The Lake Norman Community Health Clinic has been providing quality healthcare at no cost to uninsured people in Mecklenburg County for 22 years. So when a global pandemic hit home, they didn't miss a beat. In fact, they were so proactive that they were a model to FEMA and clinics in other states for how to best serve patients during an unprecedented health crisis.
"We had to close our lobby to patients to protect our staff and the potential spread of the coronavirus," says LNCHC Co-Founder and Executive Director April Cook. "By going to a telehealth model, we could continue to take care of patients' prescription refills and provide virtual medical care and overall wellness checks."
Telehealth, or telemedicine, allows medical personnel to engage in secure communications with patients outside the clinic through texting and video chats over phones and other devices.
For a clinic that serves Mecklenburg County, which has at least 120,000 uninsured residents, being proactive in the face of the coronavirus was a must. LNCHC has seen a 15% increase in new patients since the outbreak started in North Carolina, and April Cook estimates that there will be 300,000 newly uninsured people in North Carolina this year due to the increasingly high jobless rate. And that's a conservative estimate. "We are fundraising and writing additional grants to be able to handle the influx of new patients," says April.
Providing free healthcare helps the uninsured, but it also helps the entire healthcare system. When LNCHC, and the 60 other free and charitable health clinics in North Carolina that have remained open during the pandemic, are able to treat patients, it keeps those patients out of emergency rooms and hospitals. And now more than ever, we need as much emergency room and hospital capacity as possible.
April Cook, who serves as board chair for the North Carolina Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, says, "We feel a responsibility to keep our patients out of the state's hospital emergency rooms during this pandemic, and it was through sheer determination—and bravery—that our member clinics have managed to keep their doors open."
HOW YOU CAN HELP
When we help our uninsured neighbors, we help everyone. So what can we do right now?
1. Donate money through PayPal or check (click the link for details.) $50 buys a three-month supply of diabetic strips for one chronic disease patient, $287 provides medical care for one patient for a year, and $500 helps the Clinic purchase medical supplies to treat over 550 patients a month. $861 supports the healthcare costs for one average-size family for the year.
2. Donate supplies. The clinic is in desperate need of surgical masks as the team prepares to open the facility to patients. Patients will need to be given a mask before they enter the premises. They are also in need of grocery gift cards to give to patients as many of them have lost their jobs. Donations of over-the-counter cough and cold medications as well as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are also needed. To donate supplies, contact Andrea Johnson, RN (email@example.com) to schedule a drop-off time, or call 704-316-6611.
3. VOTE for Lake Norman Community Health Clinic to receive a $5,000 gift! See details below.
DID YOU KNOW: Lake Norman Community Health Clinic is in the running to win $5K this month thanks to Amy and Brian France Foundation who have partnered with SHARE Charlotte for this year’s Spotlight Series and YOU can help when you VOTE NOW! You can also check out the other organizations eligible to win this month’s prize, here!
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.