Each 12 months, the Yakima Union Gospel Mission’s medical clinic has over 10,000 affected person visits — making it the most important free medical clinic within the state measured by clinic visits, administrators say.
Amongst these, about 40% are urgent-care visits; the rest are with sufferers who use the clinic as major care, visiting 4 occasions a 12 months on common.
The clinic is an important useful resource for the individuals it serves, much more so amid the pandemic.
These purchasers are often low-income, don’t have medical insurance coverage, or have insurance coverage with extraordinarily excessive deductibles that they will’t afford to foot, mentioned Mike Johnson, government director of the mission.
“Our typical affected person demographic is working within the agricultural trade,” mentioned Johnson. “So we now have some people that we see who’re exterior of working age. However most of our sufferers are of working age, they’re employed, they’re agriculture-based.”
The true value of every go to to the clinic is about $42. But it surely’s free to purchasers, with donations inspired. Over the previous three years — for the reason that clinic was revamped and expanded — donations from purchasers of $5, $10 or $20 have grown from a collective of roughly $25,000 a 12 months to $100,000, supporting one-fourth of the donation-based clinic’s price range, mentioned Johnson. This 12 months, Virginia Mason Memorial hospital matched that greenback quantity, he mentioned.
The clinic is run by six devoted workers members: a physician who graduated from Yakima’s Pacific Northwest College of Well being Sciences, a doctor assistant and 4 medical workplace workers. It additionally will get an immense quantity of donated doctor time from native retired practitioners and assist from Virginia Mason Memorial, which gives all labs and imaging for the clinic free of charge.
“It’s simply been a extremely good thing to maintain people wholesome, preserve people working,” he mentioned of the clinic’s impression over time on the group it serves.
He mentioned the mission believes a good portion of its clientele is undocumented, which is a part of why some don’t have entry to well being care. However the clinic doesn’t ask.
“That isn’t our job. Our job isn’t to search out out who’s right here with immigration papers and who isn’t. Our job is to provide individuals care within the identify of a loving God who has a fantastic plan for his or her life, and we need to see them thrive,” he mentioned. “Care is why we’re right here.”
The toll of the pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Yakima, the clinic noticed a dive in clinic visits as individuals had been instructed to remain house. On the identical time, important work within the Valley continued, and the agriculture trade was significantly susceptible because the virus struck packing crops.
The clinic workers stepped up, mentioned Johnson, rolling out drive-up COVID-19 testing and look after clinic sufferers. Over time, clientele started returning for normal visits as effectively, following precautions like masking and common clinic sanitation. Clinic visits have returned to 85% to 90% of what they had been pre-pandemic, Johnson mentioned.
“That is preserving our (agriculture) trade protected and wholesome, and it’s preserving individuals at work,” he mentioned. What’s extra, he mentioned: “It’s good to see individuals coming again and getting the medical care they want.”
Dulce Chavez, 43, of Sunnyside was among the many sufferers who returned for care. She’s been going to the mission’s Yakima clinic for a handful of years for therapy for diabetes and a critical again damage that retains her out of labor. She’s loyal to the clinic partly for its affordability, however primarily for the high-quality care she mentioned she couldn’t discover elsewhere.
When the pandemic hit, she was apprehensive about with the ability to proceed to obtain care in addition to about turning into contaminated, since her diabetes makes her extra susceptible to COVID-19.
However Chavez was in a position to proceed telemedicine by way of the clinic and has since returned to common chiropractic care on the workplace.
“The medical doctors right here,” she mentioned. “They take the time they usually actually take heed to you to allow them to assist you.”
Little by little, Chavez mentioned her mobility is bettering. The care, she mentioned, “it’s simply wonderful.”
Coordinating for higher service
Medical clinic workers even have labored carefully with the Yakima Well being District to grasp and implement COVID-19 security and cleansing protocols which have allowed the mission’s shelter and transitional housing restoration program to stay open, even whereas another space sources for these experiencing homelessness have shuttered.
They continued to be concerned in COVID-19 oversight, coaching workers alongside the best way, and started providing clinic hours on the shelter, relatively than bringing residents into the clinic to restrict potential publicity.
As of late November, the Union Gospel Mission shelters had seen fewer than 20 instances of COVID-19 — with no latest instances and no deaths, one thing Johnson proudly attributes to the collaboration between shelter workers and the clinic’s medical workers.
This rising relationship throughout the 2 organizations additionally spurred a brand new screening of sufferers: asking about housing standing. Already, this has led to 1 shelter referral of a clinic affected person, which Johnson hopes to see proceed and develop.
“One of many issues that has shocked us and delighted us has been the best way that COVID has helped us all work as a way more built-in and holistic group,” he mentioned. “And whereas that’s been very laborious at occasions, it’s made us higher for it.”