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Clinic celebrates National Health Center Week

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Aug. 19, 2002
The Greater Meridian Health Clinic will celebrate National Health Center Week now through Saturday.
The clinic, at 2701 Davis St. in Meridian, will host an open house Thursday beginning with a 3:15 p.m. news conference.
Wilbert L. Jones, the clinic's chief executive officer, met with The Meridian Star editorial board last week to talk about National Health Center Week and his clinic's accomplishments
The Meridian Star: Is the Greater Meridian Health Clinic primarily for people who don't have insurance or who have insurance that doesn't cover much?
Jones: Yes, and the Medicaid population often find themselves in the same shape as an uninsured patient.
The Meridian Star: If a person walks into the clinic and doesn't have insurance, are they expected to pay?
Jones: Yes. The federal government requires us to bill every patient. Every patient must pay a minimum fee. If the patient does not have that fee, we will see the patient and we will ask that patient to pay something on their bill. Many times they do and many times they don't. If they come back for a visit we will ask again for them to contribute to their care.
We never refuse treatment. Payment for the services is not a stop-gap to improved care. The stop-gap is when we treat a patient and the patient leaves the facility and they will not fill their prescription because they do not have the money.
We encourage our patients to get with our social workers and we'll find a way to get the prescription filled. If we don't carry the medication on site, then let us know. We have a network of support agencies and social service agencies that can assist us in getting the prescription filled.
If the patient doesn't get the prescription filled and waits several days, then the efforts of the providers are lost because there's not going to be a good outcome and the medication is not going to work because they are not taking it. We try to make every effort to ensure that every patient completes the full circle of care.
Eligibility to pay is based on family size and income based on federal poverty guidelines and we have a sliding fee scale based on what percentage is paid on the total bill. Everybody is charged the same price. Once their evaluation is complete a percentage is deducted from their bill.
More than 50 percent of our patients are self-paid and a majority of those are well below poverty level. Medicaid patients make up about 28 percent of our patients and Medicare patients are about 17 percent.
The Meridian Star: What else is offered at Greater Meridian Health Clinic?
Jones: We have a patient education department that starts from the front desk and goes all the way back to the physician. Patient educators are constantly informing the patients not only of their rights, but what services are available and how they can access those services.
The Meridian Star: Give us an idea of how many people you treat?
Jones: We have locations in Meridian, Shuqualak, DeKalb, Louisville and Scooba. Last year we had more than 75,000 patient visits. The user population is about 21,000 for the entire area. About 75 percent of that number were patients in Meridian, but that includes people from Alabama and Newton, Jasper and Clarke counties and other areas.
The Meridian Star: What sort of illnesses are prevalent at the clinic?
Jones: We're seeing a lot of Type 1 Diabetes. If it is not a killing disease, it is a crippling disease. We are monitoring our diabetic patient outcome and we are also participating in a counsel-study program in the Southeastern Region to find out why people living in the South have a disproportionately higher rate of cancer than other areas.
One of our largest groups of patients is our pediatric population, age zero to 7 years old. Next would be age 25-55, predominately female. With the older population we mainly see high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.