LAURINBURG – Scotland Community Health Clinic sees about 4.8 percent of the county’s uninsured residents. That leaves clinic Director Andrew Kurtzman to wonder what becomes of others without insurance.
“[The number of] persons without health insurance under 65 years is 14.7 percent by July 2017 estimate. This would amount to 5,181 uninsured people in Scotland County,” Kurtzman said. “I know there are a lot of uninsured out there that would benefit from [our services]. We only see 250 of them so where are all the other ones going. Some may go to the emergency room on an episodic basis. Others just may not go.”
Sporadic care does nothing to help people manage chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, COPD and asthma or even colds and flu, according to Kutzman.
The clinic’s goal is to keep its patients out of the hospital and emergency room by giving them consistent care rather that intermittent care that only treats a condition once it has become an emergency.
“We want more people to know about us, to apply for care here so maybe we can regulate their conditions,” the director said. “Some of them may not have any problems. You don’t always have to have a problem, but people should have a regular doctor they can turn to.”
The health center often gets referrals from Social Services, the Health Department, Church Community Services and other entities who encounter indigent people with healthcare needs, but those referrals still don’t address the rest of those in the county without insurance.
The office has been in operation since July of 2007.
“It was established as a free clinic for the uninsured citizens of Scotland County who couldn’t afford their medical care,” Kurtzman said. “It was funded by community, corporate donations and grants.”
The 250 regular patients have had a total of 835 visits in the last year at no cost, according to Kurtzman.
The clinic is a 501 3c nonprofit that relies on grants and donations to provide care. It does not receive funding from the county, city or state from tax dollars.
“We try to get grants to cover most of the cost for a part time nurse practitioner and support staff, but we will take any donations from individuals, churches, corporations,” Kurtzman said.
The clinic was originally set up to be staffed by local health care providers on a volunteer system, but that format changed out of necessity.
“Over time we couldn’t be consistent with our provider care on a volunteer basis so we sought grants to augment that, now we rely more on grants than community donations,” Kurtzman said. “For the most part it works out. If we didn’t have the grants, we would be having a real rough time.”
The grants allow the office to have Linda Arrington, a part-time family nurse practitioner and Cynthia Ingram, a certified medical assistant who provide clinical care for patients. Dr. Jennifer Eisenhower and Sherry Leviner a family nurse practitioner volunteer their services three to six hours a month. Phlebotomist, Mamie Everett, has been volunteering her skills since 2007. Eight support staff are responsible for scheduling and records. Dr. Johnathan Rowson is the clinic’s medical director, and Scotland Memorial Hospital supports the clinic by providing labs and imaging.
“That’s a great thing for us and much appreciated,” Kurtzman said of the hospital’s contribution.
A prescriptions advocate and an assistant help patients in need find free or low-cost medication to manage their conditions. That assistance helps needy patients find up to $2 million a year in medications they might not otherwise be able to afford.
There is not a walk-in service. Patients are usually seen for a first visit within three weeks from the time of registration unless there is a pressing need.
There are issues which the clinic cannot treat, but in those cases the staff do their best to find a provider who can care for issues like vision problems, dental issues, or addiction.
“For the things that we can’t do we try to steer them in the right direction to best meet their needs knowing that they may not have any money,” Kurtzman said.
The clinic has set aside grant funds to assist patients who have a dental emergency and will offer a voucher for a local dentist.
It also helps patients with diabetes preserve their sight by working with Prevent Blindness, North Carolina to offer retinal image screenings. They work with Ida McGill, vision specialist at Social Services for other issues.
For terminal illnesses or more intensive issues like Parkinson’s disease the staff tries to find other benevolence organizations to meet the need.
“What we usually do is we make a referral to University of North Carolina Hospital, Chapel Hill mainly because they have a very good charitable assistance program,” Kurtzman said. “We try to get them charitable assistance if possible.”
To qualify for clinic services patients need to be uninsured, an adult resident of Scotland County between 18 and 64 years old with a household income at or less than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
“If a person lives alone, on a monthly basis their income cannot exceed $2,010; for a household of two, it would be $2,707,” Kurtzman said. “The problem is looking at household income – family, that’s pretty cut and dried or if they’re a dependent of someone, but when you have unrelated people all sharing a household together how do you determine household income for them? I try to do what’s best for the patient. I try to look at the big picture.”
To apply, go to the clinic and fill out an application which will be screened and an appointment will be scheduled for those who qualify.
Scotland Community Health Clinic is located at 1405 West Boulevard. For information, call 910-276-9912.
The Scotland Community Health Clinic was founded by Doris Douglas.
“She felt that there was a need for care for the uninsured in Scotland County, and she had a vision to create a clinic,” Kurtzman said. “She got the board together; she got the people together.”
The building which had previously served as a medical clinic in Maxton was provided for a small cost by Scotland Memorial. It has seen two additions over the years to create more office space and free up room to see clients.
For those who earn a little too much to be eligible for Scotland Community Health Clinic, there is another alternative, according to Kurtzman.
Robeson Health Care Corporation also has a clinic Scotland County Community Health Center on Lauchwood Drive that sees uninsured patients on a sliding scale fee based on income.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169