Summit Community Care Clinic to stop seeing new patients until January
November 24, 2009
SUMMIT COUNTY – First-time patients looking for help from the Summit Community Care Clinic will have to wait until January, the clinic announced Monday. According to the clinic’s executive director Sarah Vaine, the demand for care at the clinic – which charges on a sliding scale based on income – has increased about 12 percent in the past three months compared to this time last year. At the same time, the clinic has seen a 9.5 percent loss in operating revenue over the past year as the state has trimmed its budget during the recession.
“It’s a difficult decision to make,” Vaine said. “We hear all these tragic stories from people coming in, and it’s heartbreaking for the staff to say ‘no.’ But we feel the changes we’re making will really help once January 1 comes.”
Vaine said what the clinic needs most is to fill several positions to keep up with demand. She said when it became apparent the clinic couldn’t keep up with existing patients with current staff, the decision to stop seeing new patients had to be made. Even an influx of cash right now wouldn’t help, she said, since they need to time to recruit and train new workers.
The clinic had 855 patient visits in October, which Vaine said was up about 12 percent from the previous October. The surge in treating and vaccinating for flu has contributed to that.
This is the first time the clinic has stopped seeing new patients since its inception in 1993. Patients who have already filled out the paperwork for eligibility and have a “care card” can still be seen, as will those whose care card has expired. The clinic can also continue to accept new dental patients. New care cards will be issued through the end of the day today, but afterwards not until the start of January.
Those looking for primary care can still call the clinic for help finding or paying for care, Vaine said. The clinic may also start a waiting list for January, she said.
Staffing vs. demand
The clinic sees about 5,000 patients per year and is staffed with a mix of paid physicians, nurses, assistants and other staff as well as some volunteer, part-time physicians. Vaine said she hears often from retired physicians who want to help, but if they don’t have current malpractice insurance, she can’t use them. Also, mostly what the clinic needs are family physicians, so a specialist like a cardiologist isn’t a good fit.
Right now, as many as 10 new patients per day visit the clinic. Vaine recommended any prospective patients look to local private doctors’ offices before going to the hospital emergency room – if possible. Some financial aid to help with health care expenses is available through local churches as well as the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (www.summitfirc.com or (970) 262-3888).
For more information, call the clinic at (970) 668-4040 or go online at http://www.summitclinic.org.