Published Friday, November 16, 2012
By ALEX MCRAE
As Coweta Samaritan Clinic enters its second year of service, officials are thanking the local community for its support and hoping the services offered by the clinic will continue to expand in coming years.
“We have received enthusiastic input from local dentists and are working on an exciting collaborative opportunity to assist clinic patients with their dental needs,” said Lou Graner, the clinic’s executive director. “Hopefully a program will be in place by next summer.”
Since the clinic opened in October 2011, volunteer physicians and a nurse practitioner, supported by volunteer nurses, phlebotomists and administrative volunteers have screened 500 Coweta County citizens for eligibility and treated 485 individuals over the course of 2,150 patient visits. Additional volunteers are providing nutrition counseling, patient education and pastoral counseling.
A team of clinic volunteers has also assisted 125 clinic patients in securing 244 branded drug prescriptions and insulin for free from major pharmaceutical companies.
“These medications typically cost well over $100 for a 30-day supply and, once approved, our patients receive them free for an entire year,” noted Laura Thomas, the clinic’s volunteer/ front office coordinator who organized the clinic’s patient assistance program.
“Not one of our diabetic patients who requires insulin has to pay for it,” observed Peggie Lawson, CSC’s nurse administrator.
The large majority of clinic patients during the first year have been treated by the clinic’s founder, Dr. Kay Crosby, “retired” physician Dr. Earnest Barron and Family Nurse Practitioner Rhonda Whitton, all of whom volunteer their time. “We are so grateful to Dr. Barron and Rhonda for their faithful service each week,” acknowledged Crosby.
Lawson added, “Several specialists have begun seeing patients at the clinic on a monthly basis. We are grateful to Dr. Heather Turner (gynecology), Dr. Susan Geerlings (neurology), Dr. Jeff Folk (cardiology) as well as Elizabeth Ahlstrom, PA and Sandra Morris, PA (dermatology) who are making their special skills available to our patients.”
“We also are thankful for the doctors who see patients one Saturday each month, including Drs. Cleland Child, Bidemi Leyimu, Andy McDonald, Jimmy Smith and Stan Smith,” added Crosby. “And I want to thank the many specialists in the community who have provided their services without charge to clinic patients. When we have needed to refer patients for specialty care, local physicians have stepped forward. The clinic would not be possible without all of these wonderful doctors.”
“We have been blessed with an outstanding group of volunteer nurses and medical professionals who care for our patients each week. It is a joy to work with them,” Lawson noted.
In addition to medical professionals, office and administrative volunteers serve at the clinic four days each week greeting patients, scheduling appointments, creating and updating patient records, making follow-up calls and screening patients for eligibility.
Thomas reflected, “We are so fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteers who serve each week, treating our patients with compassion and respect. We all enjoy interacting with our patients and one another.”
To date, 525 individuals have been successfully screened and become patients at the clinic. CSC treats adults ages 19 and older who are residents of Coweta County, who have no health insurance, and whose household income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. To become a patient of the clinic, individuals must provide a current photo ID with a Coweta County address and documentation of income at an eligibility screening visit.
“Now that our patient base exceeds 500, our current volunteer physicians are only able to see 18-20 new patients each month,” said Graner.
Beginning in January, the clinic will be scheduling eligibility screening appointments so prospective patients do not have to wait in line outside. Prospective patients will need to personally visit the clinic on Mondays or Tuesdays between 10 a.m. and noon at the beginning of the month to receive a screening appointment day for later in the month. Once the 20 monthly slots are filled, people will have to try again the following month.
Looking ahead to its second year, CSC hopes to expand its primary care hours, add specialty clinics and increase patient education classes. CSC is also exploring dental services.
“We have been blessed every step of the way," said Crosby. "Generous support from the Coweta County Hospital Authority (building lease), Newnan Hospital Foundation (annual operating funds), and Piedmont Newnan Hospital (free lab and basic radiology services) has provided us a solid foundation on which to build. We are so thankful for the broad and generous community support we have received.”
Graner added, “The clinic’s annual cash operating funds come entirely from private donations. We have been humbled by the generosity of our board members, individuals, local churches, corporations, foundations and civic groups. In addition to direct contributions, our two fall events, the Tony Barnhart College Football Kickoff Breakfast and the 2012 Bluegrass and Barbeque, provided substantial funds to help us operate the clinic.”
Reflecting on the clinic’s first year, Graner noted, “Like the Good Samaritan, our volunteers care directly for those in need and our donors provide the funds to 'pay the innkeeper' to care for our patients. Coweta Samaritan Clinic is Coweta County Citizens Caring for Our Neighbors. We invite people to contact us and visit the clinic to see what the community is creating at Coweta Samaritan Clinic.”
To support the clinic, mail donations to Coweta Samaritan Clinic, P.O. Box 963, Newnan, GA 30264 or make your gift securely online at www.cowetasamaritanclinic.org .