Northshore Baptist Church in Kirkland hosting free health-care clinic for low-income
By RACHAEL HARRIS
Kirkland Reporter Contributor
November 16, 2011 · Updated 5:25 PM
Anyone who has broken a bone, snagged a stitch-worthy cut, or even sparred with a flu virus understands that health care insurance is important.
For those with life-threatening illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, health insurance is vital. However, health care costs have gone up, and with them, the cost of insurance. Patients are receiving less care for more money, if they can afford insurance at all.
Two years ago, Martin Wario, a Monroe resident, lost his job, including his health care coverage plan. He has diabetes, and relies on insurance to help cover the cost of insulin and doctor visits.
The future looked dire for Wario: with an untreated health condition, finding a job would be even more difficult than it was already.
Then, Wario’s friend directed him to Puget Sound Christian Clinic (PSCC), a free clinic, offering health care to low-income uninsured residents of King and Snohomish counties.
PSCC is operated by volunteers and funded by donors. They partner with organizations, such as churches and hospitals, to bring health care to people in need.
While the Haller Lake Main Center is located in Seattle, the clinic owns a mobile unit that travels to local communities, such as Kirkland, where Wario first visited.
Recently, Kirkland’s Northshore Baptist Church joined the growing list of mobile unit hosts, which include Bellevue, Edmonds, Shoreline, Snohomish, and Rainier Valley.
Every Wednesday evening from 5-9 p.m., volunteers from Northshore Baptist Church treat patients like Wario.
“It gives us a way to reach out to neighbors in need, and also a place for our medical professionals to serve,” said Leonna Bergstrom, who helps lead the outreach group called “Community Health” at Northshore.
The Community Health team formed to utilize their range of basic skills and advanced degrees for the wellbeing of the people around them. The mobile unit was an ideal project, and has attracted enormous support from volunteers.
During the three months that Northshore is hosting the unit, almost 60 volunteers are stepping up. Volunteer ability varies from licensed physicians to receptionists to dinner runners, but what they all have in common is their impact on the people they serve.
“Our first night open, a gentleman who had received top quality services and care told us, ‘I feel like I just fell into a pile of blankets,’” Bergstrom said.
The Northshore team offers general health care needs, but also emotional support, with a counseling team on site.
Tim Burke, Northshore’s Pastor of Outreach and Local Mission, clarified that some health needs require additional attention. “If we can’t help, we are able to refer patients to other providers,” he said. “You have to think of it as a doctor’s office on wheels.”
Juan Aragon, M.D., also noted that the mobile unit isn’t a substitute for urgent care. “Our goal is to provide constant care tailored to the community’s needs,” he said, “but we don’t have the facilities for urgent care.”
According to Aragon, the most common treatments relate to basic health care needs and chronic diseases, and the church group hopes to add dental and eye care in the future.
Patients are required to call the clinic’s mainline to schedule an appointment.
Specifically, Northshore can treat 16 patients each Wednesday. So far, they’ve only used 50 percent of their capacity, which means there are still eight spots open each week for a mere suggested donation of $10.
For people like Wario, Northshore Baptist’s efforts are like having the wind at your back in a storm, pushing you toward light on the horizon.
“Since I started going to the clinic, there has been a change in my health and my life,” he said. “I know they are going to do something good for me.”
Stories like Wario’s are becoming more common at PSCC’s main center and weekday host locations.
From the warmly lit reception room at Northshore Baptist Church, Bergstrom smiled and said, “I think soon we’ll have more of these stories to tell.”
The Northshore Baptist Church is located at 10301 N.E. 145th St. in Kirkland. To schedule an appointment, call (425) 216-4480.