CHURCH HILL - The Church Hill Free Medical Clinic is planning a move to bigger accommodations with double the number of examination rooms, but it will require donations totaling $75,000 to complete renovations to the new facility.
That's not including an $18,000 donation from the Mooneyhan Family Foundation in Johnson City, which was delivered to the free clinic at 401 Richmond St. Tuesday evening.
The Mooneyhan donation will cover operation costs for the bigger clinic, but clinic coordinator Cathy Doerr said Tuesday she's hoping the community will come together to support the expansion of the clinic to meet its ever-growing demand.
"Our patient load has increased every year since the clinic opened. But when TennCare was restructured and so many people lost their coverage, the demand increased drastically and continues to increase," Doerr said. "Thankfully we've been donated a larger space in a former dentist office here in the same complex, and hopefully that means we're eventually going to be able to serve more people. But it's going to involve more than a larger space to meet the demand, and the donation we're receiving today is a big step in the right direction."
Although architect Mark Freeman is donating the designs for the new clinic, the actual renovation work is estimated at $75,000.
The clinic is a subsidiary of the Of One Accord Ministry and currently shares space with the ministry's Church Hill Food Pantry in the shopping plaza located near the intersection of Richmond Street and Highway 11-W. The new clinic will be located in the same shopping plaza in the former office of Dr. John Renye.
The number of examination rooms in the new facility increases from two to four. There will also be more space for the pharmacy and spiritual counseling.
With the help of volunteer physicians, therapists and counselors, the Church Hill Free Medical Clinic provides general medical care, prescription medication and spiritual counseling to underserved and uninsured families in Northeast Tennessee.
Mooneyhan Family Foundation President Ann Mooneyhan-Utter issued a statement Tuesday encouraging hospitals, other charitable organizations and private citizens to help support the clinic's work to serve the uninsured and underserved through donations.
"We view our grant to the clinic primarily as an investment in the overall wellness of this segment of the population," Mooneyhan-Utter said. "These funds will help the clinic see more patients and improve its level of service to the community."
Part of Mooneyhan-Utter's statement was directed specifically toward hospitals in the region.
"A secondary benefit of our grant will flow through to your organization," she said. "The patients receiving care at the clinic are typically unable to be seen though traditional channels and may rely on the emergency room for their medical needs, which is not an ideal situation. Put simply, if we can get our patients healthy and keep them healthy we think we can lighten the load in your emergency room."
Currently the Church Hill Free Clinic is open four evenings a month - on the second and fourth Tuesday and the second and fourth Thursday. Since it opened in 2000, the number of regular patients has increased from 75 to 434 in 2006.
The number of office visits alone increased from 821 in 2005 to 1,166 in 2006.
Among those served in 2006 were 54 homeless people, 52 of whom were referred to the clinic by Hope Haven of Kingsport.
The expansion will also increase the size of the clinic's pharmacy. Last year the pharmacy dispensed $87,000 worth of medication and issued vouchers to the Church Hill Drug Store in the amount of $12,252.
Although the expansion will increase the number of examination rooms from two to four, that doesn't mean the clinic will be able to double its patient load.
Doerr said the number of patients who can be served remains contingent on the number of doctors, nurses and counselors who are willing to volunteer, as well as the amount of funds available for medication and operating expenses.
The goal is to open the new clinic sometime in June. Anyone interested in contributing time or money to the free clinic is asked to call Of One Accord at 921-8044.