Small Town Free Clinic Serves the Uninsured / by Kate Lord

Dr. Stover scratches his head as he listens to new patient Laura, left, describe her daily regiment o keep her diabetes in check. Nurse Practitioner Blessing, center, is learning the ropes to become a volunteer provider so that the clinic can open an additional night during the month. Nurse Lipinski, right, waits for the doctor’s instructions on how to proceed with Laura’s prescriptions.

Dr. Stover scratches his head as he listens to new patient Laura, left, describe her daily regiment o keep her diabetes in check. Nurse Practitioner Blessing, center, is learning the ropes to become a volunteer provider so that the clinic can open an additional night during the month. Nurse Lipinski, right, waits for the doctor’s instructions on how to proceed with Laura’s prescriptions.

More than 17.2 percent of North Carolinians under 65 lacked health insurance in 2005. Most of the state’s uninsured are full-time workers. As health insurance costs rise, coverage often becomes too expensive for both employers and individuals. The uninsured are less likely to visit their doctor regularly and are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with late-state illnesses or be hospitalized for preventable conditions. Across the state, safety-net providers are stepping up to meet the needs of the uninsured, but unfortunately, most uninsured still go without primary care services.

Dr. Phillip Stover is the medical director of the Franklin County Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Louisburg, North Carolina. The clinic treats only county residents who live with chronic diseases. Most of the patients are below or hovering just above the poverty line and cannot afford private health insurance. Without this clinic, they would be unable to afford medical treatment or medication. After two years, the clinic is growing and, despite a few pitfalls, succeeding at its goal of serving the uninsured.

This story was part of a larger series produced with a team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. On The Line: Economic Hardship in North Carolina won an Honorable Mention for Best Multimedia Package in the NPPA 2008 Best of Photojournalism contest.

Nurse Practitioner Blessing listens intently as Dr. Stover describes what to do next for Laura. Because the clinic is run on volunteers, the veterans must teach the new volunteers how things work.

Nurse Practitioner Blessing listens intently as Dr. Stover describes what to do next for Laura. Because the clinic is run on volunteers, the veterans must teach the new volunteers how things work.

Marcus, 2, plays with toy cars in the waiting room as he waits for his mother to return from her exam.

Marcus, 2, plays with toy cars in the waiting room as he waits for his mother to return from her exam.

Dr. Stover returns a patient’s medications after reviewing the dosages to ensure they are correct. Stover said that the majority of what is down at the clinic is to make sure that the patients are keeping up with their medications and that they can receive them for a decent price.

Dr. Stover returns a patient’s medications after reviewing the dosages to ensure they are correct. Stover said that the majority of what is down at the clinic is to make sure that the patients are keeping up with their medications and that they can receive them for a decent price.

Barbara listens to Dr. Stover on her last visit to the clinic. She has qualified for Medicaid and will no longer need the clinic’s services.

Barbara listens to Dr. Stover on her last visit to the clinic. She has qualified for Medicaid and will no longer need the clinic’s services.