When you’re sick, you might go see a doctor. When the doctor says you need medications, you pick them up at the pharmacy, simple as that.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for countless adults in the area. Many have to forgo the care they need, even for simple health issues. If the illness is life threatening, it might go untreated for way too long.
There is help for the uninsured, who qualify, between the ages of 19 and 64 who live or work in greater Bluffton and Jasper County. For the past four years, the Bluffton-Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine clinic has provided free medical care with an emphasis on preventative care and health education.
Bob and Shelia Reynolds are both retired educators and volunteer one or two days a week. “We believe communities need to care for one another,” Bob said. “We stepped up when we learned about this clinic. People need help, and I can help in some way.”
Bob visits with potential patients to see if they qualify for free care under the federal poverty guidelines. Shelia works at the front desk. It’s a busy place with 30 to 40 new patients every month, and 250 to 300 patient medical visits each month. “We love what we do here,” Shelia explains. “We don’t get paid, but knowing we’re helping others is pay enough.”
If the clinic’s volunteer doctors and nurses can’t provide all the necessary care the patient needs, the clinic coordinates patient referrals. These services, such as CT scans and outpatient surgeries, are performed at reduced rates and paid for with money from grants and private donations.
As the need for free medical care grows, so does the demand for compassionate volunteers. There are needs for doctors, nurses and nutritionists, but also staff who have computer skills, phone skills or anyone who can translate Spanish.
At the end of each day, the Reynoldses leave with a great sense of accomplishment. “Makes me feel good. We go home with a smile,” Bob said with a grin. “If you have the time, you will enjoy working here immensely.”
Interested in volunteering? The next informational meeting will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at the clinic, located on the corner of U.S. 278 and Burnt Church Road.
Suzanne Hobbs is a freelance writer living in Bluffton.