Bandera’s solution to the problem of health care for uninsured
By Robert Brischetto
One of the most perplexing problems in our nation today is how to provide healthcare for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Several Presidents and the Congress have wrestled with the problem without success; meanwhile, health costs are inflating far faster than personal incomes.
Bandera has found a solution to providing affordable health care in the Arthur Nagel Community Clinic. As noted in a previous column (Bandera County Courier, Dec. 18, page 7A), the clinic makes preventive and primary care available to Bandera County residents at no cost or low cost - depending on family income - to those who are uninsured. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression are all dealt with through Risk Busters, the clinic’s preventive healthcare program.
The Nagel Clinic fills a definite need in our county as evidenced by the fact that:
• There is no hospital or emergency care facility in Bandera County - a county with a population of more than 20,000.
• A report by the Texas Department of State Health Services indicated that there were 9,488 residents per direct-care physician in Bandera County. Statewide, there are 661 people per physician.
• The county has been designated a Medically Underserved Area since 1978.
• Those without insurance - estimated to be one in four Bandera residents - often do not seek medical care until they are seriously ill and must call the EMS for transport to emergency care in another county.
You may ask how a private not-for-profit clinic can operate in today’s high-cost medical marketplace without charging the outrageous fees characteristic of our nation’s for-profit health insurance system.
Make a visit to the Arthur Nagel Community Clinic on the campus of Helping Hand in downtown Bandera and you will find the answer in a single word: volunteerism. There is a sign in the coffee break room that reflects the operating philosophy: “Volunteers are not paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”
Volunteers raised the money to build and operate the clinic. Pat Breedlove and his “Fun Raising” Committee raised $127,000 in Bandera County for the clinic’s first year of operation.
The clinic is operated by three employees and a volunteer staff of 20, half of whom are medical professionals. Here are some examples of just a few of the dedicated volunteers:
• Medical Director Saleh Jaafar, M.D., reviews patients’ charts. He takes time away from his own family practice to serve the Community Clinic without compensation.
• Cheryl Finch manages the Prescription Assistance Program and works two 10-hour days every week to make sure clinic patients have the medications they need.
• Donna Graham works long hours as a receptionist volunteers her time.
Our community clinic also benefits from volunteerism on a state and national level. As a member of the National Association of Free Clinics and the Lone Star Association of Charitable Clinics, the Nagel Clinic receives free equipment and free and low-cost medications. Both are nonprofit corporations, run entirely by unpaid volunteers who work with pharmaceutical companies to provide free and low-cost prescriptions to patients who otherwise would go without.
Hundreds of Bandera County volunteers are working right now to raise money to help pay the clinic’s 2009 operating costs. Some are selling tickets to the Jan. 24 and 25 stage production of “Always…Patsy Cline.” Others are signing up to compete in the February Stationary Marathon, hosted by Comprehensive Physical Therapy & Bandera Fitness. Every committee member and every donor is a clinic volunteer and part of the clinic’s healthcare team.
To volunteer for the healthcare team, contact Kitty Page, Nagel Clinic office manager, at 830-796-3448. Additionally, tax-deductible contributions can be made to the Arthur Nagel Community Clinic, Inc., PO Box 519, Bandera 78003.