Kaiser providers help Free Clinic keep doors open after hours

Volunteer event draws dozens needing urgent medical care

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter


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To learn about the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington and its services, call 360-313-1390.

To learn about the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington and its services, call 360-313-1390.

The waiting room at the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington was standing room only Tuesday evening as dozens of people in need of urgent medical care showed up for treatment.

A few were there for tooth extractions. Others had chronic conditions that needed medical attention. Some needed vision exams.

As part of a new partnership, Kaiser Permanente providers will staff the Free Clinic’s evening urgent care clinic one night every other month. Organizers hope to soon make the KP Night Out events monthly. In addition to the urgent care, Kaiser staff will also volunteer in the clinic’s mobile dental van, provide podiatry care and conduct optical exams on the same night.

“The need’s out there, where people just don’t have access to care,” said Dr. Rasjad Lints, a Kaiser pediatrician and organizer for the Kaiser nights.

The Free Clinic, 4100 Plomondon St., provides medical and dental care to low-income people who are uninsured or underinsured. The clinic offers urgent care on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Physicians generally see at least 40 patients per clinic, said Patrick Callahan, clinic director at the Free Clinic.

“It’s pretty common that we turn people away from every single clinic

because the need is so great,” he said.

All of the Free Clinic’s services are provided by its more than 600 volunteers. Like Kaiser, some other local provider groups — such as The Vancouver Clinic — fully staff urgent care nights. Typically, the clinic doesn’t offer dental and vision services during urgent care, but because Kaiser has the ability to staff the extra services, the clinic will provide them, Callahan said.

“Being able to partner with Kaiser and continue to provide services is definitely needed,” he said.

Kaiser held a pilot event in September and another in December. The staff turnout and support were so strong, Kaiser decided to make the events ongoing. Kaiser providers in other communities have even volunteered to serve at the Free Clinic, Lints said.

The partnership gives Kaiser providers an opportunity to personally make a difference in their community, Lints said.

“Kaiser gives a lot back to the community in terms of grants, but this is more personal,” he said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.

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