Free Clinic Serves Thousands

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, January 12, 2012

Editor, The Herald:

I would like to respond to the recent letter of Mr. Rafe Bryant (Friday, January 6 edition). I strongly believe that a Free Clinic is severely needed in the Farmville area.

I would also like to commend Mr. Bryant on his research and information, which is correct in many instances. However, he has left out some very important elements in some of his arguments. He should count his blessings as over 1 million Virginians do NOT have an option for health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. This fact can be clearly documented. In fact there are official Commonwealth of Virginia figures that support this number.

Email newsletter signup

First and foremost, despite the available health care resources cited in the Farmville area, we receive 40-50 telephone calls per month in Lynchburg at the Free Clinic of Central Virginia from persons in your immediate community seeking our services. In fact, I just received an email request this morning. We can NOT add that population base to the 25,000 individuals (out of 280,000), whom we have already served in the City of Lynchburg and four surrounding counties. The need is there in Farmville, and it has been clearly demonstrated to those in the know……

The letter is correct that there are some fixed expenses in operating a Free Clinic. In calendar year 2011, we spent over $600,000 at our very large facility on these operating expenses providing 23,000 patient visits and over 40,000 prescriptions to Central Virginia patients. We provide medical, specialty medical, dental, dental specialty, and comprehensive pharmaceutical services. The audited value of our services will be over $12 million for 2011. In addition, we secure another $5 million in referral services from other medical providers for our patients. I ask where can one get more than $20 for $1 expended from a budget? That seems to me to be the BEST health care solution possible!

The letter is correct that we do NOT pay our 400 volunteer health care providers (over 200 physicians, 65 dentists, 35 pharmacists and over 100 nurses, medical assistants, dental assistants, health care students, lab technicians and others). They provided between $5-$6 million worth of “free labor” at this clinic in 2011! We also acquired over $3.6 million worth of medications for a meager $14,000 from our budget. We access medications through a variety of FREE sources that our paid staff and volunteers have been trained to do.

Incidentally, we do have local companies who donate totally medical waste disposal services; the shredding of confidential documents; provide auditing services, provide insulin testing equipment and/or partially provide elevator repair, pest control services, and printing costs etc. etc. However, we have not found a way to get free postage, electricity, water, heat, and a limited number of staff salaries to maintain continuity in our clinic operations.

We do raise our cash operating budget each year through individual donations, corporate donations, church donations, foundation grants, United Way allocations, and the very small patient administrative fees posted on our website The latter fees amounted to almost $50,000 in income for our operating budget in 2011. However, we totally waive these fees when a person is homeless and/or extremely disadvantaged (approximately 20%-25% of the time).

Despite the letter's rather cryptic reference to Federal Health Care legislation that potentially takes effect in 2014, he is inaccurate on several points. It is projected by reliable sources that somewhere between 30% to 45% of current Free Clinic patients will not be eligible for the new medical insurance for their basic general physician care. There are various reasons for this that go beyond the scope of this letter. There are also extensive studies completed by such well know and respected groups as the Virginia Health Care Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that serve to substantiate these percentages. It is still unknown what coverage these “policies” will actually provide (i.e. co-pay rates, deductibles, specialty medical treatment and hospitalization). They are currently being developed by the insurance industry. Will there be any mental health coverage? I doubt it. There definitely IS NOT and WILL NOT BE any dental coverage at all in this legislation!

So, in the end the Free Clinic of Central Virginia in Lynchburg has served almost 10% of our area's population with needed health care (25,000 people). I now pay personal tribute and honor to those citizens of Farmville, who have taken on this Christian challenge to truly try to help their neighbors!! I also ask “What will other Farmville citizens decide to do”?

Robert “Bob” Barlow, Executive Director

Free Clinic of Central Virginia, Inc.