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Free Clinic Off To Good Start

FARMVILLE – Board members of the Heart of Virginia Free Clinic hosted Amy Hamlin, Executive Director of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM).

VIM was begun by Dr. Jack B. McConnell who started the organization's first free clinic in Hilton Head, South Carolina in 1994. The headquarters of Volunteers in Medicine is located in Burlington, Vermont.

VIM has helped 85 communities across the United States to start free medical clinics for the uninsured.

Ms. Hamlin wrote, in her report of the visit, to members of the HOVFC board that “the passion for and commitment to opening a free clinic for the uninsured demonstrated by all members of your organizing committee left a strong impression, and is something that cannot be taught or learned from others. The perception of the community is that a free clinic is needed for the area's uninsured. The strong leadership on your Board, and the growing sentiment in your community of key stake holders to open a clinical facility with access to free care for the uninsured will be the basis for accomplishing all that lies ahead. The groundwork has been laid. Now the real work of opening a fee clinic begins!”

The Clinic's Board has since met and, following VIM recommendations, set up six working committees to assist in opening the free clinic. The committees and board members chairing them include: Needs Assessment and Board Training, Kim Butler, RN, BSN; Space and Equipment, Reverend Frank Potter; Medical Advisory, Pat Payne, RN, BSN; Volunteer Management, Reverend Sylvia Meadows and Esther Kernodle, RN; Development and Fundraising, Ms. Payne; and Information Technology, Carolyn Whitmore, RN.

“The board welcomes input from the community from anyone interested helping these committees,” a press release from the Clinic also stated. “Board secretary, Pat Payne, has said that the biggest challenges facing the clinic are finding enough physicians to staff the facility and raising enough funds to assure sustainability for the long term.”

The clinic plans to be open in the evenings after 5 p.m. initially one evening per week. They will see patients by appointment and offer treatment only to people who are uninsured and have incomes 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Clinic patients will be interviewed by appointment to certify eligibility prior to being seen by a physician or nurse practitioner. Eligibility will be determined after verification of income and residency are documented. Eligibility screening interviews will be conducted by trained volunteers and all information will be kept confidential. Patients will be treated for chronic conditions.

The clinic will not offer emergency, obstetric, or pediatric care. Board members of the Clinic are consulting with the Virginia Association of Free Clinics and visiting other free clinics in Virginia and North Carolina gathering information and ideas.

As Ms. Hamlin left Farmville, she told HOVFC board members: “Let me say how impressed I am with the groundwork done to date by your very energetic, passionate colleagues, who are bound to make this effort a tremendous success. Please share my special thanks to everyone for extending me such a warm and caring experience while visiting your beautiful town. Please stay in touch with the Volunteers in Medicine national office so that we can continue to support your in every way possible. This is the strongest start for a free clinic that I have ever seen in my career.”

Ms. Hamlin, in her visit to Farmville, met with the full board of the Clinic and toured the facilities of the former Daily Grind Restaurant, which is being prepared for occupancy by the Free Clinic.

Ms. Hamlin also visited several community leaders including Will Rogers, Executive Director of Crossroads Services Board, Melody Eaton, Chairman of the Department of Nursing of Longwood University, Mary Hickman, Director of Virginia's Heartland, Commonwealth Regional Council, Gerry Spates, Farmville Town Manager, Dr. Ed Gordon, Farmville Town Council, David Whitus, Farmville Town Council, Dr. Anthony Munoz, and Dr. Andrew Anderson medical advisors to the Clinic, James Wilck, member of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors, E.W. Tibbs, Administrator of Centra Southside Community Hospital, Wanda Whitus, President of the Farmville Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Alexander Samuel and Cindy DeBusk, RN, of the Piedmont Health District.