Local News

Local Group Helping Uninsured, Working Poor Get Needed Medical Care

Posted February 23, 2004

— We hear all the time health care costs are skyrocketing. For those without health insurance, the only option is often getting no health care at all.

For the past year, a clinic in Raleigh has made a big difference for the working poor.

Ruth Williams has high blood pressure and arthritis. Still, she used to stay away from doctors' offices.

"You need to go to the doctor, but you don't go to the doctor. You just wait it out and do whatever you can do," she said.

Williams works, but does not have health insurance. Those are the only kind of patients Dr. Susan Weaver sees at the

Alliance Medical Ministry

.

"We charge patients a reduced fee based on their household income and the complexity of the visit with the physician," Weaver said.

Volunteers fill many roles on staff. More than 90 percent of its costs are covered by the local faith community, churches, synagogues -- even businesses and local hospitals.

Patients like Maricela Dominguez Parga used to depend on hospital emergency rooms for basic care since hospitals cannot turn away patients who cannot pay. Parga can afford this kind of care.

In Weaver's 12-year career before heading this clinic, she had never seen cervical cancer. Routine pap smears catch the problem early.

"Here in our practice in the first year of operation, we've had about four or five patients who've had cervical cancer. It's just because they had not had routine screenings and exams like the rest of the community takes for granted," Weaver said.

Regular checkups are not something Williams takes for granted.

"I believe in God, and it's like, this place is just like angels to me," she said.

The Alliance Medical Ministry is adding to its paid staff and preparing to add space to handle a growing number of patients.

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