St. Mary's Health Clinic
Every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, a doctor, two nurses, two translators and a few support staff, set up shop in St. Matthew’s Parish Center. Since 1992, St. Matthew’s has been one of nine sites throughout the metro area for St. Mary’s Health Clinic. The Clinic provides free primary health services to a growing number of families that fall between the widening cracks of the health care system. Clinic patients at St. Matthew’s are typically working people from the West Side with jobs that don’t provide insurance. And while they can’t afford to buy insurance on their own, they earn too much for government programs like MinnesotaCare or Medicare.
The Clinic provides nonemergency health care services including preventive care and the treatment of common health problems. About 20% of their patients are children. They also treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension. Just as important, the Clinic helps people navigate the system to get the care they need. If a patient needs to see a specialist, they’ll find one at no charge. If the Clinic determines someone needs surgery, who isn’t covered by a Minnesota Health care program, the Clinic will arrange for free hospitalization. The clinic provides free diagnostic tests and free medications.
How do they do it? The Sisters of St. Joseph, who run the Clinic, have deep roots in the health care community here. They work with a stable of doctors who donate their services and have partnered with several hospitals who discount their fees to the Clinic. The hospitals also know that without the Clinic, these patients could wind up in their emergency rooms which would cost them much more. The Sisters of St. Joseph also have a foundation that writes grants to cover operating, medical and prescription expenses.
Diane Peters, who’s managed the Clinic since it opened, says, “The need is going to keep growing until something happens with health care. We’ll add some additional days but we’re at capacity right now. With the economy in decline, more children and adults will need services.”