Palestine: Clinic for indigent preps for limited care

Published on Thursday, 26 December 2013 23:33 - Written by By Betty Waters

PALESTINE — Most people who come to the WHC Clinic of Anderson County are what Executive Director Shirley Shaddock describes as “patients that fall through the cracks.”

The clinic treats indigent, uninsured or low-income residents who may work or receive Social Security income, but don’t have the money to buy medicine or pay the usual fee for a doctor’s visit, yet make too much money to qualify for benefits, she said.

Patients are not required to be an Anderson County resident to come to the clinic.

The clinic was revamped in June in its new location at 205 E. Brazos St. in Palestine and completely changed its operating procedures, enabling the restructured medical facility to serve more patients.

It offers general medical care, physical exams, a medication program, free HIV testing, sexually transmitted disease testing and lab screening. Its service excludes pain management and mental health. “Other than that, we are open to anyone that needs treatment,” Ms. Shaddock said.

But the clinic is also preparing to begin offering limited dental care in January, concentrating in the beginning on extractions and dental hygiene.

It is a stand-alone, community-based 501(c)3 non-profit medical and dental clinic.

The staff is all-volunteer, including a gynecologist who handles obgyn cases and sexually transmitted disease tests and also does men and women physicals on Mondays. Another physician comes once a month, while a registered nurse sees patients for blood pressure and hypertension two days a month.

The clinic is looking for more volunteer nurse practitioners, physician assistants, doctors and dentists. Equipment needs include a defibrillator, an ambu bag, an coaxial ophthalmoscope and pulse oximetry.

“We give a lot of free service, but we do a sliding scale fee. They (patients) have to qualify for the sliding fee, or they can choose to pay the office visit fee of $30,” Ms. Shaddock said.

A nurse first screens patients.

“Then we search to try to find where we can best place them for their medical needs,” she said.

The clinic participates in the Texas Women’s Health Program for women ages 18 to 44, which provides pap smears and obgyn exams at no cost.

Before the clinic was revamped, it was seeing about 100 patients a month and was open only a half-day on Monday and a half-day on Saturday.

With its new operating procedures, patients have shorter waiting time and the clinic now sees more than 100 patients per week, who come on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Patients can come in other times to pick up medicine, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The clinic’s medications program helps patients get medications at a reduced cost through different pharmaceutical companies even if the patient has a primary care provider somewhere else if the provider is willing to do the paperwork.

“We probably distribute medications to 200 patients in a month’s time,” Ms. Shaddock said.

The clinic has two exam rooms, a physician’s office, waiting room, reception area, nurse’s station, procedure room and restrooms. Master Gardeners of Palestine landscaped the entrance.

“We get a lot of support from businesses,” Ms. Shaddock said, citing as examples donations of plumbing supplies, paint, flooring and building supplies. The clinic still spent about $8,000 remodeling the building.

Community volunteers, many from churches, helped clean and paint the building. Evangelistic Temple donates monthly and Cedar Creek Missionary Baptist Church had helped pay for patient lab tests and medication.

Although staffed by volunteers, the clinic has on-going monthly expenses for the lab, general office supplies, electricity and the phone bill, which total about $2,000 to $2,200.

Last year, the clinic was allocated about $19,000 from the United Way and $5,000 from Anderson County.

“What we get from United Way and the county carries us eight months out of the year,” Ms. Shaddock said.

Georgia Butler started the clinic in Lindale in 2002. In 2007 a nurse practitioner involved in the project, Rita Kucmierz, moved the clinic to Palestine when Dr. Gary Parkhurst, who had been running a free Palestine clinic only on Thursdays, gave up his practice.

It was earlier known at the Women’s Health Connections Clinic, but was renamed the WHC Clinic in order to serve both men and women.

The clinic relocated a number of times before setting up in a building at 205 E. Brazos St. last June donated by Anderson County. Ms. Shaddock hopes to obtain grants to fund construction of a larger building by 2016.