This year, the Cape Fear Clinic celebrates 25 years of service. Over the past two and half decades, the health care and attention that we have been able to offer the region have been astounding, and could not have happened without the dedicated work of our volunteers, staff and supporters.
When the clinic was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit organization, it was our goal to provide medical services to those in southeastern North Carolina who otherwise would be unable to access care. Three physicians, all members of St. Mary Catholic Church in Wilmington, understood that many poor people in our region had little or no access to medical care for chronic conditions.
So Dr. Mary O’Brien, Dr. Angelina Knox and Dr. Victor Nava, assisted by Sister Isaac Koenig, established the Tileston Health Clinic (renamed in 2011 as Cape Fear Clinic) to provide that care. Originally seeing patients on a first-come, first-served basis every Wednesday evening, we treated approximately 20 people each week. Our patients were those who did not have health insurance and did not qualify for government health assistance. Because of their financial situations, they were not asked to pay for their care at the clinic.
As word of the clinic spread, our work grew. After a 2007 relocation to a three-building campus near New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which was made possible by a generous donation from a Wilmington family, we are now able to see almost 1,500 unduplicated patients at our clinic every year. We know the founding physicians are proud.
Today, the charity-care qualified patients we treat do not have any form of health insurance or government health assistance, and have incomes of no more than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
This means that a single person can earn no more than $23,540 a year (for a full-time worker, that equals $11.22 an hour) to receive services from the Cape Fear Clinic. A family of four can earn no more than $48,500. Our criteria correspond with many government assistance programs, including food assistance and the charity-care guidelines of New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
What we are able to do is not limited by this, and is not limited to New Hanover County residents. We have been able through our decades of work to also help Brunswick, Pender and Columbus county residents. Amazingly, we do this with a current fiscal year budget of only $850,000. We now provide medical, dental, mental health and pharmacy services at approximately $550 per patient per year.
We are aided with limited direct funding from government sources (as of today, this is the state's Office of Rural Health, which supports a portion of the position of our chief medical officer, Dr. M. Kent Locklear, and a pharmacy assistance program staff member); generous in-kind support from New Hanover Regional Medical Center; and more than 200 dedicated volunteers. But the majority of our funds come from private foundations, and we must compete for this support each year. The rest of our budget comes from donors and fundraising activities.
We leverage all donations to get the most we can for our patients. Based on 2014 statistics, for every $1 invested, we can provide $16.14 in services. By addressing the entire patient and focusing on preventative care, we have developed relationships with the community that allow us to offer almost 5,500 appointment slots on-site across all services, with hundreds more delivered in private practice settings across our community.
Many people do not realize that the state of North Carolina has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Many more do not realize that patients do NOT qualify for Medicaid simply because they are “poor.” There are many more extenuating circumstances that must be met to receive Medicaid.
Yet even without a Medicaid expansion, the thousands in our community who do have Medicaid still have trouble finding permanent medical homes. In November 2015, we became a Medicaid provider to ensure that those patients we were caring for did not have to leave us if they became eligible for the program. This also allowed us to offer a medical home to those with nowhere else to turn.
Throughout the years, the clinic has had to navigate huge changes to health care and insurance. But we have been able to maintain and increase our critical offerings to families throughout it all. This makes us, and our more than 200 active volunteers and 12 staff members, incredibly passionate about the work we do.
Twenty-five years ago we were founded to provide compassionate and affordable patient-centered health care to low-income individuals and families in the Cape Fear region, regardless of their ability to pay. This is what we will continue to pursue for the next 25 years and beyond, and we hope to have your partnership and support.
Cape Fear Clinic, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, was founded in 1991 as Tileston Health Clinic, Inc. and provides health care to those in our community who would otherwise be unable to access care. The clinic serves charitable patients who do not have health insurance and have incomes of no more than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and those with Medicaid. For more information please visit capefearclinic.org or contact us at (910) 343-8736.
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