PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – A new partnership in Phoenix is set to bring more access to free health care for people who don’t have insurance. Creighton University’s School of Medicine’s Phoenix campus and St. Vincent de Paul are teaming up with a $10 million investment from the Virginia Piper Charitable Trust. They want to make sure low-income communities can stay healthy, even if the pandemic has left them without a way to pay for it.
The medical clinic at St. Vincent de Paul already offers no-cost medical care for the uninsured, but only at certain times during the week.
“Patients come to us with no other options and nowhere else to turn for help. And so if we say no, the answer is no,” said associate CEO Shannon Clancy.
The partnership will help them say “yes” even more. The $10 million will turn the clinic into the primary training spot for med students at Creighton.
“The partnership is designed to reduce growing health disparities that disproportionally affect low-income populations and people of color,” said Dr. Randy Richardson, dean of Creighton University School of Medicine.
That means those communities get more access to the free care, whether it’s preventive, specialized or sometimes even surgery. Dr. John Anwar hopes uninsured patients will continue coming back, rather than waiting until a non-COVID-19 health problem becomes so severe they have to go to the emergency room.
“We need the beds for people who need it the most – people who need a ventilator,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, many people have lost jobs, and therefore insurance coverage, as well. Anwar says many of those people — when faced with paying rent, buying food, or taking care of a chronic illness like diabetes – tend to put their own health in last place.
“A patient comes here and we tell them, ‘This is your home,'” he said.
He says in just 8 months, a hospital’s ER can bill about $6 million to uninsured patients, so this partnership saves money for the entire industry.
Meanwhile, the medical, nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy and physical therapy students at Creighton get more clinical experience alongside veteran doctors.
“We talk about an integrated curriculum where they’re studying about diabetes. They can go to a clinic and see patient with diabetes. And the information they’re learning becomes more relevant,” Richardson said.
St. Vincent de Paul hopes it will also help their students to become culturally competent health care professionals as they work with minority populations.