MANATEE -- Officials have tentatively set July 16 as the day doctors from Manatee Memorial Hospital will begin staffing a medical clinic at the Bill Galvano One Stop Center for the poor and the homeless.
The young residents will be providing basic care for people without any health insurance, according to Adell Erozer, executive director for the Community Coalition on Homelessness, a nonprofit that operates the Bill Galvano One Stop Center.
"The big focus is on prevention, they'll talk about diet, exercise, weight management, diabetes, high blood pressure," she said.
Eight, first-year residents, will work initially from 1-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, said Bert Beard, the hospital's associate administrator.
All of their work at the clinic will be supervised by a physician, he said.
The doctors will go on to work in family practice and internal medicine specialties, Beard said.
"They will all basically take anything (concerning) primary care that comes in," explained Beard.
Among the types of conditions he expects they'll see are flu, colds, respiratory trouble, and open wounds, Beard said.
"The big key here will be how we handle patients that might require specialty care and referrals," Beard explained, noting that the plan entails tapping into various other resources such as Manatee County Rural Health Services for those who are seriously ill.
"It's really how, when a
patient needs care beyond primary care, how to give them the care they need?" said Beard.
He said he hoped the program could eventually produce monetary savings.
"Our hope is to become proficient at it, and if we can reduce traffic through the (Emergency Department), that's what we're going for," he said.
The Manatee Memorial Hospital group will join another cohort from Lakewood Ranch's LECOM medical and pharmacy schools, which already is working at the center from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., said Erozer.
"Usually, there's two primary care students, and two pharmacy students," she said, adding that they also are managed by a supervisor.
The majority of clients at the center have no income, and those that do don't make enough money to pay for health insurance.
"A lot of our people are working, but in minimum wage jobs -- $7.67 an hour, $14,000 a year -- and they can barely pay rent, and get something on the plate for that," Erozer said.
More than 250 needy people have been using services each day at the center, 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton, she said.
"Manatee County is out of indigent care funds, it is disappearing, and by 2014-15, it's going to be gone, and how are we going to fund indigent care after that?" she asked.
"We see people who normally would go to the emergency room for care, it's sort of a like a diversion program."
County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who has been a nurse since 1977, said the federal-state Medicaid program is supposed to provide care to the poor, but very few doctors and even fewer specialists accept Medicaid patients because the reimbursement is so low.
She said she and her husband, plastic surgeon Andre Renard, volunteer at the One Stop Center. He frequently treats people who are seriously ill, but cannot find a doctor to care for them.
"It's so desperately needed," said Whitmore. "It's going to help the quality of care everywhere. I'm glad the hospital and the One Stop are working together."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.