Area health clinics that serve the uninsured say they have seen an increase in patients seeking care.
Palmetto Volunteers in Medicine Clinic, which opened on Rock Hill's Herlong Avenue three weeks ago, has already received 100 applications from uninsured in need of medical care. So far, about 30 of those patients have received treatment at the clinic.
Patients have come from all parts of York County, said Pat Wolfe, director of volunteers, who came up with the idea for the clinic three years ago with her husband, Bill.
Most of them are people who have recently become unemployed, are working minimum-wage jobs or have jobs that do not offer medical insurance as a benefit, said Wolfe.
"It's the people you see every day, like the person that takes your order at a restaurant," said Bill Wolfe, chairman of the clinic's board of directors.
The clinic on Wednesday received a $100,000 grant from Piedmont Medical Center, and members of the Good Folks of York County announced a Dec. 2 luncheon to raise money for computer equipment for the clinic.
The clinic has received a $37,500 start-up grant from the Springs Close Foundation and has received other financial support from area health agencies, individuals and churches.
"Many people underestimate the need," PMC president and CEO Charlie Miller said about health care for the uninsured. "It's growing on a daily basis."
In York County, 24 percent of residents are without medical insurance, according to the 2008 Community Report Card issued by the United Way of York County.
About 40 percent of York County residents who don't have medical insurance earn $21,000 to $50,000 a year, and more than 60 percent work in businesses that do not offer insurance as a benefit.
A 2005 community needs study of 811 eastern and western York County households reported 14 percent of residents said their No. 1 need was access to medical care.
Dr. Hartwell Hildebrand, a retired Rock Hill physician who is serving as medical director of the new clinic, said the clinic is important to provide preventitive medical care that uninsured people otherwise may not receive.
"I had one patient in here on Monday that was a diabetic and had been out of insulin for a month," Hildebrand said.
The nonprofit clinic offers free primary medical care for minor, uncomplicated medical conditions in adults and children ages 2 and older who meet income eligibility requirements. The clinic also provides prescription assistance and specialist referrals. It is run by volunteers and funded by donations and grants.
Other medical clinics that serve the uninsured also are seeing a growing demand. Good Samaritan Free Medical Clinic in Chester, which serves the uninsured, has seen an increase in patients, said John Hart, executive director.
Hart said of the clinic's 1,100 regular patients, 93 percent to 94 percent are working people without insurance who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
"They fall in that crack, working but uninsured," Hart said.
North Central Family Medical Center in Rock Hill is another nonprofit organization that offers care to uninsured patients at a reduced rate at three sites, two in Rock Hill and one in Chester.
It also serves those with Medicare, Medicaid and insurance.
Executive director Ernest Brown said half of the clinic's patients are uninsured.
"Textiles ran this area for years. The unemployment rate has gone up," Brown said. "People have no other place to turn."
Want to help?
WHAT: Palmetto Volunteers in Medicine Clinic, York County's newest medical facility serving the uninsured.
LOCATION: 235 S. Herlong Ave., Rock Hill
HOURS: 9 a.m. to noon and 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays
FUNDRAISER: Good Folks of York County will have a luncheon to raise funds for computer equipment for the clinic at 11:45 a.m. Dec. 2 at the Baxter Hood Center at York Technical College. Tickets are $25. Table sponsors are avail-able. Call Charlotte Hogue at 324-4910.
ALSO: Volunteers and donations are needed.