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Free clinic's walk-in program gets boost

Published February 27, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - A $100,000 grant means the St. Petersburg Free Clinic will be able to see more patients and cut waiting time, officials announced Wednesday.

The money, from the Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida, will support the clinic's walk-in program. It serves uninsured patients and other people who have no easy access to medical care.

"We see people up close and personal who don't know where to go for their health," said Jane Egbert, clinic director.

Volunteer Free Clinic physicians see an average of more than 520 patients monthly, according to clinic data.

In 2006, the clinic added a nurse practitioner, which essentially more than doubled the number of patients the clinic sees.

The nurse practitioner manages a 3,000-patient caseload, seeing an average of 293 patients a month.

Clinic officials point to Maggie Brown as an example of someone who benefits from the program.

Brown, 41, visited the clinic complaining of back discomfort, weight loss, jaw pain and low energy. She got an electrocardiogram. It showed a heart problem that needed quick attention.

Brown did not think her symptoms amounted to an emergency and so would not have sought care had she had to pay for it, Egbert said, noting that the inattention could have been fatal.

Specifically, the grant money will support the clinic's nurse practitioner program, said Ronda Russick, the clinic's health center director.

A doubled caseload has a domino effect, requiring more front desk support, receptionist salaries and medication purchases, Russick said.

The Blue Foundation, an arm of BlueCross BlueShield, has awarded more than $6.7-million in grants since 2001. It specializes in community-based philanthropic enterprises, said Dr. Robert Mirsky, BlueCross BlueShield senior medical director.

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 07:32:09]

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