MANATEE -- If you fracture your arm in Manatee County and are among the underserved population, you can get it stabilized with a splint in a local hospital emergency room.
The emergency room won't put a cast on it, said Victoria Kasdan, executive director of We Care Manatee. Speaking Wednesday to members of Manatee County's new Healthcare Advisory Board at its February meeting on the ninth floor of the county administration building, Kasdan said medically needy patients with fractures usually go to the emergency room but later end up at Turning Points or We Care Manatee to be seen by a volunteer orthopedic specialist, Kasdan said.
"When someone who doesn't have insurance breaks a bone and they go into the ER, that bone, unless it is sticking out through their skin and they have to get surgery, that bone is stabilized," Kasdan said.
"This usually means they get a splint or something but not a cast," Kasdan added. "They are then encouraged to go see their physician when the swelling goes down in a few days. Many of them don't have a physician."
We Care Manatee's volunteer specialists do see patients on a pro bono basis for the medically needy but, unfortunately, it does not include casts for fractures, Kasdan said.
"Our orthopedic doctors are very gracious to us, but they limit their practice to knees, shoulders and hips," Kasdan said. "They do not do fractures. So, what does that person do? You or I with insurance would get a cast. They have theirs stabilized. We hope it heals and we hope it heals correctly."
Kasdan said orthopedics is just one of several specialty areas where Manatee County's needy population is not covered. Other areas include rheumatologists and pulmonologists, Kasdan said.
Kasdan and Adell Erozer of Turning Points say they work together to help clients all they can. Finding money is always a problem.
Their stories were often gut-wrenching.
Erozer told of how costly Turning Points' denture program is for the needy and how she is always hunting for funding to keep it going.
Kasdan announced We Care Manatee's well-known breast health program for medically needy women, which has been in place since 2012 and served nearly 800 women, will end March 1 due to lack of funding. The program costs between $100,000 and $115,000 annually, Kasdan said.
Previous funding came from a Susan B. Komen Foundation grant, Kasdan added.
"The number of mammograms for screening requests from the physicians of women who have already found lumps in their breasts are stacking up on my desk," Kasdan said.
Cheri Coryea, Manatee County interim director of community services, said she felt the board may have realized where it needs to put its energies in listening to Erozer and Kasdan.
"I think this board is very open-minded," Coryea said. "Right now, they are learning. I think they realize this will be a fairly long haul but I also think they realize they have some key issues they need to deal with including funding, access, capacity, coordination. I think they will be ramping up to try to get to some of those things done."
Two members of the public spoke: Glen Gibellina and Linda Neely.
Neely said Manatee doctors need to step up to treat all kinds of things they don't treat now instead of sending people to the emergency room.
"Great presentation by We Care and Turning Points," Gibellina said. "It's clear we don't have funds. That's why we are here."
Board member Philip Brown also read into the minutes a suggestion from Mike Meehan to the board to request MCR Health Services and for-profit walk-in clinics post their prices on the Manatee County Health Services website and also at their front desk locations to help the medically needy make decisions on care.
The board will next meet from 5-7 p.m. March 23 on the ninth floor of the Administration Building. The board will also have a joint session with Manatee County commissioners from 3-5 p.m. March 29 on the fourth floor of the Administration Building.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.