Free clinic set to expand hours

October 03, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Eastern Panhandle's only free clinic will expand its hours starting next week in order to meet the office's growing needs.

Kaye Napolitano, director of the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, said the clinic will expand its hours to include Tuesdays starting Oct. 7. The extra day will allow 18 to 25 more patients to be seen per week. The clinic currently sees 88 to 104 people each week, she said.

As the only free clinic in the Eastern Panhandle, it acts as the primary care provider for patients from Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.


Staffed mainly by volunteers - from physicians to janitors - and funded by grants and community donations, the clinic serves adults whose income is at or below the federal poverty level, Napolitano said.

Not a walk-in clinic, the facility requires its patients to make appointments. Staff members treat ailments, prescribe medications and take preventive measures. Education is important, Napolitano said.

Seven doctors work at the clinic on a regular basis, while 27 specialists take referrals.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, patients made 1,846 visits to nurse practitioners, while 426 visits to doctors were recorded. There were more than 1,500 medication pickups and 355 specialist referrals, Napolitano said.

"We're growing quite nicely," she said.

Most medications are donated by doctors or pharmaceutical companies, helping people to avoid having to make a choice between buying food or ordering prescriptions. Too many people opted for food, Napolitano said.

Napolitano said no qualified person has been turned away. Those who do not meet income guidelines are referred to clinics that operate on a sliding scale.

More than 70 percent of the clinic's patients come from Jefferson County. Because others might not be able to get to the clinic, PanTran, the area's public transportation service, is supposed to start working on getting people there, Napolitano said. Volunteer drivers also shuttle patients to the clinic.

The clinic, which opened nearly two years ago, is at 1008 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Charles Town.

Free clininc's operating hours

The following are the operating hours for the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, effective Oct. 7.

Monday: Noon to 8 p.m.

Tuesday through Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Friday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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