Swedish, Project Access Northwest Open Free Specialty Clinic for Low-Income Uninsured and Underinsur

Swedish, Project Access Northwest Open Free Specialty Clinic for Low-Income Uninsured and Underinsured Patients

SEATTLE, Oct. 21, 2010 – To meet a pressing community need, Swedish recently opened the Swedish Community Specialty Clinic, which is a new facility designed exclusively to treat low-income uninsured and underinsured patients. Glaser Surgical Clinic on Swedish's First Hill campus and the Mother Joseph Clinic on the medical center’s Cherry Hill campus consolidated and are now operating as one integrated, expanded service.

At the clinic advanced medical care is provided at no cost by volunteer specialists from Swedish and several other local physician groups. The 4,000-square-foot facility is located at 801 Broadway (Heath Building on the Swedish First Hill campus) in Suite 901. It was developed in partnership with Project Access Northwest(PANW), which is a non-profit organization that helps low-income uninsured and underinsured patients get access to specialized health-care services.

“The Specialty Clinic is a testament to Swedish’s commitment to serve the entire community,” said Swedish President and CEO Dr. Rod Hochman. “We want to set a new standard in community health and clearly demonstrate that charity care is a core part of our non-profit mission, which continues even in a down economy.”

The clinic, which cares for patients with appointments on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., is located near advanced medical imaging facilities and other specialty-care professionals. Officials estimate more than 2,000 patients will be seen at the facility each year for dermatology, general surgery, hand surgery, orthopedics and podiatric surgery services. Specialty dental care will be available at the facility in 2011. Other services offered through the Swedish Community Specialty Clinic – but performed off-site in the volunteer specialists’ own offices – include cardiology, gynecology, neurology, occupational and physical therapy, ophthalmology and urology.

Tom Gibbon is the clinic director and Jay Fathi, M.D., Swedish’s medical director of Primary Care and Community Health, is medical director.

“The vision is to create a state-of-the-art program that can serve as a national model for health-care reform,” said Sallie Neillie, PANW founder and executive director. “Now, uninsured people can get the care they need and primary-care providers can use one channel for their specialty referrals.”

Typically, PANW enrollees are the working poor who earn below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (in 2010, about $44,100 annually for a family of four), the uninsured, the underinsured who have Medicaid or Basic Health but don’t have access to scarce specialty resources, and people who are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. Enrollees get their primary care in community health centers or public health clinics. When a specialty medical need arises, the patient is referred to PANW by their primary-care physician.

When a primary-care physician determines someone should see a specialist, PANW links the patient with the appropriate clinical volunteer and then provides follow-on case management services. This promotes wellness, reduces unnecessary use of hospital emergency rooms, and has a positive impact on overall community health.

“The need for specialty medical care far exceeds local resources,” said Dr. Fathi. “And with the state unemployment level now above 9 percent, many more people have lost employee-sponsored health coverage.”

According to the most recent Washington State Population Survey results from 2008, 13.9 percent of the King County adult population is uninsured and 4.5 percent of children are uninsured. And according to the same survey, 7.4 percent of King County residents enrolled in state-subsidized programs (e.g., either Medicaid or the Basic Health Plan).

Swedish and PANW are in a unique position to focus their resources and expertise to fill the medical chasm that has left many patients with nowhere to turn for non-urgent but serious medical conditions.

This hybrid clinic combines several existing and new services under one roof and improves care through innovations such as electronic health records.

“The Community Specialty Clinic addresses three very real needs,” said Executive and Medical Director of Swedish Ballard Rayburn Lewis, M.D., who conceived the pilot program that established Mother Joseph Clinic. “We have specialists who want to volunteer their time, but can’t meet the multiple requirements of some patients in their offices. We have referring primary-care physicians who are at wit’s end trying to manage these complex cases alone. And we have patients – uninsured workers, underinsured college and high-school students, as well as the disenfranchised poor – who have no other options for care.”

Patients likely to use the new clinic come through the Swedish system, or through a variety of the low-income community clinics authorized to refer patients. Some may come through emergency rooms, and others through family medicine residency clinics that address the health-care needs of many indigent or low-income populations.

“Maintaining consistent physician schedules is vital to the clinic,” said Gibbon. “That way, we know when to set initial visits and follow-ups, which greatly improve overall patient care.”

John Miyano, M.D., a hand and orthopedic surgeon with the Seattle Hand Surgery Group and a longtime volunteer at the Mother Joseph Clinic, finds his work very rewarding. He was profiled recently in the online HCP Live: “I feel that part of any physician’s commitment to practicing medicine is community service. Once you agree to spend time at the clinic, it’s not that hard to schedule. I had some flexibility on Wednesday afternoons, so I just blocked that time off and dedicated it to community service.”

Dr. Miyano added, “The patient mix is very different from what I see in my private-practice setting.  Unfortunately, many people who don’t have health insurance, or who have state insurance like Medicaid, have a lot of disorganization and chaos in their lives. They bring that with them to the clinic and physicians must be prepared to see patients who need assistance with other aspects of their lives.”

The history and mission of the Glaser Surgical Clinic and the Mother Joseph Clinic were similar in nature and spirit. Both sites have been staffed by volunteer physicians and medical residents who donated their time and expertise to those in need of specialized care. The Glaser Clinic was established years ago by a generous grant from Paul Glaser. The Mother Joseph Clinic has provided specialty medical care to indigent and underserved Seattle residents since 2002. It was named in honor of Mother Joseph, a Sister of Providence, for who care of the poor was paramount.

Swedish No-Cost Clinics

Located on the First Hill and Cherry Hill campuses, the Swedish Family Medicine Residency Clinics offer the best available primary care to people of all ethnic backgrounds and financial situations. The resident physicians, who are selected from the nation’s leading medical schools, treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.

For More Information

For more information about the Swedish Community Specialty Clinic, contact Project Access Northwest(206-788-4204, www.projectaccessnw.org) or call 206-860-6656 at Swedish.

About Swedish

Established in 1910, Swedish has grown over the last 100 years to become the largest, most comprehensive non-profit health provider in the Greater Seattle area with 8,500 employees, 3,000-physicians and 1,200-volunteers. It is comprised of four hospital campuses – First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard and Edmonds – a freestanding emergency department and ambulatory care center in Issaquah, Swedish Visiting Nurse Services, and the Swedish Physician Division – a network of more than 40 primary-care and specialty clinics located throughout the Puget Sound area. In fall 2009, Swedish broke ground on a new medical office building and hospital in the Issaquah Highlands, as well as an emergency department and medical office building in Ballard. More recently, Swedish announced plans to open freestanding emergency department and ambulatory care center facilities in Mill Creek and Redmond. In addition to general medical and surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatric specialties, organ transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit www.swedish.org and www.swedish100.org.

About Project Access Northwest

Founded in 2006, Project Access Northwest provides a workable solution to one of the most pressing health-care problems facing low-income and uninsured people in our community – access to needed specialty-care services. This program builds on the safety net of primary care provided by the community health and public health clinics in King County. Through PANW, low-income uninsured patients – and the underinsured who have Medicaid or Basic Health but don’t have access to scarce specialty resources – have access to needed specialty health care and donated ancillary, in- and out-patient hospital services. For more information, visit www.projectaccessnw.org.


Media Coverage

  • To read a related article posted Oct. 22 on the Web site Seattle/Local Health Guide, click here.
  • To read a related article posted Oct. 27 on The Seattle Times Web site, click here.
  • To read a related article posted Oct. 27 on The Spectator (Seattle University's student newspaper) Web site, click here.
  • To read a related article posted Oct. 27 on the Real Change News Web site, click here.
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