TULSA - Tulsa-area residents who don't have health insurance don't have to depend on their local emergency room for medical care. Bedlam Clinic in Tulsa has opened its doors to those in need for ten years.
"If you can, fill this out then you can get in line, okay?"
It's a typical Tuesday at the Bedlam Clinic. The lobby is packed with people suffering from a wide variety of health problems.
"I lost my insurance because I lost my job," Rick Mason told 2News. "And this is why I come to the clinic because I had no way to pay for it."
Rick Mason recently suffered three strokes. He just moved to Tulsa from Illinois and needs to see a doctor.
"We determine which patients we can see based on what resources we have available," said Brett Gunther, OU School of Community Medicine staff member.
BEDLAM CLINIC WEBSITE (http://bit.ly/1aO48KL)
Gerard Clancy, MD, president of the OU School of Community Medicine, founded the clinic ten years ago to answer a need in the community.
"After Sept. 11, Tulsa really struggled with unemployment and had a big surge in individuals without healthcare coverage going to the emergency rooms," Clancy said. "We're really trying to meet that need of - here's an alternative to healthcare for you other than the emergency room that's much much more cost effective."
Clancy told 2News approximately 20 percent of Tulsa-area residents do not have health insurance. Most of the people who walk through the doors at the Bedlam Clinic are working parents.
"Most of them work two jobs. Almost all of them are in families," he said. "They use all of their income to support their families and at the end of the day they just can't buy insurance after shelter, transportation and clothing and food is taken care of."
Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 48 weeks of the year, patients begin lining up -- usually an hour before the doors open. Not all will be seen. Staffing varies each week and affects which patients can be given appointments.
On this day, Rick Mason gets in. He is examined by Matthew Le, a third year medical student at the OU School of Community Medicine.
"Just look straight ahead," Le told 2News before examining Mason.
At this clinic, OU and OSU medical students, as well as OU nursing, pharmacy, social work and physician assistant students gain hands-on experience. They are supervised by OU physicians.
"From simple headaches, we have specialty clinics on a weekly basis dermatology, urology, lots of things they can get help for,"
The bi-weekly clinic focuses on acute care -- from rashes to headaches to gastrointestinal issues. Patients with chronic issues, such as heart disease and diabetes, are referred to the Bedlam Longitudinal clinic.
Since opening August 27, 2003, Clancy estimates the clinics have provided 62,000 patient visits for over 7,800 patients. Diverting patients from local emergency rooms has saved the healthcare system up to $50 million dollars. He estimates the cost of a patient visit at the Bedlam Clinics at approximately $99, one-tenth the cost of an ER visit.
In addition to providing the healthcare Tulsa area citizens need, the community clinics are training the doctors of the future.
"And we are training them in clinical skills," Clancy said. "But also in having a great compassion, great altruism and a great heart for who they care for as well."
For patients like Mason, this is their only hope for medical care.
"It's a super big help for me because I have nowhere else to go," Mason said.
Funding for the Bedlam Clinics at the OU School of Community Medicine is provided solely through private donations to ensure patients get free healthcare.
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