Diabetes has a major impact on a community. In many instances, patients with diabetes develop health problems that preclude gainful employment. They lose their health insurance and as a result are unable to afford medications, laboratory tests and medical care. Their illness worsens, and eventually they must resort to hospital emergency department visits for their care. Since they are unable to pay for their care, the hospitals are not compensated, which requires cost-shifting, leading to higher premiums for those with insurance.
Even though Colorado Springs is considered to be one of the "fittest" cities in the U.S., our local experience with diabetes reflects that of the country as a whole. The incidence is steadily climbing, with minority groups and the elderly most severely affected.
At Mission Medical Clinic, our typical new patient has a chronic illness and has been without medical supervision and medications for six months or more. Caring volunteers intervene and get these patients back to health, keeping them out of the hospital. Medical care and medications are provided free of charge, without a co-pay.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, we provided nearly 6,000 patient visits and $3.1 million in in-kind services (including medications), all of which prevented $7 million in uncompensated care. The clinic is indebted to its volunteer staff and reliant on support from charitable foundations and the community at large for funding to cover operational costs.
But patient numbers have grown steadily over the five years we have been in existence, and I am concerned that we will not be able to keep up with the increasing demand without additional community support and financial contributions.
Our staff at Mission Medical Clinic works out of a sense of compassion for those we serve and because we feel communities should take responsibility for the needy in their midst. We would urge and welcome broader community participation through donation of time, talent and treasure.
Al Munson is one of 29 physicians, dentists and other professionals who volunteer at Mission Medical Clinic, a Christian organization consisting of more than 200 volunteers who provide medical care for the poor and uninsured. He has practiced in Colorado Springs for 37 years, and has been with Mission Medical since 2005.
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