08/17/14 — WATCH will open its third clinic next month

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WATCH will open its third clinic next month

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 17, 2014 1:50 AM

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Physician's assistant Jim Johnson, left, gives Roderick Underwood a checkup in the WATCH mobile unit at Wayne Memorial Hospital on Thursday morning. Johnson will be working in the stationary WATCH building that is under construction and scheduled to begin seeing patients in early September.

WATCH, or Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, will open its third clinic next month when it moves into the former Wound Care Center behind Wayne Memorial Hospital.

WATCH opened in August 2000 and provides free primary and acute health services and related lab tests to the uninsured residents of Wayne County. A 40-foot mobile medical unit canvasses the county, delivering services at scheduled locations each month.

A second clinic location opened at the Family YMCA in August 2009.

But even before the move into the new clinic, WATCH is accepting people who have the lowest rung of coverage under the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

"There is no where for these folks to go," WATCH Executive Director Sissy Lee-Elmore said. "Who would see them, and they all can't go to the emergency room. There is certainly nowhere in the Health Department to go because this is acute and primary health care. It is the basic thing anybody needs, acute and primary health care."

The lowest, or Bronze level, in the Affordable Health Care Act, provides catastrophic coverage, she said.

"But they still have to pay $6,000 out of pocket and who has that?" she said. "It is an extremely high deductible, and they do not have access to primary health care, and we would continue to see them.

"They have to bring the (coverage) information to us. It is like the lowest-level program that doesn't cover any primary health care. It's what they can afford. There were so many options for people and the better option, the higher the premium. They could not pay those premiums so they took what they could afford. I don't know how they (federal government) would think that the people who have this insurance are going to be able to pay that."

Expenses for WATCH during 2013 were $551,428 with a value of services of $3,920,159 for a return on investment of $7.11. That means for every $1 received by the WATCH health care program, $7.11 of free health care was provided to the clinic's patients.

Also during 2013 WATCH provided 9,576 (30-day) prescriptions with a retail value of $2,044,833 provided free to patients with chronic diseases. Another $471,408 in free labs were provided.

A $225,000 grant from Golden LEAF Foundation is earmarked for the third clinic that is scheduled to open on Sept. 8 even though Mrs. Lee-Elmore expects that the office will still be unpacking when it opens.

However, the opening schedule is part of the grant agreement with the foundation.

Golden LEAF funds come from the tobacco buyout and settlement reached several years ago between the government and the tobacco companies. A portion of the money paid out by the companies was set aside to boost economic development and quality of life in the state. The foundation was created to distribute the money.

Mrs. Lee-Elmore applied for three years of funding, but received 15 months.

"I will do my best to find the funding to continue it," she said. "We have been very fortunate with money from the state, money from private funders, money from local people here in Wayne County. WATCH has been extremely fortunate to have kept two clinics running for this period of time. We are taking a leap of faith and starting a third one, and we will do the best that we can.

"The Wound Care Center is set up like a clinic. There is a glass window just like at your doctor's office. You would check in there, and we will have a waiting room. Then there will be four treatment rooms inside. There will be two offices and of course, restrooms. There will be cubicles for staff."

A smaller building next door will house the WATCH administration and health educators.

The hospital is paying to have work done like painting and new flooring and other refurbishments in the buildings. It also is absorbing costs for new computers, blood pressure machines, thermometers and supplies, she said.

The new office will provide much more space. That will be very valuable if the van is broken and the clinic has to held in the office, she said.

The smaller existing administrative office is not conducive to seeing patients, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said.

WATCH has registered 12,101 patients since it opened and has recorded 105,307 patient visits.

There has never been a year that the program did not accept new patients even though there have been periods when none were being accepted because the program was operating at capacity, she said

That was most recently for four months in 2013 when the search was on for an additional provider. So far this year, 594 new patients have been seen, an average of 50 new patients per month.

"This year we hope to take more new patients because we will open a third clinic and have more capacity," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said. "So we will probably do some marketing and outreach."

WATCH has been working with the hospital on referrals.

"For example if someone goes into the emergency room, and they don't have a provider, and they go there for something that a primary care physician or primary care provider took take care. Then they can call us, and we will make an appointment for a follow-up visit. Usually anybody discharged from the hospital has to be seen within a week."

New WATCH patients have to come in and go through a process of filling out forms that takes about 30 minutes to an hour. They also need to bring any medications they are on.

They must also have proof of residency in Wayne County including a photo identification. After that the first appointment is scheduled with a provider.

"If you don't come for your visit to be put into the computer, you can't come for the visit with the provider if the information is not in the computer," she said. "The provider is too busy seeing patients to spend a half hour putting a lot that data in.

"The care we provide is as good, I feel, like you would get in any private practice here."