GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Florida – There is nothing fancy outside, the site of an old church on Houston Street at Green Cove Srpings. But inside, this is what some call the answer to prayer.
It’s called The Way Free Medical Clinic, and the people who work there – and those who go there – say it shows thousands of underserved people in Clay County the path to good health.
“One in seven people in Clay County is eligible and needs it,” said The Way general manager Don Fann.
Fann said The Way provides thousands of treatments each year to the county’s uninsured low-income residents and is completely dependent on donated funds.
“In Clay County, we are the only free medical clinic,” Fann said. “We’re the only ones who don’t charge anyone anything. We collect 100% of the money it takes to do it.
Fann said The Way is run by a team of community-minded volunteers, which includes doctors, nurses and other medical experts. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the clinic had around 125 volunteers. It operates with a staff of 12 who support those who give of their time.
“God has endowed me with this talent, and it’s up to me to use it,” said Licensed Practical Nurse Geri Leatherbury. “And I really love helping people, and I don’t have to work, so now it’s time to give back.”
Doctors like Dr. Wen Wu, a resident of Ascension St. Vincent’s, spend hours at The Way.
“It’s very sad to see patients coming here who need medicine, and they haven’t been seen by a doctor for many, many years until they come here,” Wu said. “For me, it’s a very enriching experience knowing that I’m actually helping those patients who really need medical attention. For me, that’s huge, and that’s why I love doing it.
News4JAX was there while Wu treated a Clay County woman who has been coming to The Way for 14 years. Meanwhile, Nati Hernandez’s three children were born with the help of doctors and nurses at the clinic, including her daughter who was diagnosed with a rare disease. This child is on Medicare, but not Hernandez.
Hernandez spoke to News4JAX with the help of an interpreter.
“For me, that’s all I have here, The Way Clinic,” Hernandez said.
When asked where she would go if she didn’t know about The Way, Hernandez said: “It would be so difficult because there aren’t a lot of places that take care of people without insurance.”
Registered Nurse Maribel Pumarejo is a Certified Diabetes Educator and translates for Spanish speaking patients while helping diabetics who cannot afford not to receive care. Pumarejo says diabetes can be fatal.
“It’s a chronic disease, but it could be controlled with the right information and the education they need, so we’re here to support them,” Pumarejo said.
Those who volunteer their time at the clinic say that this free clinic is not what some would expect.
“Many of our employees are part of the community. They know the patients. They know their families. Everyone is very interconnected here, ”said The Way’s medical director, Dr Harry Madhanagopal.
Madhanagopal is a former Navy doctor who works at Ascension St. Vincent. He says The Way is a remarkably warm and inviting environment where patients are treated with dignity.
“It feels like you’re back in the Navy because when you’re deployed you kind of have to be very creative in the way you take care of people,” Madhanagopal said.
Sometimes this creativity kicks in due to limited resources just means finding a specialist.
“If we can’t deal with it here, at least move the patient in the right direction or at least try to connect with specialists in the area who can at least take over and continue care. for this patient as well, ”said Madhanagopal.
Wu agrees, saying, “I want to spread the word to the community and let them know if you are uninsured, don’t have adequate health care and need to see someone.” , The Way clinic is there for you. We are always here and we want to do our best for you.
Fann says The Way was just selected as the single site for the Federal Navigator program in Clay County for Affordable Care Act insurance policies and is now an enrollment center.
According to him, the clinic needs volunteers and sponsors. If you would like to support The Way, go to thewayclinic.org.
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