February 10, 2012
Leadership at Fort HealthCare recognizes the critical role the Rock River Free Clinic plays in ensuring the health of the area's most vulnerable residents. Since 2003, the clinic has operated on a limited basis with volunteer clinicians and support staff. Consequently, many of these economically disadvantaged persons requiring urgent medical care sought services they likely could not afford at Fort Memorial Hospital's emergency department or urgent care clinics.
With that in mind, David Rutledge, MD, a family medicine physician at Fort HealthCare Jefferson for twenty nine years, was recently appointment full-time Medical Director at the Rock River Free Clinic. Rutledge’s full-time commitment, paid for by Fort HealthCare, helps the Free Clinic Board reach its goal of adding more regular physician services to this invaluable program. He is joined by a full-time licensed practical nurse employed by the Jefferson County Health Department. The nurse performs patient care duties including collection of specimens for laboratory testing, and helps organize daily clinic operations. This new level of medical professional staffing allows the clinic to be open four and one half days per week. Previously, the clinic was open only on Thursday evenings. Rutledge's appointment to the Free Clinic is also aligned with one of Fort HealthCare's key strategic initiatives, to improve area residents’ access to healthcare.
Reflecting on his new role, Rutledge says, “I am excited to participate in the expansion and further development of the Rock River Free Clinic, which was made possible by Fort HealthCare's increased involvement and support of the clinic. This is a great opportunity and a professional challenge for me. For me, this is a great job.”
The doctor also speaks highly of the physicians who helped get the Free Clinic started. “I give much credit to the medical directors of the clinic who preceded me. Doctor Greg Gehred and Doctor Barry Cash were instrumental in laying the foundation for the clinic services. Now, with the consistent presence of one family physician at the Clinic, both the accessibility to and continuity of care are greatly enhanced.”
New hours have been established for the clinic as the new providers begin offering care. Those hours are:
Monday 10 am - 7 pm
Tuesday 9 am - Noon
Wednesday 9 am - 6 pm
Thursday 10 am - 7 pm
Friday 9 am - 5 pm
Rutledge's new role also benefits Fort HealthCare as patients with acute illnesses but no health insurance will be able to get the care they need when they need it. Patients who are eligible for services at the Rock River Free Clinic are those who are uninsured and have income less than or equal to 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($22,350 per year for a family of four in 2011). Patients are not eligible for services if they have Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or BadgerCare.
Free Clinic services include evaluation and management of chronic medical conditions as well as minor acute illnesses and injuries. Laboratory services are provided by Fort HealthCare. Medical imaging studies can be obtained at Fort Memorial Hospital on referral from the Free Clinic. Most medications needed by patients are provided free of charge; the clinic staff assists patients to obtain certain expensive medications utilizing Patient Assistance Programs offered by many pharmaceutical companies.
The clinic remains a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization overseen by a Board of Directors. The Board is made up of members from Fort HealthCare, Jefferson County Health Department, nurses, doctors, community organizations and individuals interested in providing care to those in need. The Board will continue to have control over clinic operations.
Volunteers will still be needed to assist in the Free Clinic operations, with more hours available for those who wish to contribute to this important work. Patients are encouraged to call and make an appointment. Walk-ins will still be accommodated as much as possible.
If you wish to volunteer at the Rock River Free Clinic, call 920-674-7442 or e-mail Gail Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.