Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic hosts open house

Event coincides with "Cover the Uninsured Week"

Event coincides with "Cover the Uninsured Week"

April 29, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Sylvia Mickley suffers from tremors that affect her voice and her memory.

But that was only part of her problems.

Mickley's husband lost health insurance coverage for the couple when his company went out of business.

Mickley said she and her husband looked into paying for their own health insurance, but that was impossible with the quote they were given: $7,200 a month.

Mickley and her husband were living in Baltimore but decided to move to Jefferson County so they could get help from the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, a seven-year-old facility at 11065 Middleway Pike that offers free medical help to people without health insurance.

"I'm so thankful. They are so good. They don't look down on you. They treat you like a human being," Mickley said.


The clinic serves people in six counties: Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan, Hampshire, Grant and Hardy.

Mickley was part of a crowd of patients, clinic officials and local elected officials who gathered at the free clinic's open house Monday afternoon to bring attention to the growing problem of uninsured people. The event coincided with national "Cover the Uninsured Week," which runs through Saturday.

Clinic officials - who see about 1,800 patients on a regular basis - said anyone can easily lose their health insurance if they are laid off, if their insured spouse dies or if someone and their insured spouse divorce.

There are about 296,000 uninsured people in West Virginia, and the free clinic has a waiting list of more than 100 people needing medical care, clinic director Michele Goldman said.

Some people coming to the clinic for medical help are former AB&C employees who recently lost their jobs when company plants in Jefferson and Berkeley counties suddenly shut down, Goldman said.

"It's heartbreaking," Goldman said.

The free clinic recently received about $121,000 from the state Legislature to pay for a second nurse practitioner to help see some of the patients on the waiting list, Goldman said.

The clinic started when doctors at Jefferson Memorial Hospital agreed to volunteer time to see patients. Professionals in the community like attorneys and accountants agreed to come together to form a board of directors to run the center.

Medications that are distributed to patients are donated to the clinic, and doctors routinely donate their services, including hernia operations.

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