It was a celebration touched with sadness Aug. 6 as Elaine Ewald paid tribute to Rev. Lynn Shunk, a founding board member of the Madison County Health Partners Free Clinic, during the clinic’s three-year anniversary dessert at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall.
Ewald, board president, described Shunk as “a dear friend and faithful free clinic volunteer.” Shunk died May 10.
He helped create the volunteer position of “prayer partner” and trained others to pray with patients who came to the clinic and wanted spiritual support. His family attended the dessert and received a plaque in his honor.
The clinic now has 11 prayer partners and nearly 100 other volunteers who have logged 1,500 hours of service. Since opening Aug.1, 2005, the clinic has served more than 800 patients and provided more than 2,100 medical office visits.
“You have chosen to give . . . and because of you, we are fulfilling our mission to provide basic healthcare to the uninsured population of Madison County,” is the clinic’s motto.
During the past year, 47 clinics were conducted in the Madison County Hospital Professional Office Building, 210 Main St., London, next to the hospital emergency room. Each clinic requires eight to 10 volunteers, said Executive Director Melissa Canney, the only full-time employee.
In April, a part-time nursing position was added and is shared by Janeen McAninch and Valerie Peart. There are 17 volunteer nurses and eight volunteer doctors who see patients at the clinic.
An additional 13 physician specialists also volunteer. Pedi-atrics and women’s health are performed regularly at the clinic. All other specialists, including surgeons, a pulmonary specialist and specialists in orthopedics, ophthalmology, allergies, physical medicine and ear, nose and throat, receive patient referrals in their offices.
Canney said the celebration is a time to thank all of the volunteers, especially the doctors. “We could not have a free clinic without these doctors who volunteer their time.”
Dr. Robinette Huston, who’s practice has moved from London, still comes back to volunteer at the clinic.
“I had several patients last night that needed the services of the clinic to help them through difficult times,” she said recently.
“Several women had previously been able to work but due to separation and financial disaster needed assistance to get healthy enough to seek later employment.
“The free clinic serves as a bridge or safety net to people who would otherwise just go without care. This would not only be severely detrimental to their health, but could also result in a lifetime of permanently disability and an even greater burden to society and our tax dollars,” Huston said.
Dr. Anthony Restuccio also volunteers and supports the clinic’s mission. “At the clinic, it is not a matter of number needed to treat. Every patient’s life is affected by what we do,” he said.
“While you are writing out your check to the free clinic, write your congressman and point out that every day the clinic is open, we are likely preventing a stroke or MI that will cost the private sector thousands of dollars. Sounds like a good investment for a ‘free clinic.’”
The clinic gets funding from grants and the local community. A list of churches, civic groups, businesses, individuals, and others totals nearly 150 donors. “The community has been very supportive,” Canney said.
Among the estimated 80 people attending the celebration were Margie Frazier, executive director of the Ohio Association of Free Clinics (OAFC), and Chris Widener, state representative of the 84th House District, which includes Madison County and portions of Clark and Greene Counties.
Frazier represents one of the clinic’s funding sources. Widener helped Ewald present plaques and awards donated by Starr Trophy.
The free clinic is open on Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. offering basic medical care, social service assistance and spiritual support if requested.
To be eligible for services, patients must be residents of Madison County with no healthcare insurance and with a house-hold income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For an appointment, call Canney at 740-845-7286.