ALPENA - Alpena Free Clinic is celebrating its fifth year of helping serve patients with no medical insurance. The clinic is located in the First Presbyterian Church on Chisholm Street in what once was a large classroom, now converted into individual exam rooms for patients.
"The nursery was converted into a waiting room," said Ruth Dupuis, LPN, who has been with the clinic since its opening in 2008. "Then we received a donation, and converted Sunday school rooms into exam rooms."
The clinic was started in 2008 by Pastor Steven Hammond, a physician's assistant, who saw the need for a free clinic in the area. Since then, the clinic has helped over 2,200 patients and had over 6,000 visits.
News Photo by Nicole Grulke
Volunteers Ruth Dupuis and Joyce Smigelski help patients at the counter, handle phone calls, and file paperwork for the Alpena Free Clinic at the First Presbyterian Church, which is celebrating five years of service to Alpena residents without medical insurance.
"We see around 18-22 patients on the days we are open," Dupuis said. "I come to work almost every day to answer phone messages and help schedule appointments. I enjoy it very much."
There are over 50 volunteers who work at the clinic, which is open two nights a week, with two medical providers on site each night. The free clinic is open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on Thursday mornings.
"We see a lot of dental problems, do physicals, the same as a doctor's office would, except we don't have an x-ray machine," Dupis said. "We ask patients to fill out paperwork, and if needed, do referrals. We try to get them where they need to go, and if they need, to file for Medicaid."
There are 10 doctors, four physician's assistants and 16 nurses along with numerous volunteers who donate their time and services to help those in need.
"There's a lot of community involvement to keep the clinic going," Dupuis said. "We all couldn't believe that we've been open for five years. We are getting more new patients here all the time."
There are no plans to expand the clinic, but Hammond said they sometimes open on different nights if they start to become too full.
The clinic is funded by a grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield, the VFW, and donations. Contributions are always welcomed to help with clinic expenses.
When it first opened, the medical director was Dr. Henry Stibitz; the current director is Dr. David French.
"Most of the doctors we have here at the clinic come from other clinics," Hammond said. "Most all of the volunteers have a day job."
Hammond said when the clinic first started, it had three charts on file, now after five years, it has 2,214 charts on file.
"The age group we generally serve is 19-64 year olds, because they are in between medical insurance or help," Hammond said. "Based on the numbers, we're pretty convinced the need is there."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.