Hospital provides $250K to primary care clinic
Washington Adventist officials say facility crucial to providing care to uninsured, underinsured residents
Washington Adventist Hospital is helping to fund the Mary's Center Primary Care Clinic in Long Branch for a second year in an effort to provide underinsured or uninsured residents in the county with access to health care without having to rely on emergency room care at major hospitals.
The Takoma Park hospital announced Monday it will continue to provide $250,000 annually to the nearby health center, which opened last May. Having such a facility in close proximity to the hospital helps uninsured residents avoid having to use emergency rooms for primary care, which takes away resources needed for real medical emergencies, Washington Adventist officials said Monday.
"It's a medical home for people in this county who are uninsured and otherwise would not have access to medical care," said Mary's Center COO Alvaro Simmons. "We're seeing at least five people a day coming in our doors who are saying, I had insurance but I lost my job,' and a lot of those people are facing chronic diseases."
Washington Adventist President Jere Stocks said the hospital's relationship with the medical center was symbiotic, especially in light of the $25 million the hospital lost last year providing health care to uninsured patients who used the emergency room or other hospital facilities and could not afford to pay for the care provided.
"Hopefully, we'll start to see less use of the emergency care and the emergency room as this relationship develops over time," Stocks said. "We provide the most charity care of all Montgomery County hospitals [and] we need to have partners out there that we can work with to provide some of those services that we don't have."
The center, which also relies on federal and state grants and benefits, served about 1,100 patients in its first eight months, and officials hope to draw even more patients in the coming year as the facility expands its services. The center hopes to add prenatal care to the list of primary care opportunities it currently offers to the underserved community, according to WAH spokeswoman Lydia Parris.
The center employs two nurse practitioners, a social worker and a pediatrician, and hopes to add an obstetrician for its planned prenatal care program. The expansion of the center, along with the hospital's annual community service grant, are part of a larger initiative by the hospital and its partners to strengthen what they called the "safety net" of health care in the area.
Dr. Joanne Wu, an acupuncturist in Takoma Park and a member of the city-appointed Health Services Impact Committee, agreed that the Mary's Center provides much-needed services to often overlooked residents in the area, especially in terms of maternity care and juvenile or youth health programs.
"That is a great facility," she said. "They do provide good services; maternity care is very important and juvenile health is very important, as well. Also the fact that they are a bilingual center is great because the population that doesn't speak English is very large [in this area]."