Serious Medicine

What do you think of when you think of “safety-net clinic”? Maybe a dingy church basement, with a few sparsely furnished exam cubicles partitioned with rolling curtain dividers. No privacy. Harried, overworked doctors and nurses. Minimal and outdated equipment. Sad patients taking a number, waiting hours to be served. That’s still better than nothing when a person is uninsured, right?

I’ll admit to having that vision in my head when I first heard about the Mercy Health Clinic. I knew a bit about the Clinic’s work from having attended a couple of fundraisers, but until I joined the Board I hadn’t seen the place in person and in action. When I took my first tour of the clinic, I was delighted to find something much different than what I had envisioned.

The cheery and bright waiting room is staffed by welcoming staff and volunteers. While eligibility interviews are done on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis two days a week, medical services are provided on an appointment basis – just like any other doctor’s office. Patients are escorted to one of several private exam rooms – just like any other doctor’s office. The rooms are sparkling clean and equipped with modern, up-to-date medical equipment and supplies. Doctors and nurses, whether paid or volunteer, are credentialed with current licenses and certifications, and cover a wide array of medical specialties. Interpreters help bridge language divides.

What about the patients? Here’s a great example of what Mercy can mean to a patient. Julio came to Mercy Health Clinic over the summer after being discharged from a local hospital. He had sought emergency care after feeling ill for several days with significant lower extremity pain, and was admitted to the hospital. He was informed that he had diabetes — news to him — and a severe leg infection involving the bone (osteomyelitis), which might require amputation. Julio had delayed seeking help because he was uninsured with no financial resources and didn’t know where to turn.

The physicians caring for him in the hospital recommended an eight-week course of intravenous antibiotics and provided him with a two-week course prior to discharge. At that point, Julio was still in need of six weeks of the IV antibiotic therapy and was referred to Mercy Health Clinic. This therapy entailed an IV catheter placed into his heart, as well as medication that would have exceeded $4,000 in total cost, home nursing care and weekly primary care visits. Mercy Health Clinic collaborated with partner organizations and homecare nursing agencies to secure the necessary resources to successfully complete his therapy course. Upon completion of his treatment, Julio’s vascular surgeon noted that the intervention saved his leg from having to be amputated. Because of the care he received through Mercy, Julio is a productive and happy individual, working full-time without pain or disability.

Make no mistake – this is serious medicine, not “better than nothing” medicine. Not all Mercy patients require this kind of dramatic intervention, but when they do, it’s there for them. Mercy Health Clinic never turns a patient away. Go to www.mercyhealthclinic.org to learn more or schedule a tour to see what we mean by “quality health care from the heart”.

— Pam Saussy, Board Member

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