ELYRIA — It seems like a simple concept — going to the doctor when you or your children are not feeling well.
But in a city where 16 percent of its residents are without health insurance — as the 2012 Lorain County Health Assessment determined — many in Elyria do not have the option of seeing a primary care physician. Instead, uninsured residents often turn to the emergency room as a costly means of seeing a doctor.
Officials with Lorain County Health & Dentistry are aiming to change that with the opening of the Elyria Medical Clinic, Elyria’s first medical home for the un- and underinsured.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was Thursday at the clinic, which is in a former train station that once housed the Mediclinic on East River Street. The building also once served as home for the thriving family practice of Dr. Raymundo de la Pena.
It seems only fitting that a building once owned by a doctor known for his compassion will once again be used to offer compassionate care to low-income residents in the city.
“This is a patient-centered medical home,” Elyria Health Commissioner Kathy Boylan said. “Patients don’t have to go without treatment or go to the emergency room for something as simple as an earache. They can come here, where their medical needs have a home.”
Stephanie Wiersma, Health and Dentistry’s president and CEO, said expanding to Elyria has long been a hope of the nonprofit. While patients from Elyria can be seen in the Lorain clinic, having a place to go in the neighborhood will make it easier for the neediest to access care.
“We may be just nine miles away from Elyria, but if you don’t have the means to get there, we might as well be 100 miles away,” she said. “Just being in the community will make a big difference in the terms of individuals having access to primary and preventive medical care.”
Board President Todd Tilberg said the Elyria Medical Clinic will be an incredible support to the EMH Elyria Medical Center, where several million dollars of uncompensated patient care is delivered annually.
“This is about having a place to go that is not an emergency room,” he said.
The Elyria Medical Clinic has 12 examination rooms. Currently, patients up to age 19 can be seen by the facility’s only physician, pediatrician Suresh Thakker. Wiersma said three additional physicians will soon be hired to expand care to family medicine and women’s health.
“We will have the capacity to see thousands of patients a year in this new site,” she said. “Now, we have a pediatrician available for everything from well-child visits, immunizations, sick-child visits and newborn care,” she said.
The clinic will be annually funded with $650,000 from the federal government to offset patient care. Insured patients also can come to the clinic, and their insurance company will be billed accordingly. The uninsured pay a nominal fee based on income, often as little as $20 per visit.
“Some people think if you treat poor people, you get poor care, but that is the furthest from the truth,” Wiserma said. “We deliver top-notch care, and we would hope we can be the permanent medical home where patients reach out to us and call us for whatever they need.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.