Free clinic welcome

Some people can't afford health insurance, don't qualify for federal programs such as Medicare and can't pay outright for health care. They are the patients who soon can find help at the Palmetto Volunteers in Medicine Clinic.

The clinic, which is scheduled to open in Rock Hill this summer, will provide free medical care to low-income adults without insurance. The clinic, located in a building on South Herlong Avenue across from Piedmont Medical Center, will treat minor ailments such as colds, flu and earaches that often are treated by family physicians. If they need specialized care, they will be referred to a volunteer specialist.

Dr. Hartwell Hildebrand, a retired Rock Hill physician, will be the clinic's medical director. He will work with more than 100 local doctors, nurses and others who have volunteered to help out at the clinic. Other volunteers will handle the clerical work.

Bill Wolfe will serve as chairman of the clinic's board of directors. His wife, Pat, is the volunteer coordinator, and members of Oakland Baptist Church, who have been working for two years to make the clinic a reality, also will be involved.

This clinic is patterned after another Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Hilton Head that Hildebrand visited several years ago. It is one of 28 free clinics in the state, including Good Samaritan Medical Clinic in Chester.

These clinics meet a desperate need that -- for now at least -- is not met by either the government or the private sector. For too many, the only recourse when faced with illness is to suffer through it and possibly to allow the illness to progress to something more serious, requiring a trip to the emergency room. Early intervention at a free clinic is both a more humane and more practical approach.

Rock Hill is fortunate to have people such as Dr. Hildebrand, the Wolfes and hundreds of other volunteers who are willing to commit their time and talents to this compassionate enterprise. We hope the time will come when all Americans have access to health insurance and affordable health care, but for now, we are grateful to all those who will help make health care available to the needy through this clinic.

Many volunteers have joined to provide free medical care to needy in community.