SPRING HILL — While workers prepare the Crescent Community Clinic's second site offering free primary health care services to the uninsured and income-qualified patients in Hernando County, the search is on for volunteers to help run the operation.
The clinic, which is open the first three Saturdays of each month, has signed up some 30 people so far, but the need is greater, said services director Barbara Sweinberg.
Volunteers need not be health care professionals, although a medical background qualifies workers for higher level service. People are needed to answer phones, file charts, help patients fill out forms and run errands.
The Crescent Community Clinic opened its Brooksville office three years ago at the Brook Plaza shopping center at Broad Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Since then, the Muslim physicians who have volunteered their time have seen some 5,000 patients ages 18 to 64, about 50 every Saturday it's open, Sweinberg said.
"Volunteers are from across the board," she noted. "Not all are Muslims. It's never been a faith-based organization but a community organization. The doctors are just living out their faith and giving back to the community."
Workers were painting walls last week, turning the new 2,500-square-foot facility in Winchester Plaza, 5244 Commercial Way, into a clinic with four exam rooms, three dental rooms, an individual office for doctors, an intake and reception area, plus X-ray and autoclave area and two handicapped-accessible bathrooms. The target for opening is June 1.
The nonprofit has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Foundation to enlarge its outreach through this second clinic. Recently, the Community Foundation of Tampa and Hernando tossed in $4,000, Sweinberg reported.
Still, operational needs, which are not covered by the grants, require financial support from the community, she added. The money is needed for such things as paper on exam tables, paper for records, thermometer covers and more.
"We do not receive any federal, state or county funding and rely on the kindness of the community," Sweinberg said.
"Our physicians and a few community donors have funded this clinic, but with the state of the economy we need to ask the entire Hernando County community to take up our cause and to help fund our services to keep our residents out of the hospital emergency rooms for nonemergency health care," she said.
In an affiliation with Brooksville Regional Hospital, referral physicians have been donating their specialty services to those with health care needs beyond primary care. The hospital also is giving free lab services to the clinic's patients.
In the last year, Sweinberg enumerated, 33 physicians and 10 nurses volunteered their services for more than 2,435 hours with a value of $103,984. General staff volunteered 1,080 hours, bringing the total value to $276,502.
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]