Health

Building on hope

The Health and Hope Clinic building

Health and Hope Clinic are on a bit of an expansion binge.

The clinic, an effort of the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association, has a location on Chemstrand Road and soon will open a clinic at Ministry Village on the Olive Baptist Church campus. For earlier next year, Health & Hope plans to add a clinic on Pensacola’s westside thanks to a partnership with Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

Thanks to little more good fortune, hours will be added to a clinic location in Century says Jessica Simpson, executive director of the clinics.

The expansion is good news for those in Escambia County who are un- or underinsured. Access to health care is a huge issue in the county, where estimates are that some 177,000 people are uninsured or use Medicare or Medicaid for their insurance. The county’s three major hospitals — Baptist, Sacred Heart and West Florida hospitals — collectively wrote off some $150 million in charity care last year, Simpson says.

Simpson says a Blue Foundation grant from Florida Blue Cross and Blue Shield paid for 10 hours of another medical provider, which allowed the clinic to expand from a half-day of service to a full day — every Wednesday.

The closure of the Escambia County Health Department’s dental clinic in the same building also meant Health and Hope got some room to grow.

“And one of the doctors at the medical clinic across the street is retiring at 40 and wants to volunteer at the Century clinic as well,” she says.

The Century clinic has 200 active patients and usually sees 10 appointments and three or four walk-ins a day.

“Most have chronic disease management issues,” she says. “Some are people who haven’t been to the doctor is 15 years. They think they have a bug bite and it turns out to be MRSA.

“Because they haven’t seen a doctor in 15 years, there may be one reason on paper for the visit, but once they get a doctor in a room and they don’t know when they may get a doctor in a room again. They tell all their problems, and their mom has this and their brother has this.

“I’m sure it can feel overwhelming for the doctors.”

Health and Hope also got a grant from the Escambia County Health Facilities Authority, a group run by lawyer Paula Drummond, that gives grants for capital expenses.

“They met with us and asked about our IT needs and expansion and they gave us a $30,000 grant for new computers, server room and data equipment,” Simpson says. It will include seven to 11 new computers.

health-hope-clinic-interior

“They also want to pay for the supplies to fill those other exam rooms.”

The pending relocation of Friendship Missionary Baptist — pastored by the Rev. LuTimothy May — means the building at 1000 W. Blount St. that used to house Sunday school will be vacated.

The building, Simpson says, is an old doctor’s office owned by nearby Baptist Health Care.

“So (May) asked Baptist if they could give it to us and they said yes,” she says. Simpson says staff will meet in early 2014 to discuss how to run it.

The pairing fulfills long-held plans by May to bring accessible health care to the city’s westside.

“It was an initiative that we started as a church and a community organization,” May says, “but (now) instead of starting (a clinic) by ourselves, when I was talking to Jessica and found out they had written a grant and in it they stressed they wanted to reach out for the westside, it was a match made in heaven.”

May says Baptist Hospital will partner with the clinic and it will be open for doctors on staff there to volunteer. As the clinic gets up and running, May believes that more hospital staff will volunteer their time and expertise. “They won’t even have to leave work,” he says, noting the proximity of the clinic to the hospital on Moreno Street.

“This makes (health care) so much more accessible,” he says. “The other part of that is, it fits the need for people who were waiting in long lines (at the emergency room) for something simple, they can cut that time by going to the clinic.

“So many people use the ER as their primary care clinic, if they have a toothache or need cold medicine they go to the emergency room. Some of these needs can be fulfilled through the clinics, that cuts down the ER expenses.”

It is a lot going on at one time but Simpson believes in putting yourself in a position to need God so that he can come into your life to help.

“It feeds into the vision we have of building a strong network of free clinics to supplement the clinics that do Medicaid.”

This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise.