an unfinished storage area) and 10 exam rooms.
- Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine serves Clackamas County residents who do not have health insurance and whose income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
- All patients will be seen by appointment. All prospective patients will be asked to participate in an eligibility screening process.
- The clinic is at 700 Molalla Ave. in Oregon City. Contact (503) 722-4400.