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Community Free Clinic's schedule changing

Facility will have extended hours Monday through Thursday, be closed Fridays

November 14, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Almost a month after deciding to not see new patients for now, officials at Community Free Clinic are restructuring clinic hours to save money on utility and operational costs, Executive Director Robin Roberson said Monday.

Starting next week, the clinic at 249 Mill St. in Hagerstown will be closed on Fridays, but it will extend hours Monday through Thursday, Roberson said.

The clinic serves medically uninsured Washington County residents for free.

“The message we need to get out there is we’re not decreasing our services,” Roberson said.

The clinic will continue to see its existing patients and offer the same services, she said.

“We’re really trying to be extremely frugal and really responsible stewards of the money we’re receiving,” Roberson said.

The clinic’s regular hours have been 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Starting Nov. 21, the clinic hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Roberson said.

While that works out to 2 1/2 fewer hours a week, Roberson said clinic staff members often work late, so there will be no cut in employee hours.

Officials estimate the clinic can save $15,000 in utility and operational costs a year by closing on Fridays, Roberson said.

As of Oct. 21, the clinic stopped seeing new patients,  temporarily, due to a decline in funding and an increase of hundreds of new patients, a combination that has strained the nonprofit group’s finances.

In order to cover its operating expenses for the rest of the fiscal year — which ends June 30, 2012 — and to reopen the doors to new patients, the clinic needs approximately $500,000, Roberson said.

The clinic saw an influx of donations after The Herald-Mail in October published a letter to the editor from Roberson concerning the financial strains and decision to temporarily stop seeing new patients, she said.

But general contributions remain down 50 percent from what they were a year ago, Roberson said.

Roberson said the new four-day schedule could become permanent if the clinic can manage it and it continues to be cost-effective.

The clinic has one paid nurse practitioner, Roberson said. The other 35 medical providers are volunteers, she said.

The clinic has received enough donations to meet a matching challenge an anonymous donor offered earlier this year, Roberson said. That donor offered to match up to $10,000 in contributions made to the clinic by Dec. 15. Roberson said the clinic still needs funds to address the shortfall.

Anyone wanting to do so can make a donation to Community Free Clinic, 249 Mill St., Hagerstown MD 21740. Secure online donations can be made at www.cfcwc.com.

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