Help wanted: Spartanburg’s free health clinic sees fewer doctor volunteers during COVID surge

With a bag of prescribed antidepressants and blood pressure medication at his feet, Terrell Smith waits patiently in a small room at the St. Luke’s Free Medical Clinic in downtown Spartanburg. 

A doctor greets him a short time later. She’s bubbly and upbeat. You wouldn’t know Dr. Fran Kunda just finished a 12-hour shift at the family medicine practice in Greer. 

At a time when doctors are working long hours due to COVID-19 — battling fatigue and burnout while trying to protect themselves — the free clinic has seen a decrease in volunteers offering help, making it tougher to schedule appointments for new patients.

But the pandemic hasn’t slowed down Kunda. She knows that if she doesn’t put in the extra time without pay to help these patients, they’d have no other option for care. 

Without the clinic, they would seek help from the emergency room and further over-burden an already crowded hospital.

As of Tuesday, the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System was at 96.3 percent capacity with only 21 beds available, according to the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Or without the clinic, these patients would suffer a worse fate.