'It's been so rewarding to see the growth of love in our community.'
A physician is bound to see a lot of change over thirty years in practice. New treatment innovations, advancing technologies, scientific and medical discoveries, changing drug protocols and options are all to be expected. But in 2002, Dr. William Martin, a Lawrenceville internist, was seeing a trend he couldn't ignore – an ever-growing number of needy patients falling through the cracks of the medical system.
"Every day, I saw patients who had been unable to get quality medical care due to their inability to pay or because of diagnoses that left them uninsurable," he recalls. "My wife Pam and I had a strong desire to make a difference for the truly needy in our community."
Moved to act, the Martin's founded The Hope Clinic in downtown Lawrenceville, a non-profit, primary care internal medicine clinic with a mission to provide the very highest quality of care to those with limited or no access to healthcare. This means serving the uninsured, under-insured, the indigent and increasingly, Medicare patients.
Starting the clinic, they knew, would be life-changing and full of surprises. "When we closed the private practice, we thought we'd lose our regular patients," recalls Pam, the clinic's executive director. "But when we started as a nonprofit, our patients – and our employees – came with us." The clinic operates with 12 staff members, virtually all of them onboard from day one. "Without them, this would not have been possible."
That was just the first surprise. "It's the most beautiful thing – so many of our established patients have become donors. There's a feeling of community, where no one's looking at the color of your skin or what country you came from."
Donor support is critical to the clinic's growth and survival. While not a free clinic, the Hope Clinic offers reduced fees to the uninsured based on the patient's household income instead of the actual costs of providing the care. Donations received are used to fund the difference between the cost of providing care and the amount charged needy patients. "We call it the Compassion Gap," explains Pam.
The clinic has garnered a following among individual and corporate donors, and has recently received key funding, including a $1.2 million grant from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, awarded by the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, and a $50,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente. Other local grantors include the Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia, the Jackson EMC Foundation, the Waffle House Foundation and Walton Electric Trust. Other Gwinnett healthcare practices and physicians have also answered the call, including the Gwinnett Community Clinic, Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett and Hebron Community Health Center. Additionally, the Martin's church – 12 Stone Church – has been generous with its support of the clinic since its inception.
But the demand is great – and growing. "The need in Gwinnett seems to have no end," says Pam. There are over 150,000 uninsured in the county. The Hope Clinic is one of only four nonprofit healthcare providers in the county and one of only two open fulltime. Appointments are booked out six weeks in advance, while Dr. Martin and an assistant see an average of 40 patients daily.
The Martins believe it doesn't have to be that way. "The healthcare story doesn't have to be a 'bad' one if we all work together," says Pam. "The intended mission of a physician is to be available to serve patients and if enough physicians step forward and we have strong support, Gwinnett can have a great story. And that's important for our overall quality of life, for every resident."
The clinic also works closely with the county's major medical centers, and partners with Gwinnett Medical Center to provide care for patients who come to the GMC Emergency Room, but require continued care beyond what the ER can provide.
In fact, relieving local ERs of the burden of non-emergency patient care is at the core of The Hope Clinic model. The clinic strives to provide primary care and treat conditions like diabetes, cardiac disease and hypertension – conditions that require ongoing care and monitoring.
"We are looking to help with the heavy lifting of primary care – to stabilize the availability of internal medicine and take these folks out of the ERs," Pam explains. Key to achieving that goal will be continued expansion – ultimately, hope the Martins, to four locations in the county.
"Over the next 18 months, The Hope Clinic will making strategic moves to strengthen the organization financially in order that we can grow into the future of Gwinnett," says Pam. "We'll be reaching out into the business community and the community at large, looking for individuals who share our passion for compassionate healthcare. No donation is too small (or large!) to help us achieve our mission. It's truly an investment in hope."
That expansion is especially critical in tough economic times. "Now, patients are waiting longer and longer to seek treatment, so by the time they are seen in the ER they are much sicker. The Hope Clinic's job is to get them stabilized and to restore them to the greatest level of health possible."
Of course, that's not all the Hope Clinic provides. "We are a message of hope," says Pam. "It's been so rewarding to see the growth of love in our community."
The Hope Clinic is located at 318 W Pike St # 402, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-4882. For more information, call (770) 685-130o or email firstname.lastname@example.org.