Nurse practitioner Regina Puratich examines the second patient to visit the new KP clinic last month, moments before the patient was seen by Dr. James Patterson in a dedicated room at the Key Peninsula Community Service, in Lakebay. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

 

As of February, there’s a once-a-month free medical clinic on the Key Peninsula, thanks to the combined efforts of Key Peninsula Community Services and a coalition of area medical providers.

According to KPCS Director Penny Gazabat, the free clinic will serve KP residents who don’t have health insurance or a primary care physician.

“There’s no income criteria,” Gazabat said. “It’s sort of an urgent care facility for people with colds that just won’t go away, or who have flu symptoms or perhaps have things like asthma or COPD. We hope it will be a stop gap for people who might otherwise go to the St. Anthony emergency room.”

Gazabat emphasized that the new clinic will not dispense any narcotic drugs or other medications. “We won’t fill prescriptions,” she said. “And if it turns out that a client has an emergency or a life-threatening situation, we’ll call 911 or tell them they have to go to the ER.”

The clinic was spearheaded by Dr. Wiliam Roes because he saw a need for a local after-hours medical service, she said.

“It’s a consortium of several private practice physicians, hospitals and KPCS,” Roes said. Both Franciscan and MultiCare health systems are involved, as well as a number of area doctors.

“The idea is to improve access to health care on the Key Peninsula,” Roes said.

Roes feels the Peninsula has long been underserved.

“There are 17,000 people living here on the Peninsula and I’m the only primary care doctor. That’s one doctor for 17,000 people. The national standard is one doctor for every 3- or 4,000 people. And lots of people here don’t have a primary care physician or insurance,” he said.

The goal behind the clinic, he said, is to meet temporary needs and help citizens find a regular medical care provider.

“We want to help them understand their options,” Roes said.

The new clinic is based, in part, on “Project Access,” a program sponsored by the Pierce County Medical Society. “Ours is a walk-in clinic geared to minor urgent care needs like an ear infection or a bladder infection or things like that. Or perhaps for someone with chronic needs –– like, they’re out of blood pressure medication, for example,” he said.

The clinic won’t have any emergency capabilities –– like suturing a bad cut –– but all the things the clinic can care for will be handled at no charge.

Emergency situations will be referred to St. Anthony Hospital, which will handle special needs, X-rays and so forth, Roes said.

At this time, there is no ongoing funding for the clinic. Space has been provided at no charge by KPCS, and all of the doctors and nurses participating at the clinic are doing so on a volunteer basis. They’ll take turns being “on call,” he said.

There will also be volunteer social workers available to help patients find regular medical providers in the area.

Eventually, a board of directors will be formed and fundraising events will likely be held, Roes said.

Roes himself will not be one of the participating physicians. “Since my practice is here in Key Center, it’s not appropriate for me to be at the clinic. Some of the clinic patients might assume that, if I treat them at the clinic that now I’m their doctor,” he said. “I’m just helping put this whole thing together.”

Both Roes and Gazabat agreed that KPCS is the ideal and natural location for the clinic.

“KPCS is a natural partner and we have an ideal location,” Gazabat added. “We’ve converted a storage area into a regular exam room for the clinic, and we plan to be open whenever the clinic is in service.”

Right now, that’s just once a month, she said. But the goal is to provide clinic services at least once a week.

The first session on Jan. 17 “was a good experience,” Gazabat said. “We only had a couple of clients, but it gave us an opportunity to see how our procedures will work and if we need to change anything. Once the word gets out, we think we’ll be serving lots of patients for lots of reasons.”

The next clinic opening will be Thursday, Feb. 21. Clinic hours will be 5:30-8 p.m.

For information, contact KP Community Services at (253) 884-4440.

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