Can we barter a way through shortage of volunteer doctors?
The Bay City Times
People’s Forum contributor Ken Gillmore may be onto something in his offer, published on Monday, to free medical professionals from some chores around their homes so they can fill in at the Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic in Hampton Township.
The free clinic needs more medical professionals to volunteer their time. The clinic is trying to address a rising tide of uninsured and underinsured patients seeking help.
It used to be that 40 or so people showed up at the clinic every Wednesday night. Now, though, the doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists who donate their time are seeing as many as 60 patients a week.
They need more professionals to help them.
It’s a dicey proposition, asking anyone to contribute their expertise, and spend time away from their families and other responsibilities. Apply too much pressure, and you run the risk of killing the warm and fuzzies that fuel the act of selfless volunteerism.
Ask any volunteer why they do it. They may respond with a variety of reasons – community involvement, religious teachings, a heightened sense of civic responsibility or professional ethics. At the end of an exhausting workday, capped with time and talent donated to some cause, most volunteers will express the satisfaction, the genuinely good feeling, that comes from helping those in need.
The trouble is, other responsibilities and pursuits intervene.
To add to the problem recruiting volunteers, the free clinic needs help most from an elite corps in our community – medical professionals. It’s a limited pool of people.
Clinic managers and volunteers are scouring our area for more medical professionals willing to give their time and talents. We urge them to continue, and for churches and other organizations in the community to take up the call for more help.
If more help doesn’t arrive soon, we may see the clinic close more often for lack of volunteers. The clinic will not open on Wednesday, July 2, for lack of enough skilled volunteers to see all the patients who are lining up for free help.
There are several possible reasons for the influx of patients. The Bay Health Plan community insurance program for the working poor began to turn people away because of a lack of money. As many as 25 percent of the people coming to the clinic now are from outside Bay County.
For them, the volunteer clinic is heaven-sent, staffed by the angels among us who volunteer.
Yet, depending on the kindness of others isn’t a very dependable business plan.
It’s why “sustainability” is the new buzzword for community programs like these. In the case of the clinic, what can be done to keep medical professionals coming in every Wednesday?
Times reader and People’s Forum writer Gillmore suggests a barter exchange to drum up new volunteers, to make it easier for more professionals to donate their specialized talents.
The idea may have some appeal.
Do you want to volunteer, but just can’t find the time? Other volunteers can do your chores, and free you up.
It’s a different idea, sure. But, in order to get more medical help for the poor, definitely worth a try.