Health clinic offers options for uninsured

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

by Dr. Patsy R. Joyner

It is February — cold, gray and dreary.

Yet despite the weather, 62 percent of Americans have a spring in their step and light in the eyes. They are the “resolute,” the determined, or at least the optimistic. They have professed their New Year’s resolutions.

According to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, three of the top 10 resolutions involve health.

Sadly, many Americans face economic and social barriers that prevent them from reaching personal health goals despite good intentions.

At Western Tidewater Free Clinic, the staff and extensive team of volunteers are committed to creating a stronger, more caring and healthier community by assisting the uninsured in the cities of Franklin and Suffolk, and the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton.

One such neighbor, “Sandra,” found herself without a job and health insurance at the age of 53.

Like many women, her health took a backseat to such basic needs as food, shelter and clothing. She had not had a mammogram for several years.

At the urging of a close friend, Sandra contacted Sentara Obici Hospital regarding a free screening mammogram program available through a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to the hospital. She secured the last available slot through this program, and the results of her screening mammogram were not what she expected; she would need additional diagnostic testing.

The breast cancer navigator at Obici contacted Western Tidewater Free Clinic and referred Sandra for a diagnostic work-up. After completing the eligibility process, she was immediately evaluated, scheduled for diagnostic procedures and enrolled in the Every Woman’s Life program offered at the clinic through the Virginia Department of Health.

For Sandra and others like her, this program is a bridge to Medicaid for uninsured women to receive insurance coverage to pay for needed treatments for their breast or cervical cancer and improved access to care.

Unfortunately, Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring surgery and radiation treatment. Working with local facilities and physicians, she received the needed treatment in a timely manner and is doing well.

Local physicians continue to monitor her closely for complications and possible reoccurrence of her breast cancer.

She is no longer a clinic patient, as she now has Medicaid coverage for her treatment.

Sandra reports that during the entire process, she felt she received the best medical care available and was treated with such respect that it left a lasting impression.

And though she does not have a lot of money, she wants to show her gratitude for what was done for her. She has requested information on becoming a volunteer to help the clinic and the Komen Foundation.

The comprehensive women’s health program at Western Tidewater Free Clinic provides mammograms and various other preventative and diagnostic services with a primary focus on education to many women who cannot afford them.

One diagnostic test can make a difference in the quality and length of life by detecting breast cancer at an early stage.

The year 2013 will be a year of renewed commitment to personal health for many. The staff and volunteers at Western Tidewater Free Clinic encourage everyone to sustain good health habits and medical maintenance and remember our uninsured neighbors facing health care issues both big and small.

For more information and details on other services available at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, call or email Pamela Witt, director of Clinical Services, at 923-1060, ext. 7017, or The clinic is at 2019 Meade Parkway, Suffolk.

DR. PATSY R. JOYNER is a board member at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic and a breast cancer survivor who facilitates the Southampton Memorial Hospital Breast Cancer Support Group “Suzette’s Sisters.” She can be reached at