Extending Clinics' Hours Doubles Capacity
Voices of the Village E-Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 5
“Despite Obamacare, many in our community still lack access to resources and insurance - especially the homeless. There is always going to be a need.”
Janiene Diaz-Fasano, Eva's Village Clinic Administrator
"This population ages faster as a result of drug use and homelessness - health problems catch up with them at younger ages than average."
Sara Thompson, Volunteer Nurse Practicioner
"These patients are more than a diseased body, damaged organs, or disturbed minds; they are human and fearful. They are seeking not just medical help, but hope and reassurance."
Henry Sherman, Volunteer Family Medicine Doctor
The Primary Care Medical Clinic at Eva's Village provides care not only to Eva's clients, but to local residents who are uninsured or underinsured - and it is one of the few free clinics in the Paterson community to offer this service to the public. In the same building on Jackson Street, the Dental Clinic offers primary and restorative dental care to clients in Eva's Village programs.
In the past three years, patient visits to the clinics have increased by 86%; last year, our clinics accommodated 5,320 patient visits. Our goal is to continue to seek the resources to increase our hours, in order to serve the growing patient population.
Social Issues Impact Health
In addition to escalating demand, medical staff sees an increase in the severity of illness due to the explosion in drug use, a rise in homelessness and unemployment, and lack of insurance in the community. These factors make for a "cauldron of illness," noted Dr. Henry Sherman, now a consultant who had volunteered at the clinic for 8 years. Nurse Practitioner Sara Thompson agrees: "Hypertension, hepatitis C, and diabetes are the most common conditions we treat," she said.
Dental issues are common: "Lack of dental care, poor nutrition and drug abuse ravages the teeth. Dental services, including reconstruction, are very important in the rehabilitation of the formerly homeless and addicted," noted Janiene Diaz-Fasano, Clinic Administrator at Eva's Village.
"Podiatry services are also in high demand. People sleeping outside often suffer from frostbite and infections complicated by drug use and diabetes. "If they can't walk, they don't eat," she explained.
Earning Patients' Trust is Key
"So many patients are grateful for our service. They open up to us," Ms. Thompson remarked. It takes an "extra measure of awareness and empathy to work with this population," observed Dr. Sherman, who also teaches at NJ Medical School at Rutgers University. "It is important to understand these patients do not want to be abandoned. This is the most important expectation to satisfy and makes working here so unique. The need is so great."
Eva's Is Committed to Improving Community Health
The commitment to improve health outcomes for underserved populations in our community has a long history at Eva's Village. The Primary Care Clinic had its beginnings in a mobile clinic set up in 1994, in response to the TB epidemic then raging in Paterson and other inner city neighborhoods. As demand grew, dental services were added in 2003 and the clinic moved indoors. In 2011, the clinics found a permanent home in Eva's administration building. Today the clinic has 7 exam rooms and a staff of 14, including both volunteers and paid staff.
Volunteer Medical Professionals Keep Doors Open
Volunteers play an essential role in our clinics, as they do in many programs at Eva's Village. Eight medical and dental professionals contribute time and talent to clinical care at Eva's. Ms. Thompson, who also teaches nursing at Felician University, often brings students to work with her in the clinic. "Some are apprehensive, but they will see things, like positive TB tests, they won't see in other places. Overall they have a positive experience," she noted.
Donor Support Is Critical
The clinics depend on the generosity of volunteers and donors committed to serving a vulnerable community.
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