01/24/13 — WATCH will add a third clinic

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WATCH will add a third clinic

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 24, 2013 1:46 PM

WATCH is in the process of replenishing its nurse practitioner pool and plans to open a third clinic in the fall, using recently acquired funding from Golden LEAF Foundation.

The full-time clinic has been funded for a year.

The original nurse practitioner, Kathy Johnson, hired when WATCH, or Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, was introduced over a decade ago, retired last month but stayed on until a replacement can be found. A second nurse practitioner, Tiffany Tyson, also left at year's end for another opportunity, and Betty Zimmerman was hired.

Two WATCH clinics currently provide health care services to the underinsured population of Wayne County -- a large mobile van that canvasses the area and a standing clinic housed at the YMCA.

Sissy Lee-Elmore, executive director of the program, updated the board Wednesday about the competitive process for a share of more than $2 million in Golden LEAF Community Assistance Initiative grants.

The nearly year-long process drew 24 projects vying for the funding, representing nearly $27 million, with three recipients announced in December.

When the applications from the county were reviewed, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said WATCH initially came in fourth place. That did not, however, ensure funding would be theirs.

"The trustees moved us up to No. 3 so we hit within the range. We'd requested $432,000; they offered us $225,000."

At the outset, the request had been for two years, with the intent of adding a third full-time clinic.

"We asked would they entertain a three-year grant," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said, adding that she was told to write the proposal for two years, which she did. "They came back with the offer for $225,000. They asked me, since we're not giving you $432,000, would you take that?"

Negotiations continued, in an effort to sustain the WATCH services.

"My request for them was instead of having a full-time clinic for one year, could we have a half-time clinic for two years?" Mrs. Lee-Elmore said. "They did not agree to that, so we will have it for one year."

Eventually, she said, the program's administrative office, currently located in a modular unit on Cox Boulevard, beside the hospital, will relocate on the hospital grounds.

"That probably won't be ready until the end of the summer," she said. "We have requested that they hold the funding until late summer or early fall."

Board member Jimmie Ford asked Mrs. Lee-Elmore to define the difference between a full-time and part-time clinic.

"Halftime will be open 20 hours a week," she replied. "Usually, a clinic open 20 to 36 hours is full-time as far as seeing patients. So we'll be open full-time four or five days a week."

Board member Sam Hunter suggested that delaying receipt of the funding until the fall will also allow time for the new health care reform to be implemented.

"We are in a very important transition time and hopefully, a lot of questions will be answered by that time," he said. "And getting on this campus here, if this thing is successful, is another access (to care) for people."

Several times over the years, the program has been forced to stop taking new patients, as its rolls climbed upwards to more than 11,000. That will happen again at month's end, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said, until a new person can be hired and trained.

"WATCH's initial mission was to take care of people in Wayne County who had no kind of medical insurance whatsoever," said Dr. Ross Wilson, board chairman. "Those are still our priorities."

"Fifty percent of our patient population is employed," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said. "That's part of what got us our Golden LEAF. They're working and they can't afford (insurance) or for their family to have insurance."