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Point Washington Medical Clinic Freely Serves the Community

July 24, 2017 by Manny Chavez

A doctor’s “bedside manner” will not usually appear on their resume, but patients in need of a primary care physician would no doubt give Dr. Patsy Vargo and Hillary Glen, DNP, ARNP, “Five Stars” for their attentive approach to patient healthcare.

The two comrades in arms are the guiding force behind the recently opened Point Washington Health Clinic - a free, non-profit, 100% donation-based health clinic open every Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The clinic, a ministry of the Point Washington United Methodist Church, began as “just an idea” in January 2017 when the two health practitioners talked about possible missions for the church.

“We thought that, instead of going overseas, we could actually have a clinic here by converting a school room into a clinic and provide free primary health care,” says Patsy. “That idea took off, and, with the church allowing us to use this space, we opened April 12, 2017.”

Thanks to local community donations, items such as exam tables, supplies, medications, medical equipment, etc. were all put in place. Patsy and Hillary are the physicians on duty and are surrounded by very knowledgeable volunteers. Physicians, licensed nurses, students, stay-at-home moms, retirees, hospital administrators, people from all walks of life are signing up to help with various tasks such as front desk, translator, patient education, health care professional, and parking.

Access to health care is becoming a major problem for many in our community. Patsy points out that ANYONE in the community is welcome to come.

“We made an executive decision that one of the differences in our clinic and other free clinics is that there are no qualifications to obtaining care here. You don’t have to qualify by showing a pay stub, driver’s license, or any documentation at all. By doing that we hope to help people who are falling through the cracks… people who don’t qualify for government-subsidized health care or can’t afford health insurance at all.”

Basic primary care is offered for all ages and when more advanced medical care is needed, the clinic provides patients with referrals to local hospitals and doctors who offer cash pay rates.

“We can find out ahead of time exactly what the cost would be and local doctors are very open to these referrals,” continues Hillary. 

Due to the tangled web within insurance companies, it is very hard to determine the exact cost of procedures. The clinic staff will do the homework for patients to know up front what they will be charged.

The clinic offers school and camp physicals for school age children. They do not offer vaccinations except for tetanus when appropriate. They can order blood work as needed and find a provider for advanced health care. As an example, if a patient needs to see a cardiologist, the clinic will make a referral to a local cardiologist who has agreed to see the patient at a discounted rate.  When prescriptions are needed, the clinic makes every effort to send patients to pharmaceuticals who offer either free or low-cost medicines.

Patients who visit the clinic are given a useful Health Passport Book where their family history, immunizations, current medications, vitals, etc. are recorded for future use. This information is vital when patients need future medical help, whether at the clinic or elsewhere. This allows for patients to have a continuity of care and lets the patient be their own advocate for health.

“We take all comers,” emphasizes Patsy, “This is a community clinic where people can be cared for, listened to, reassured, and educated. No qualifications except being human!” 

The clinic is perfectly suited for the “working man.” They can have their blood pressure checked, diabetes checked, lacerations can be sewed up. Construction guys have a lot of need for these services and the clinic is open during lunch hour.

“We strive to facilitate a patient’s resources,” says Patsy.  “With elderly patients, we check on social services, try to give diet consultations, do high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol testing. We find out who is keeping track of them, whether it is a neighbor, church member, or family member.”

Although the clinic is a free clinic, donations are accepted when checking in or by donating to Point Washington United Method Church with the donation earmarked for the clinic. Since the clinic is operating as a 501c3 organization, these donations are tax deductible.

Looking forward, Patsy and Hillary are hoping for their own permanent structure. Both agree that it would be great to have private exam rooms, a waiting room, running water with a bathroom…. currently, the staff arrive early on Wednesdays to set up the “pop up” clinic.

“We call it quality medical care in a non-traditional setting,” explains Patsy. On a recent visit to the clinic, it was amazing to watch the staff “break down” the clinic…they worked as a well-oiled machine and the clinic, in no time, was neatly folded up and put away in the corner of the room…until next Wednesday!

An all-day fundraiser is being planned for September.  The casual, outdoor beach event will include a silent auction, beach bonfire, yoga classes, musicians, limbo contest, drinks, food, dancing…all kinds of fun things will be happening during this event.

For general information, please call the church number, 850-231-4928. Location: In the Stephens Center, behind the Point Washington United Methodist Church Sanctuary, 1290 N. County Hwy. 395, Point Washington (on the right, past the entrance to Eden Gardens State Park). Visit on Facebook where you can check on volunteer needs by clicking on the SignUp Genius button. Web site: www.thepwmc.org. 

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Manny Chavez

Manny and his wife Kris moved to the Emerald Coast in 1992. After 16 years as staff photographer for The Houston Post, Manny has successfully transitioned to creative weddings and beach portraits.

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