Healthcare is a necessity none of us can afford to live without, but many people cannot afford at all. High healthcare costs and health insurance rates prevent many low to middle-income individuals and families from getting the medical attention they need to live healthy lives. This is the case for Gary Hemingway, one of many in the Midlands dependent on a limited income. Fortunately, even without insurance, Gary is able to receive affordable medical care thanks to The Free Medical Clinic.
For 30 years, The Free Medical Clinic has served patients aged 18 to 64 who do not have health insurance and are unable to pay for care. In 2013 alone, the Clinic saw 6,000 patients, made over 2,000 specialty referrals and dispensed $4.5 million in prescription medication, all at no charge to patients. “We serve as a safety net for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access healthcare,” said Freddie Strange Jr., Executive Director of the Clinic. “Our goal is to provide care to the most vulnerable in our midst.”
Ten years ago, Gary was in poor health, struggling to manage his diabetes and high blood pressure. The Clinic worked with him to provide the medical attention he needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle. “With their help and encouragement, I was able to lose 40 pounds,” Gary said. “They helped me meet my needs, and put me back on my feet.”
The Free Medical Clinic also offers programs for patients seeking relief from chronic diseases and conditions, such as asthma, atrial fibrillation, diabetes and heart attacks. Patients can access online educational tools and onsite support groups. Each program is designed to help patients become aware of their conditions and take action toward a better, healthier life. “Only you can ultimately help yourself,” Gary said. “But the programs give patients the support to stick with it and take control of their health.”
Patients like Gary receive services free of charge, thanks to dedicated volunteers and financial support from local hospital systems, corporations, organizations, churches and individual donors. The Clinic relies on volunteers who dedicate their time to providing care, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, administrative volunteers and others.
“All the employees and volunteers should get a blue ribbon for their hard work and dedication,” Gary said. “They put the needs of others before their own, and a lot of their work goes unnoticed.”
Staff and volunteers provide more than just medical care – they also care for patients on a personal level. Since many of the Clinic’s patients are restricted by low-income situations, they ensure they are able to fulfill other life necessities as well. “They’re concerned for our well-being,” Gary said. “They provide more than just healthcare; they give us sweaters and holiday cards.”
Without the continuous care and support of The Free Medical Clinic, Gary wouldn’t be the happy and healthy man he is today. Other Midlands residents living on a limited income like Gary have been able to benefit physically and spiritually because of their efforts. The Clinic’s dedication and desire to help people in need has given hope to everyone who has walked through its doors. “The staff members and volunteers make sure you are getting the care you need; they truly show they care,” Gary said. “We’re one big family.”
For more information about The Free Medical Clinic, visit www.freemedclinic.org.