The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 15, 2001 Issue
Local News

Door County clinic a reminder that poor exist across area

Partnership covers healthcare needs for women

By Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

Team work and a grassroots effort have made it possible for poor women in Door and Kewaunee counties to receive low-cost or no-cost health services.

The Open Door Community Health Center in Sturgeon Bay and an outreach program for women in Algoma serves people who have no health insurance or who are under-insured.

Josephine Guenzel, RN, clinic director, said the health center offers a free clinic from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and a women's program from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays.

The women's program is available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month at the Bellin Family Medical Clinic in Algoma.

The Open Door Health Center is sponsored by Door County Memorial Hospital, which is part of Ministry Health Care.

Work on organizing the Open Door Health Center began in November 1999 when Guenzel met with two community members to discuss how to provide low-cost women's health care.

The biggest obstacle was finding a building. Door County Memorial Hospital offered the Door County Medical Center, which once held 19 physicians' offices.

Both the hospital and Ministry Health Care wanted to know how they could help "because our missions are the same - to take care of the poor, to serve the poor," Guenzel said.

Aurora Health Care provided examination tables and other supplies, plus equipment from the former physicians' offices.

Guenzel said the hospital showed "significant support" by paying lab charges for the free clinic and providing free chest x-rays, which are read at no charge by a radiologist. If additional x-ray or lab work is needed, the patient is referred to the hospital's community care program, which provides charity care, Guenzel said.

The free clinic saw 220 patients from its opening on June 14, 2000, through December. Guenzel estimated that about half were Hispanic, especially in the late summer and early fall. A volunteer interpreter helped them.

The clinic is staffed by volunteer physicians, physicians' assistants, nurses, social services professionals and support personnel. Open Door provides basic care including primary, non-emergency care, health education, limited pharmacy and basic diagnostic tests. Dental services will be provided in the future. Counseling services, provided by Catholic Charities, are also offered at the clinic site. These services are offered to all regardless of their ability to pay.

Patients served at the clinic must be at or below 185% of federal poverty guidelines and be uninsured or underinsured.

When they come to the clinic, they meet with a community resource person who can refer them to other services they might need.

The women's program in Sturgeon Bay also opened last June 2000 and the Algoma branch started in February. The program saw around 200 women last year, Guenzel said.

As a Wisconsin Well Women Program - 90% of the women come in under that - it provides PAP tests, pelvic exams, and mammograms. Gruenzel says the program provides a variety of "all options" pregnancy counseling.

"We will give them a name and address," she said. "We aren't doing anything beyond giving them a name and address where they can go for further counseling."

The clinic also provides screenings for cardiovascular disease, depressions, osteoporosis, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension and domestic abuse. Extensive adoption counseling and OB/GYN referrals are also provided.

For more information on the Open Door Community Health Center, call (920)743-1151.

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