Catawba Care, the regional medical provider for people with HIV and AIDS, is expanding its services and getting a new name– Affinity Health Center.
The center is now treating all health care needs, including mental health and dental.
Care is available to all people, regardless of income or insurance. Care can be as inexpensive as $5 a visit for those who meet the guidelines, said Anita Case, executive director of the Affinity Health Center.
“We want to be known for the quality of health care and the quality of experience,” Case said. “It’s still a boutique feel, our staff will know you. You won’t have a 10-minute visit.”
While the name is changing, the mission is not: providing care that addresses more than a person’s medical needs.
Since its opening as Catawba Care in 2000, the medical provider has used a case management system that helps patients get access to community resources such as housing and transportation as well as insurance via seven staff members who are certified assistance counselors.
The change is part of an overall movement in the health care industry, said Keith Benson, health care management professor at Winthrop University. Operations such as Affinity Health Center, which was founded to assist HIV/AIDS patients, are looking for other underserved populations.
“We are expanding the safety net,” Benson said.
The need for health care is great for low-income residents. The federal government estimates that 65,000 low-income people in York County need access to health care, but only about 15 percent are being served by a community health care center or a free medical clinic.
“Most are not getting care,” Case said.
Rock Hill and western York County are designated medically underserved areas by the federal and state governments. The area also has a shortage of physicians. The preferred ratio of doctors to patients for Medicaid is 1 to 2,000. In York County, the ratio is 1 to 37,500.
Case said Affinity Health Center is well on its way to becoming a federally qualified community health care center, like North Central Family Medical Center on Saluda Street in Rock Hill.
She said Affinity’s facility will not compete with either North Central or the Free Medical Clinic on Oakland Avenue.
The change from Catawba Care to Affinity has been in the works for several years. In 2012, Catawba Care assisted in a community health care assessment. A recommendation from that study was expanding Catawba Care’s focus.
The Catawba Care board endorsed the change in 2013. Nine months ago, Catawba Care started seeing non-HIV patients, via referrals from various local agencies and its HIV/AIDS patients.
Case said the stigma sometimes associated with HIV/AIDS has not been an issue with Catawba Care’s change to Affinity.
“We are not denying what we have been; it’s made us who we are,” Case said. “We understand the challenge of taking a person from dying to living. We want to do that with all patients.”
Affinity recently hired a full-time doctor, Arnold Campo. Administrative offices moved, creating three more exam rooms at Affinity’s Lakeshore Parkway facility in TechPark.
The Lakeshore Parkway location is a good one, Case said, because neighbors include a Social Security office and the administrative offices of the Catawba Community Mental Health Center.
Before the name change, Catawba Care added about 200 patients in nine months. Affinity now has about 750 patients, Case said, and the goal is 2,000.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066