Our Lady of Angels St. Joseph Medical Clinic was established in 2002 by a small group of local physicians and parishioners. Its mission is to provide medical and dental services for uninsured, low-income patients in Escambia County.
“By 2001, I became concerned about the growing number of people in our community who did not have health care because of their inability to afford it,” said Dr. Conkle, a retired heart surgeon and the Medical Director for St. Joseph Clinic. “With those thoughts, I went to St. Joseph Catholic Church and with the help of the congregation and Bishop John Ricard, we opened St. Joseph Medical Clinic in the spring of 2002.”
The walk-in clinic remains staffed entirely by a volunteer group of doctors, dentists, nurses, social workers and administrative personnel. The clinic’s financial support comes from the community and from charitable donations.
“We waited three weeks before our first patient arrived in 2002,” said Conkle. “And this fiscal year, we’ve cared for more than 4,883 patients.”
The clinic was awarded an IMPACT 100 grant in 2009 for the construction of four patient exam rooms and a physician room. Bill and Faye Flowers donated their time to build the 832-square-foot addition.
In 2014, another IMPACT 100 grant funded the purchase of basic diagnostic equipment that allows the volunteer physicians to treat the clinic’s patients more efficiently. The equipment purchases helped support the treatment of patients with diabetes, heart and lung disease and included an ultrasound system, electrocardiogram machine, vital signs monitor, spirometer, ophthalmoscope, sterilization equipment and a CoaguChek monitor. In addition, the grant funded new waiting room furniture, providing a more welcoming environment for the patients – contributing to their sense of self worth and wellbeing.
St. Joseph Clinic by the numbers (June 30, 2016 to July 1, 2017):
Longtime supporter Millie Green of Pensacola spearheaded the Michael E. Green Prescription Fund to honor her late husband, who died in 2003. Green has been instrumental in helping to organize and champion the Gospel & Gumbo biennial charity fundraiser.
“Mike loved St. Joseph and would be thrilled knowing that its patients are leaving the clinic with the medicines that they need,” she said. “I knew when we started this it was going to benefit a lot of people. But I had no idea how much joy it would bring me.”
In its 12-year existence, more than $375,000 has been raised for non-narcotic prescription drugs and laboratory costs.
“Our primary expense is for prescription drugs, and from anybody’s standard, this fund has been tremendously helpful,” adds Dr. David Conkle, Medical Director for St. Joseph Clinic.
Many major pharmaceutical companies have established assistance programs that provide individuals who meet their financial criteria free prescription medicines. Each company has its own application and eligibility protocol. Therefore each company’s application form and process is unique to that company.
Many clinics and hospitals around the country have established Pharmacy Assistance Programs (PAP) to help their patients take advantage of these free medicines. The application process can be challenging and intimidating, thus the need to provide assistance to patients wishing to apply.
St. Joseph Medical Clinic established a PAP for its patients in 2004.
At St. Joseph’s, until 2009, if a clinic physician wished to obtain a medication for a patient through PAP, it was necessary to research the medication to determine which company was the manufacturer. The clinic then would contact the company by phone or Internet to determine if the company had a PAP program, and if so, which medicines were offered. The clinic would request applications through the mail or from web sites. Eventually the clinic established company files and over time built a resource library.
In 2009, the clinic was fortunate enough to be included in the Medical Data system — an Internet computer program that allows the user to gain access to information on the vast number of pharmaceutical companies that offer medicines through their PAP programs. Using the system, the clinic can instantly determine if a medication is available and print and complete applications. This system is an extremely valuable tool. There is a cost to use this program. However, Sacred Heart Hospital sponsors the program for St. Joseph Clinic and is able to use the program at no cost.
The PAP program saves a great deal of money for the clinic. The medications ordered often are very expensive. Usually, when a generic equivalent is available, the pharmaceutical company will discontinue offering the name brand product. Thus, not only does the program save money for the clinic, but also patients are often able to obtain medications that they would not otherwise be able to get.