To protect public health, Greenville Free Medical Clinic’s 23rd annual Walk With the Docs fundraising event March 28 will be held virtually this year. Each donor can post his or her own walk pictures on social media and will receive a commemorative T-shirt for contributions over $30. Contributions can be made in honor of a favorite health care professional, with an acknowledgement card sent to the honoree upon request.
The coronavirus health crisis that necessitated the change underscores the critical work of the nonprofit, which provides medical care to eligible low-income, uninsured residents of Greenville County. Business disruptions due to closings and cancellations are likely to result in even more individuals seeking care at the clinic over the next few months, said Suzie Foley, executive director. With proceeds from this event and other funding, the clinic will continue to provide the community with an incredible return on donors’ investments, thanks to its strategic use of volunteer hours and donated supplies.
“We really maximize donations. For every dollar it takes to run the clinic, we provide $10 in services to patients, because of the value of the donated time of physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmacists and dentists,” Foley said. “We are not government subsidized. We get no funding from Medicaid or Medicare and no private insurance. We are a nonprofit organization that completely depends on donations to provide a service that is so important to the community.”
Each year, the clinic serves about 3,500 patients who make 12,000 visits to its four sites in Greer, Fountain Inn, Berea/Sans Souci and West Greenville. It accomplishes this with more than 400 volunteer health care providers, 200 non-medical volunteers and only 16 full-time and six part-time employees. The clinic dispenses nearly 40,000 prescriptions annually at an estimated value of over $8 million.
Health-education classes are offered on diabetes management, smoking cessation, weight management and women’s health. As a part of the clinic’s focus on prevention and healthy lifestyles, each year it distributes over 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to clients.
Foley recalled a volunteer participating in a Hands On Greenville work day event who shared her own experience as a patient at the Greenville Free Medical Clinic, at a time when she was unemployed.
“She told her co-workers, ‘They took really good care of me.’ She had a tooth filled, annual gynecological tests and medicine for an acute illness, all in one place,” Foley said. “We always think it’s going to be somebody else needing free health care services, but it could be anyone — the person serving our food, cleaning our home, taking care of our children or any self-employed or part-time workers right in front of us.”
In 2016, Greenville Free Medical Clinic received one of only four signature grants celebrating the Community Foundation of Greenville’s 60th anniversary. The $125,000 was used to provide more comprehensive medical care for low-income, uninsured patients in outlying areas of Greenville County facing transportation obstacles and barriers to access to care. The grant allowed the clinic to expand the specialty services provided in its satellite locations in Greer, Simpsonville and Berea, as well as the primary location near downtown Greenville.
More recently, the nonprofit received a Community Foundation of Greenville capacity-building grant for program evaluation and strategic planning.
“Health care is changing every day; so much is driven by decisions made by other people and agencies,” Foley said. “We want to be more proactive to protect this critical piece of the safety net. We need to figure out where we’re going to be in one year, five years or 10 years to stabilize and strengthen that safety net.”
Greenville Free Medical Clinic is a true medical home for the low-income population, Foley said, many of whom have complex, multiple diagnoses. Team-oriented decision making allows providers to devise a plan for each patient to get and stay healthy. Data show that once establishing care at the clinic, patients reduced avoidable hospital stays by 63%.
“The community benefits because healthy people can hold jobs, become self-supporting and maintain stronger families. Health is a basic need for folks to thrive,” Foley said. “In Greenville we’re fortunate to have a very generous, volunteer-driven community. That has allowed us to continue to add to our services.”