Monday, September 25, 2023

2 Clinics Assure No Health Insurance, No Problem

By Rick Racela

Many — that number is probably 25,000 now — either went without, or went to Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room, an expensive and inefficient solution for non-emergencies.
With the opening Monday morning of the Cape Community Health Center, there are two non-profit facilities two-tenths of a mile apart on Route 9 here, both saying they serve the “unin-sured and underinsured and underserved.” The other is Volunteers of Medicine, which opened in March 2002.
It would not be surprising if the uninsured didn’t know where to go.
Gil Walter, president and CEO of the Cape Community Health Center, acknowledged to this newspaper Feb. 1, after a presentation to the Human Services Advisory Council, that the poten-tial patients are the same.
But, he said there’s enough need for both clinics.
“There are a lot of people in need,” agreed Marilyn Golden, clinical director of operations at VIM.  “One clinic can’t do everything.”
According to the center, a “collaborative agreement” is “in progress.”
“We are working on ways to align the two of us,” Walter said, “to complement rather than complicate.”
“We believe we can work together,” Golden told this newspaper Feb. 2.
She said there is one difference in type of patients: VIM takes only the uninsured, and does not accept Medicaid patients; the center will.
She said she expected each clinic would refer to the other and “if I have uninsured that need a specialty at the center, I would be looking to see if they can go there.”
Neither is intended for seniors who have Medicare.
To get county support, the center agreed to a number of criteria from Freeholder Gerald Thornton, which included “no duplication of existing services” and “respect for the Volunteers in Medicine mission.”
Aside from the similarities in patients, there are differences between the two health care pro-viders.
VIM is free; the center charges a sliding scale, although saying, “payment not required.”
VIM depends on volunteers, and gets $60,000 from county government.
The center — with the unwieldy moniker, Federally Qualified Health Care Center — is start-ing with a $732,000 grant from the state Department of Health and Senior Services and pays everyone, including doctors.
The clinic hours differ, with VIM limited by the volunteers it has, and a six-week wait for new patients.
Golden listed these hours: Monday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Tuesday, 4 to 7 p.m.; Wednesday, an eye clinic once a month; first and third Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; second and fourth Thursday, 4 to 7 p.m.  It also has pediatrics every Tuesday and second and fourth Thurs-day, she said.
Walter told there HSAC the center would initially be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mon-day, Wednesday and Friday and “expand as appointments build.”
He said he anticipated it would be open full time by April and   “eventually extra hours.”
“We don’t just hang out a shingle and wait for patients to come,” he said. “We are extremely proactive.”
The center’s literature proclaims: “No health insurance? No problem!”
Walter said 60 percent of the center’s staff speaks Spanish.
Walter said Dr. Randall Nuschke has been contracted as a part-time employe and Drs. Richard Michner and Joseph Milio will provide obstetrics and gynecology care.
He said that part-time specialists could be paid if they work on-site, but not if they are referred to.
Transfer of Burdette’s medical and OB clinics and of the dental health center now in Wild-wood to the community health center is pending state approval, he said.
Walter said the center would offer primary care specialties; special programs for disease man-agement of diabetes, asthma, HIV/Aids; behavioral health and a low-cost federal drug program.
The center’s application to the state said there were 24,558 “health underserved” in the county, and focused on Wildwood and Middle Township.
Walter said Wildwood has the highest proportion of underserved in the county, “better than half the people.”  Middle, he said, had 26 percent underserved.
VIM pointed out some time ago that the county’s seasonal, tourism economy is the main rea-son it has so many without health insurance, “workers who do not fit any one general demo-graphic profile,” including “single mothers working minimum wage jobs, newly arrived His-panic immigrants with no resources, grandmothers raising children, seasonal laborers who are between jobs.
“They are our fishermen, our construction workers, and our bartenders. They are our waiters and waitresses. They are our neighbors and our friends,” VIM wrote in a paper entitled “Case for Support.”
VIM is at 423 Route 9, phone 463-2846.
The Community Health Center is at 41 N. Route 9; phone 465-0258.
Contact Zelnik at (609) 886-8600 Ext. 27 or: jzelnik@cmcherald.com

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