Central Virginia Health Services Is Here

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, January 5, 2012

Editor, The Herald:

I've been counting my blessings recently and one of the blessings I have is living in a caring community surrounded by individuals concerned with the needs of others and it is with this in mind that I write the following concerning the plans for a free health clinic in Farmville.

It is wonderful that we have individuals concerned that all might receive medical care but we already have a network of low cost clinics in the area addressing the issue of the high cost of medical care and the need to provide comprehensive medical/dental/psychological and pharmacological care to low income and uninsured individuals. This group is known as Central Virginia Health Services. Central Virginia Health Services offers a sliding scale fee for the uninsured. The fee is based on income and may be as low as $10. This network's website indicates that there are at least 15 locations in south central Virginia one of which is on Buffalo Street in Farmville. The website also invites interested individuals to make donations to the Central Virginia Health Services and I assume these donations are used in emergency cases when an individual cannot pay their $10 copay. The donation may be made to specific Central Virginia Health Services locations or put towards the needs of the entire network.

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In addition, like it or not, federal health reform was passed and although there is legal action against the reform pending, it will take years before the litigation navigates its way through the court system. In the meantime the federal health care reform goes into effect and by January 1st, 2014 Medicaid will be expanded to cover most of the group we term “low income, uninsured” effectively wiping out the need for the establishment of a free clinic in our area.

Medications can also be costly, but again, this need has already been addressed in our area via several routes. All pharmacies carry lower cost generic medications, many pharmacies have $4 plans, Central Virginia Health Services has a lower cost pharmacy for its patients' usage, on-line discount pharmacies exist, and for low income individuals the national organization Partnership for Prescription Assistance was established years ago.

I know the argument in favor of a “free” clinic is that is “free”. But is this really true? I'd like to propose it is not. When “free” clinics become established they find that despite the fact that most of their labor needs are met by volunteers they have significant financial needs in other areas. For example the need to provide malpractice insurance to cover all their volunteer medical professionals, the need for premise insurance in case anyone slips and falls, the need for OSHA training materials, the need to pay for any medical regulatory licenses, the need to pay for medical waste (needle) disposal, the need for a phone and internet access, the need for a copier and other office supplies and usually eventually the need to hire an office manager. The list goes on and on. The money to cover these expenses is usually acquired in two manners. The first is by financial donations and grants, the second is by charging the low income uninsured individuals who use the “free” clinic. The charge is usually minimal and meant to cover administrative fees but it is a charge. I invite you to go to Lynchburg's free clinic's website to see an example of this.

If a free clinic isn't truly free, we already have Central Virginia Health Services addressing the medical needs of low income uninsured individuals, and the federal health care reform almost doubles the amount of individuals eligible for Medicaid. Should we spend already scarce community financial resources on establishing something that appears not to be needed? Probably not. Probably what would be useful is to devise a way that those needing medical care have access to the above information about where they may turn to for both their medical and medication needs. Perhaps a community patient advocate could be established.

In conclusion, again I appreciate living in a community where there is so much concern for the well being of others but I believe all facts should be on the table before a large amount of money is funneled towards a “free” health clinic.

Rafe L. Bryant