Being without health insurance is like walking a tightrope without a safety net below you. All it takes is one tiny slip to send you into a health crisis.
But for uninsured people in Washtenaw and western Wayne counties, a charity called the Hope Clinic helps keep uninsured patients from falling too far.
For decades, U-M doctors, nurses, staff, medical students and residents have volunteered at Hope’s location in Ypsilanti, helping weave a safety net that has served thousands of people.
Now, Hope has come to UMHS in the form of a specialty clinics held at the Taubman Center and Kellogg Eye Center – a major step made possible through the tireless efforts of faculty, staff and trainees in several specialty departments.
This effort, called Hope@UMHS, has earned the UMHS 2012 Program of the Year recognition – as well as the gratitude of the hundreds of patients who have already been seen there.
The U-M-held clinic is considered an extension of Hope Clinic’s activities, and patients receive routine follow-up at the Hope locations in Ypsilanti or Westland. But Hope@UMHS acts as a gateway for those patients who need even more advanced care to receive it through UMHS programs for patients without insurance.
The program began in October 2010, following a proposal by then-resident Andrew Shuman and Otolaryngology faculty member, Erin McKean, M.D. The initial clinics involved faculty, staff and trainees from the Department of Otolaryngology at their regular Taubman Center location. Together, they evaluated 74 patients in the first five clinics, and performed 60 procedures. They even diagnosed four potentially life-threatening conditions. In 2011, Kellogg Eye Center began offering bi-monthly Hope clinics as well.
In 2012 alone, Hope@UMHS clinics handled 401 appointments, and helped 50 patients enroll in the UMHS program for uninsured patients. Everything from audiograms, endoscopies, ear procedures, biopsies and excisions of cancerous lesions, and examinations for serious eye conditions, takes place during the clinic.
The need for clinic sessions has grown steadily. Depending on the specialty, volunteers at each clinic include attending and resident physicians, nurse practitioners and/or physician assistants, optometrists, audiologists, technicians, nurses, medical assistants, and clerical staff.
“It is a great opportunity for all of us who take part,” says Jean Forbes, R.N., of Otolaryngology. “Patients are always so thankful, offering hugs and blessings to us for giving our time. But, really, I am grateful for this opportunity. We are the fortunate ones to be experiencing this.”
The effort to get the clinic off the ground, and operating in a U-M facility, took many hands – and had to address legal, medical record, educational and facilities issues. UMHS has committed to supporting the cost of disposable supplies and cleaning.
The Hope@UMHS clinic complements many other efforts that UMHS units and individuals make at the other Hope locations. It also adds to clinical services contributed by Trinity Health hospitals, health centers and staff too.
In 2012, Hope@UMHS won the Ludwig Award for community service from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. Learn more here.
For more on volunteering for the Hope Clinic, see http://www.thehopeclinic.org/volunteer/index.htm. Hope always needs volunteer physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, nurses, and office staff.