Reprinted with permission of The Pilot, 2007.

March 6, 2007

Free Clinic Deals With Growth
    Claudia Watson
    Special to The Pilot

In its annual report released this week, Moore Free Care Clinic details its remarkable evolution in the scope and scale of its services to the uninsured and the resulting inevitable growing pains.

According to Stuart Tuffnell, president of the clinic's board of directors, the next phase of growth for Moore Free Care Clinic will not be without some “bumps in the road."

“In slightly less than three years, we have blossomed into a very important unit in the overall provision of health care in Moore County. Many hundreds of people now rely on us for their needs,” he says.

The staff and volunteers of Moore Free Care Clinic see the personal struggles facing so many Moore County residents. For them the day begins with the decision between paying the renting, buying food for the family and getting life-saving medications.

“Many of our patients
have had little hope of being able to afford their medications, pay for a doctor's visit or taking care of a painful toothache,” says Laura Tremper-Jones, the clinic's executive director.

The clinic's work effort, which began in April 2004 with one full-time employee, a cadre of volunteers, and a budget of $150,000, has grown.
Initially it served patients only two nights a week – now it's a full-time operation with paid staff of five. For fiscal year ending 2006, the clinic established five specialty clinics and handled nearly 2,000 patient visits.

According to its annual report, the free clinic provided $986,343.62 in services to the low-income and uninsured residents of Moore County – leveraging every dollar it receives to nearly five times it value.

Most of the patients who use Moore Free Care Clinic are employed. Patients are often people who work one or more part-time jobs and do not qualify for health care coverage. Sometimes they work full-time jobs that do not provide adequate health care or pay enough for these people to afford the health care that they need.

Referrals to specialists, dentists and physical therapists are provided free of charge through a network of specialists who have contributed $38,366 worth of volunteer services in 2006. Through other partnerships in the community the clinic provides health education and specialized classes for its patients.

Moore Free Clinic is the only clinic in the county that provides free primary, preventive and specialty care, including diagnostic testing and medications, to the county's low-income, uninsured residents. FirstHealth of the Carolinas provided $376,704 worth of imaging services, laboratory testing, and many cardiac procedures to clinic patients in 2006.

Medication continues to be one of the largest budget items for the clinic. In 2006 the clinic purchased $79,366 in medications for its patients. In addition, it acquired $124,351 worth of medications through the Patient Assistance Programs sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies and $15,926 in free samples. Its highly-motivated medical, nursing and clerical volunteers gave over 1,933 hours of effort, a value of $91,842.52.

Moore Free Care Clinic does not receive any federal, state or county funding; therefore its sustainability is a community-wide effort. The free clinic continues to expand its services to the uninsured of Moore County but expansion requires more avenues of funding and brings with it the need for more space and staffing – both volunteer, and paid.

The clinic's 2007 budget is $484,963, an increase of 10 percent over 2006. The 2006-2007 annual fund, which began in October, has raised $157,223 to date.

“We are focused on sustaining the success we have achieved so far and fulfilling our mission of providing quality health care for those who cannot afford it,” says Tuffnell.

“Ultimately, the needs of the clinic's patients are the guide in determining expansion of its services,” says Tuffnell. “The reality, however, is that funding will be the determining factor. At the end of the day, the kinds and extent of the services the clinic provides are directly attributable to that funding.”

For more information about the clinic, or to read its most recent newsletter, please visit www.moorefreecare.org.

Contributions to the clinic may be mailed to Moore Free Care Clinic, P.O. Box, 161, Pinehurst, NC 28370.

Claudia Watson may be reached at cwatson87@nc.rr.com.