Space Coast Volunteers In Medicine: True Community Clinic

By  //  December 27, 2013

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2013 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIANS

ABOVE VIDEO: More than 85 retired and practicing physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, nurses, dental hygienists, receptionists and office support staff offer their time and talent to help individuals who have not been able to afford visiting a doctor for decades. “Space Coast Volunteers in Medicine is a true community clinic providing a free safety net for the uninsured,” said Paul Ringenberger, co-founder and board member for the local clinic.

Community Clinic Providing a Free Safety Net For the Uninsured

They help patients in nursing homes, work at fast food joints and big box stores or clean houses for a living. They’re a legion of workers who make minimum wage and do not have the luxury of health insurance.

SCVIM-388-1

Paul Ringenberger, left, and Dr. Mitchell Greenberg

They’re not eligible for Medicaid and too young for Medicare. From early reports, the upcoming health care reform will not make life any easier for them.

For the working poor, when the decision arises whether to visit the doctor or put food on the table, the latter usually wins and illnesses linger, often becoming chronic and debilitating.

The 90 Volunteers in Medicine Alliance clinics across the country are one of the few resources this segment of the population can count on for medical and dental help.

The clinics grew from the model developed by Dr. Jack McConnell in Hilton Head, South Carolina, after the physician discovered that most workers in the hospitality and service industry, though critical for the economy of this resort community, had no access to health care.

In 2011, uninsured Space Coast workers first had access to a Volunteers in Medicine clinic in their own county.

TRUE COMMUNITY CLINIC

As its name implies, the Brevard health care facility depends on volunteers from many facets of the field.

The majority of health problems facing these patients are chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Their teeth are often in disastrous shape, adding to their woes. (Space Coast Living & Active Living image)

The majority of health problems facing these patients are chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Their teeth are often in disastrous shape, adding to their woes. “Some of them drive from as far as Merritt Island and Vero Beach,” said medical director Sister Clara Kelly, herself a volunteer, above left. “You put your heart and soul into it.”(Space Coast Living & Active Living image)

More than 85 retired and practicing physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, nurses, dental hygienists, receptionists and office support staff offer their time and talent to help individuals who have not been able to afford visiting a doctor for decades.

“Space Coast Volunteers in Medicine is a true community clinic providing a free safety net for the uninsured,” said Paul Ringenberger, co-founder and board member for the local clinic.

“Since opening our doors in April of 2011, Space Coast Volunteers in Medicine has provided 6,500 patient visits with a value estimated by the Department of Health of $2.5 million to the community. All services have been provided free of charge and at zero cost to taxpayers.”

The demand has been at times overwhelming for the young organization. Although the clinic is currently housed in Palm Bay, patients travel four hours by bus from as far north as Titusville to access the services. A constant waiting list exists for both medical and dental help. “We knew there was a great need, but we didn’t anticipate the full extent of the need,” said Ringenberger.

Wuesthoff Health System donates free diagnostics and local labs provide services at a deep discount, but funding and the need for additional volunteers to whittle down the waiting list remain an issue. A larger, more central location is needed, too.

scvim-180-1The demand has been at times overwhelming for the young organization. Although the clinic is currently housed in Palm Bay, patients travel four hours by bus from as far north as Titusville to access the services. A constant waiting list exists for both medical and dental help.

“We knew there was a great need, but we didn’t anticipate the full extent of the need,” said Ringenberger.

The majority of health problems facing these patients are chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Their teeth are often in disastrous shape, adding to their woes.

THOROUGH AND CARING HELP

At Volunteers in Medicine, patients find help that is thorough and caring. The first appointment runs an hour and subsequent visits typically last half an hour.

SPACE COAST VOLUNTEERS IN MEDICINE Brenda Cherpitel, Dr. Barry Kronman, Dr. Gene List, Dr. Richard Roberts, Dr. Steven J. Vanderby, Dr. Tad Fisher and Paul Ringenberger.

Among those on hand during the opening of Space Coast Volunteers In Medicine were Brenda Cherpitel, Dr. Barry Kronman, Dr. Gene List, Dr. Richard Roberts, Dr. Steven J. Vanderby, Dr. Tad Fisher and Paul Ringenberger. (Image for Space Coast Medicine & Active Living)

The complexity of the cases demands the time to listen, and the volunteers, who commit to spending at least a four-hour block each time at the office, are glad to help.

Like the patients, many of the volunteers travel far for the clinic.

“Some of them drive from as far as Merritt Island and Vero Beach,” said medical director Sister Clara Kelly, herself a volunteer.

“You put your heart and soul into it.”

ABOUT THE 2013 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN AWARDS

CFHA-SPONSORS-200-1The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world. 

This year, more than 30 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.

“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.

All Humanitarian alumni are presented a specially commissioned medallion.

“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.

This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, Florida Pain, Forever Florida, MPAC ACO, Brevard Geriatrics, Community Credit Union, Clear Choice Health Care, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, First Choice Medical Group, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, CentralFloridaMedicine.com and SpaceCoastDaily.com.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastMedicine@gmail.com.


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