3/20/2013 10:51:00 AM Clinic closure leaves low-income uninsured without treatment options
Essential Health Clinic, a free clinic that served thousands of Washington County residents without health insurance, closed its doors this week.
Kathy Criswell, board president, announced in an email that went out to clinic volunteers that the final service night in Hillsboro would be March 14.
“The board made this decision based on a thorough evaluation of the organization's funds with the intent of meeting all financial and legal obligations,” she said. “In the current health care climate it has become increasingly challenging to find a sustainable funding source for free urgent care volunteer clinics. “
Criswell said the clinic’s leadership would take the next two to three months to investigate opportunities to build a new sustainable business model with community partners.
“[The clinic] has been fortunate to have a strong base of volunteers — from providers, interpreters, nurses, medical and clerical support — over the years,” Criswell wrote. “You have served thousands of people, touching their lives in many ways, resulting in an increase in their quality of life and ability to work and add value to the community.”
During the last 12 years, the clinic has served the more than 130,000 people who, due to unemployment or lack of income, don’t have access to medical care. Washington County is home to 40 percent of Oregon’s uninsured.
The free clinics in Hillsboro and Tigard functioned with minimal staff, instead relying on a cadre of 200 active volunteers to see patients with urgent conditions. An average of 30 patients were seen each night.
Sue Neal, interim executive director and founding board member of the nonprofit, told the Oregonian that the clinic did not receive several expected grants, and that seriously depleted their $400,000 budget.
Uninsured people tend to forgo or delay medical services until health care problems escalate into emergency care situations, which makes the uninsured a larger burden to the health care system than those with insurance, according to the U.S. Census.
Tuality Healthcare hospital executive expect to see more uninsured visitors in area emergency rooms with the closure of the clinic, the Oregonian reports.