Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bonner Partners In Care in Need of Additional Funds

Health care is on everyone’s minds. Turn on the news and nearly every newscast has a report on how the new administration is going to reform our health care system so that every citizen has access to affordable medical care.

But for many there is no time to wait. Just walk by the offices of Panhandle Health District in Sandpoint on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The line begins to form at 5:15 p.m., and each person there has a story. They are people seeking help with medical issues, prescriptions and referrals to specialists, and each hopes to be one of the eight patients the volunteer doctor will see that evening.

The free medical services are available thanks to a nonprofit group in Sandpoint, Bonner Partners in Care, that opened in the summer of 2003. Its goal is to ensure that all residents have access to basic health care regardless of their ability to pay.

A group of 12 physicians and 18 nurses rotate schedules and volunteer to help those in the community who are not able to afford medical care.

But Bonner Partners in Care, like many nonprofit organizations, is in financial need. While many area organizations, such as Community Assistance League and The Angels over Sandpoint, have donated to Partners in Care, the group still is about $3,000 short of being able to take advantage of a $54,000 matching grant. The organization has until July 31 to reach its goal.

The clinic’s annual budget is $85,990, with an additional $77,181 in donated volunteer time by physicians, nurses and administrative volunteers, said clinic Director Catherine Perusse.

“Lab work and diagnostic testing provided by Bonner General Hospital, prescriptions provided by local pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies all really make the clinic possible,” she said.

The economy has had a significant effect on both the amount of funds available and the number of applicants who need access to the clinic.

“Donations and grants have decreased this year,” said Perusse. “There is less money available for all programs as grantors have not been able to maintain past levels of contributions. This summer we are seeing approximately twice the number of individuals we normally see this time of year.”

She adds that the demand for services is typically greater in the fall due to health concerns such as bronchitis, sinusitis and other typical winter illnesses.

Patients who qualify for services at Bonner Partners in Care don’t have private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare or the ability to pay for medical services. Patients are required to pay a minimal fee – anywhere from $1 to $10 – based on their gross income.

Because the medical staff can only see between eight and 10 patients during clinic hours, triage is done by Perusse and the volunteer nurse, and the more urgent cases are seen that night.

“We do not turn anyone away who requires immediate treatment,” said Perusse. “One way or another we provide the immediate care that each person needs. Others who have less urgent needs return for the next scheduled clinic.”

While each of the 1,100 clients has a unique story, one that especially moved Perusse is that of a 9-year-old diabetic whose parents found themselves unemployed, uninsured and running out of insulin for their son.

“When his father called he had two doses of insulin left. The clinic was able to purchase an additional 30 days worth of insulin for them and then get the boy on a prescription assistance plan and regular medical management so that he had a reliable, steady supply of life-saving insulin,” said Perusse.

Those involved with the clinic argue that the service provided to the community has benefits extending beyond the patient, including improving the local economy, addressing a social challenge, avoiding shifting health care costs to taxpayers, and reducing hardships to those who would otherwise avoid seeking medical help until an emergency arises.

“Every clinic evening, an average of one-half of the patients are new patients, who, due to the economy and the loss of their jobs, have found themselves without medical insurance, many for the first time in their lives,” Perusse said.

Donations can be mailed to Bonner Partners in Care, 1020 Michigan St., Sandpoint, ID 83864. For more information, call Clinic Director Catherine Perusse, at (208) 255-9099.

No comments:

Post a Comment