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Health Team

Medical Ministry's Mission Is Community Health Care

Posted February 19, 2008

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— In Wake County, about 100,000 people have jobs, but don’t have health insurance. Alliance Medical Ministry offers those people affordable health care.

A nonprofit organization in Raleigh with headquarters near WakeMed, the Alliance has moved into a new building with 19,000 square feet – four times the size of its old clinic. The new space at New Bern Avenue and Donald Ross Drive – once a church – suits the group’s name and mission.

Calvary Baptist Church was built for ministry. Now, there are no parishioners, just patients. However, those who work inside it still regard it as a ministry steeped in the Christian tradition of helping those in need.

Minnie McDowell, 42, is one of the patients. She has high blood pressure and severe back pain. Without medical coverage, emergency rooms were her only option. "It was getting kind of expensive, and it was hard to get regular medical care," she said.

The 4-year-old ministry now boasts 21 exam rooms filled with donated equipment. There's a separate urgent-care clinic that will operate some nights and on Saturdays. The facility also includes a health library, large educational space and a full-service kitchen for teaching healthy cooking.

In a separate building behind the old church, a large gym will be used for wellness and fitness programs.

Charges are based upon a patient’s household income, the complexity of the care and the number of dependents. "Ninety-eight percent of Alliance patients qualify for the minimum fee, which is $10 per visit," said Dr. Susan Weaver, the executive director. She says the average visit costs $80, compared with emergency-room visits that may cost $1,100.

Demand is growing.

Last year, clinic services rose 38 percent. At the new facility’s grand opening, WakeMed CEO Dr. Bill Atkinson told political and community leaders that this ministry is now a vital piece of Wake County's health-care puzzle and is a model for others.

"Hopefully,” he said, “we will eventually find a public policy approach that will assure that all citizens of our community and all living in our country have access to care without having to approach it in this way."

Helen Kalu-onuma, 48, is looking forward to that day, but she said she'd be satisfied to keep coming to Alliance.

"I'm very, very happy and gratified that I am one of those who are receiving those services," she said.

The Alliance clinic is supported by local churches, hospitals and corporate and private donors. It is in a fund-raising campaign with a $3.8 million goal.

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