“I was sick and you cared for me… In as much as you have done unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”
Matthew 25: 39-40
By David Howell
A concept that first emerged locally in Oxford in 2000 has gone from a vision to a reality with the opening of Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic this spring.
The medical clinic will provide medical care to the working uninsured, according to Lynn Sloan, who serves as executive director of the facility.
Sloan visited the Water Valley Rotary Club last week to explain. The purpose of her visit was to reach people in Yalobusha County.
Open each Tuesday night, Sloan told Rotarians the clinic is available to residents of Yalobusha, Lafayette and surrounding counties for health care. The potential patients must pre-qualify and meet certain criteria.
The goal of the clinic to provide routine care that can curb complications from conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. Part of this treatment includes providing medication – without cost to patients, according to Sloan
History of the Project
In 2000 a small group of medical personnel in Lafayette County became concerned with the growing number of patients that came to the emergency room for treatment and had no health care coverage.
Initially dubbed Heath Services In-Action, Inc., the movement became a public nonprofit corporation.
In September, 2004, working with all of Oxford’s primary care physicians, as well as many medical specialists and Baptist Memorial Hospital, Health Services In Action began operating as a health care access program.
A 2005 study utilizing data from patients served in Baptist Memorial showed that 21 percent of 27,058 patients were self-pay – having no form of health care coverage.
Of the self-pay patients, 55 percent were from Lafayette County, 15 percent were from Yalobusha County, and 12 percent were from Panola County.
Using these statistics, organizers realized that in order the serve their targeted patients, Health Services In Action would need a free-standing clinic. This was a challenge, Sloan explained, especially with the high cost of real estate in Oxford and Lafayette County.
The dream became a reality, with an offer from two Water Valley businessmen.
Contractor Sean Carothers and poultry broker and real-estate businessman Brownie Crawford offered to provide land and a building for the clinic.
“The Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic was born,” Sloan said about the generosity.
“We received a call from Crawford, who was familiar with the program,” Sloan said. “The pitch” was given to Brownie and his daughter, Lori Williamson in October 2005.
Following that visit, Carothers contacted the board with some additional questions in November.
And, in the end, Carothers asked what was needed, Sloan recalls about that November day in 2005.
“‘He said very quietly, Okay, we can do that,’” Sloan said.
The Work Begins
In February, 2006, Sloan and Medical Director Keith Mansel traveled to Memphis to look at modular units Carothers was using on a construction site at the Veteran’s Hospital. These units would ultimately be the new face for the clinic.
“Carothers was doing work at the hospital and four modular units were on the construction site for use as a laboratories” Sloan explains.
The next stop was to identify a location for the facility.
“We looked at the lot located just outside Oxford as a possible site for the facility,” Sloan said as the project began to come together.
After several months of delays, the units arrived on site in Sept., 2006. The units had been delayed while work was finished up at the Memphis construction site. Work then began to transform the modular units to the permanent home of the health care clinic.
“This has been a personal project for Sean and Arnold,” Sloan described after four months of construction through the winter. “They wanted to make sure it was done right.”
Criteria for the program
Sloan urges anyone who is interested in obtaining medical care to call the clinic and set up an appointment. The number to call is 662-234-1374.
The program is geared for the working uninsured and a few simple steps determine eligibility for potential applicants.
The applicant must be working a minimum of 27 hours per week and on the job for eight months. Also the applicant can earn no more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline limit.
A utility bill for residency information recent pay stubs are among the items that must be provided by applicants.
There is currently a two-pronged approach for the funding.
The first goal is to raise funds that would operate the clinic for three years.
“And we are well on our way,” Sloan said.
The next step in funding, which will take millions, is raising enough money to endow the facility.
The Tuesday night hours is completely staffed by volunteers, local physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
Additionally volunteers are used to staff the clinic to run the clinic each day of the week.
“We always need more volunteers,” Sloan said. “It may be as simple as signing up to answer the phone or screening patients.”
A Tuesday night meal is even provided by area Sunday school classes for the medical workers.