By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) are “safety net” providers such as community health centers, public housing centers, outpatient health programs funded by the Indian Health Service, and programs serving migrants and the homeless.
The main purpose of the FQHC program is to enhance the provision of primary care services in underserved urban and rural communities. For a group of health care professionals in Williamson, the desire to open such a facility within the city that would serve the entire Tug Valley region is much closer to becoming a reality.
Donavan Beckett, M.D., and his associates of the Comprehensive Health Solutions, along with Vicki Hatfield, Certified Family Nurse Practitioner; Certified Diabetes Educator, Board Certified in Advanced Diabetes Management (CFNP; CDE, BC-ADM) have dedicated time and energy into formulating a plan to establish a FQHC in Mingo County, and met with numerous members of the community Tuesday evening at the Williamson Fire Department to explain details about the proposed clinic and to receive their input.
“We live in an area where a lot of physicians do not accept Medicaid, and there are only a few who take Medicare,” said Dr. Beckett. “It is becoming increasingly harder for patients to receive adequate care.
“In the same instance, we have a large quantity of non-insured and under-insured individuals and families in the Tug Valley area who are not financially able to pay the additional or total costs of medical treatment they need.
“With a FQHC, there is a sliding scale payment set up for those who have no insurance, and Medicaid and Medicare are accepted, which allows a greater majority of the public to be able to receive medical attention.”
One point that Dr. Beckett, Vicki Hatfield and Tim McNamee, Manager of the Homecare/Medical Equipment for the Hurley Drug Store, commented on was the rumor and speculation that if a FQHC opened in Williamson, it could affect other medical offices/clinics by taking patients away from their practices.
“We are not a threat for anyone,” said McNamee. “This clinic will be a good neighbor, an asset to everyone. This clinic will treat a different group of people, most of whom haven’t been able to see a health care provider because of financial problems and lack of insurance.
“Everyone deserves to be able to have a family physician they can see on a regular basis. There’s no continuity of care when they simply see whoever they can afford, or in a lot of situations, go through the emergency room rather than having normal office visits, seeing a different doctor each time.
“Another good point that we all need to see is that there are tuition reimbursement programs that are offered by the government to doctors completing their residencies, if they will agree to perform those in a poverty-stricken or rural region. This will allow us to attract physicians that would otherwise not choose our area,” said Dr. Beckett.
“A lot of times we have witnessed doctors completing their residency in a rural area and then choosing to stay in that location and set up a private practice. If we can accomplish this feat, it’s a win-win situation for all those involved.”
The health professionals conducting the meeting on Tuesday had each person in attendance fill out a questionnaire that better allows them to see where the need lies in the community members, regarding whether their healthcare needs are being met, if they are insured, if they have a primary physician, etc. The results of these questionnaires are used to support the request for the FQHC, and the grants associated with it.
McNamee touched on the subject of the universal healthcare plan that is due to be implemented for all Americans in 2014, and of the sudden influx of an estimated 14 million additional people who will have insurance and will be seeking medical care.
“There are not enough physicians to see this number of patients – it’s not possible,” commented McNamee. “With these clinics in place, you will be providing people with another choice and a viable chance to receive treatment.”
A FQHC not only offers physician services, but those of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical psychologists and social workers. They may have nurses who perform home visits, be able to acquire assistance for the price of prescription medications in certain cases where the patient cannot afford them, and offer diabetes self-management training and medical nutrition therapy for beneficiaries with diabetes or renal disease.
The clinics also furnish medical social services; nutritional assessment and referrals; preventive health education; children’s eye and ear exams; well child care including periodic screening; immunizations including the tentanus/diptheria booster and influenza vaccine; voluntary family planning services; blood pressure management; weight measurement; physical exams targeting risks; visual acuity screenings; hearing tests; cholesterol screenings; stool sampling for occult blood; tuberculosis testing for high-risk beneficiaries; dipstick urinalysis, and for females, prenatal and post-partum care; prenatal services; clinical breast exams; thyroid function tests and referrals for mammograms.
June Blevins, a resident of South Williamson, Ky., was one of those in attendance at the public forum, and after hearing the facts surrounding the proposed clinic, stated that she was supportive of the idea and felt that it would be an asset to the Tug Valley area.
“I think this sounds wonderful,” said Blevins. “There are a lot of people in the area that cannot afford medical care, or only receive the bare minimum to keep their medical costs down. A lot of elderly only have Medicare and they have a hard time paying the out of pocket costs.”
“We can make a great impact if we have the right resources,” said Hatfield. “We feel strongly that this clinic will help the public who need services like this live longer, healthier, more productive lives.”
More information will be released on the proposed FQHC in the near future, and Dr. Beckett and his staff, along with Vicki Hatfield and Tim McNamee, to name a few, will be happy to provide information to those who request it. The medical questionnaires that were handed out during the Tuesday meeting are available to the public, and may be picked up at the Williamson City Hall.
“We encourage everyone to pick up and fill out one of the forms and get them turned back in,” said Dr. Beckett. “It’s very important that we get a clear picture of what our residents need and what areas they are struggling with to better accommodate them.
“We can’t wait around for our health system to fall apart,” stated McNamee. “We need to plan now, for the future of the Tug Valley area.
“This Federally Qualified Health Center is definitely a step in the right direction.”