New Free Clinic director steps in, up during crisis

In the month Tammy LaGraffe has been the director, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the Free Clinic has operated, but the mission is still to serve those lacking insurance and other access to health care. PHOTO BY PAT FITZGERALD

 

It’s been an interesting first month on the job for the new director of the Free Clinic of Culpeper.

In the month Tammy LaGraffe has been the director, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the Free Clinic has operated, but the mission is still to serve those lacking insurance and other access to health care.

“The Health Department was aware of [the coronavirus] from when it started back in November/December in China. We kind of had been talking about it but it wasn’t hugely on our radar at that point. There might have been a couple cases out West,” LaGraffe said.

“Normally what I would do is make sure the operations of the clinic are going OK and support the staff that do the clinical work here. We have a physician’s assistant and a nurse and a front-desk support person and then a lot of wonderful volunteers. The volunteers are doctors, nurses, clerical people, people who help out with outreach, you name it,” she said, adding: “Normally, I would coordinate volunteers, make sure that the clinical staff have what they need, make sure we’re following all of the rules and regulations for people who are deemed eligible … make sure that we’re getting funding and donations, reporting, reporting stats, all of that kind of stuff.”

But that’s all changed since COVID-19 has taken ahold across the world, nation and now the region.

“Right now it’s about making sure that our staff and patients are safe, basically. Then making sure that we can still be here for our patients and they’re healthy and they’re being seen when they need something,” LaGraffe said. “We’re having them stay away and we’re calling them, and having their appointment over the phone or via some video and trying to keep the traffic down here. If anyone does have any issues, be it symptoms of respiratory illness or anything else, that they call us before they come so that we can assess them. The idea is that the longer we can go, the more the burden on the hospital is decreased.

“Our hope is that we are decreasing the burden on the hospital and not putting our patients in a position where they have to go to the hospital when they are uninsured. We’re going to stay going as long as we can,” she said. “This is their safety net, so we want to make sure we’re here for them.”

The Free Clinic of Culpeper serves anyone without insurance who qualifies for aid based on state guidelines. That includes anyone from part-time workers to the chronically unemployed. 

Part of the clinic’s goal is to get people signed up for Medicaid, so they can see other physicians in the community as well.

 

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Culpeper Times
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