Lt. Governor Bill Halter held a press conference this morning to release more details on the free medical clinic that will be held at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock on Saturday, Nov. 21. The clinic is sponsored by the National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC). Funds for the clinic were raised mostly due to the efforts of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who solicited donations on his nightly news program "Countdown."
Halter said that census burea data shows 450,000 Arkansans are without health insurance. The free clinic, he said, will be set up to help those people. He encouraged would-be patients to call and register so that things might go more smoothly. You can register online here, or call 1-877-236-7617. Halter said the response from physicians, nurses and other volunteers has been terrific, but others are encouraged to volunteer their time and expertise.
"When Arkansans know there are other Arkansans in need, they step up in a big way," Halter said. So far, "hundreds" have registered. The NAFC has said they will try to handle walk-ins, but attention is not guaranteed. If you want to go, be sure to sign up. Fore more information, see the press release on the jump.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Volunteer Force Signed Up To Staff Free Medical Clinic Exceeds 800;
Uninsured Arkansans Urged To Call Toll-Free Patient Hotline
LITTLE ROCK (November 12, 2009) – More than 800 volunteers have registered to work at a free health-care clinic Saturday, November 21, in downtown Little Rock that will provide medical treatment for uninsured Arkansans, ages 6 to 65. The Little Rock C.A.R.E. Clinic hours will be from noon to 7 p.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center.
Potential patients can reserve an appointment by calling 1-877-236-7617. Operators working with the National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC) are fielding the toll-free calls. The NAFC, a Virginia-based non-profit organization, will operate the free clinic.
An all-Arkansas work force of doctors, nurses, lab technicians and other medical professionals will staff the clinic. Non-medical volunteers will greet patients, and help with clerical, translation and other tasks.
Kimberly K. Garner, MD, will serve as the clinic medical director. Dr. Garner is a geriatrician/researcher at the Geriatrics Research, Education and Clinical Center of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock and an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, flanked by representatives of the health-care provider community, briefed the news media about clinic staffing and patient services at a news conference Thursday morning at Harmony Health Clinic east of downtown. This group has been working since mid-October to raise awareness about the clinic.
“We are extremely gratified by the tremendous support from people across the state. Volunteers are signing up in big numbers,” Halter said. “Our emphasis now is getting the word out to uninsured Arkansans so they will call the toll-free patient hotline and come to the clinic for immediate treatment as well as for information about where to access medical care in the future.”
Anyone wishing to volunteer can register with the NAFC on-line at www.regonline.com/LittleRockCARE or at www.freeclinics.us. Potential volunteers also can call the toll-free patient number to register.
“Prior to our clinic opening, most of our patients put off health care until they went to the emergency room,” said Eddie Pannell, executive director of Harmony Health Clinic. “That’s inefficient, sometimes ineffective and certainly drives up the cost of health care for everyone.”
Since its opening Dec. 4, 2008, Harmony Health Clinic has seen 1,100 patients for general medical services and 200 patients for dental care. The Little Rock C.A.R.E. Clinic will not offer dental care.
To ensure that treatment is provided for any children younger than age 6 who come to the free clinic, Arkansas Children’s Hospital will work with the NAFC to set up a pediatrics area at the Statehouse Convention Center.
The NAFC operates as an advocate for more than 1,200 free medical clinics and the people they serve nationwide. Recently, the non-profit received more than $1.2 million from people responding to a call from MSNBC news anchor Keith Olbermann for free medical clinics in six states, including Arkansas.
Lieutenant Governor Halter helped the NAFC secure 80,000 square feet of space at the Statehouse Convention Center for the free clinic. Halter’s office has since connected the NAFC with an Arkansas team of health-care providers, non-profit associations and government offices to help gather volunteers and otherwise prepare for the free clinic.
This team includes to date Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Arkansas Heart Hospital, Arkansas Surgical Hospital, Baptist Health, Harmony Health Clinic, Mountain Home Medical Clinic, St. Vincent Health System, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Association of Charitable Clinics, Arkansas Black Nurses Association, Arkansas Health Care Access Association, Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas Medical Society, Arkansas Minority Health Commission, Arkansas Nurses Association, American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas, Arkansas Interfaith Alliance, Catholic Charities of Arkansas, City Connections, River City Ministry, the City of Little Rock, the City of North Little Rock, Community Health Centers of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Health.
Office of Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter