On Saturday, June 11, 2011, 35-40 people gathered in the classroom of the brand new Zarephath Health Center, in Zarephath, NJ. The purpose was to give an overview of the concept of the free clinic as the best way to care for the poor.
Jeff Weingarten (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the NJ-2011 Project welcomed the group of ministers, physicians, civic leaders and other interested citizens.
Alieta Eck, MD gave a brief history of the Zarephath Health Center, outlining the beginnings in a 900 square foot building that had been completely flooded by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, but served as a place where the poor could access primary health care for 8 years. Last year 3600 patients were seen by volunteer physicians, nurses and support staff. This has led to the idea that more physicians would be involved if they could get medical malpractice coverage for their entire practices provided by the state. The Physicians Volunteer Protecton Act is being drafted and is being considered by several NJ legislators at this time.
Rev. Rob Cruver, Pastor of the Zarephath Christian Church, spoke of Isaiah 61 and the prediction that Jesus would come to give sight to the blind, healing to the sick and relief to the oppressed. He believes that the role of the church is to be a place of refuge for the poor. The church has gone from 150- 2,000 since the beginning of the Zarephath Health Center as people are attracted to a church that is part of a caring community, and that community receives the blessing of God.
Tom Giglio spoke of his role as the contractor who brought the current 5,000 foot building from being a school building of classrooms into a fully functioning clinic with 6 exam rooms, 3 intake rooms, a pharmacy, lab, and a large waiting and reception area. He utilized many volunteers and improved the building at 1/3 the estimated cost. The building inspector was so impressed by the story that he has the workers for private painting company paint the primer coat in all the rooms-- free of charge.
Leigh-Ann Bellew told of her work at a pro-life Room at the Inn Home for Teen Mothers, where pregnant women are given comprehensive health care and counselling. She is a candidate for the NJ Assembly in the 6th district.
Minister Frank Robinson of People for People gave an overview on the Philadelphia based program showing what started as a community outreach and has expanded to all manner of social support services. Practical support for the poor lifts them out of poverty as it teaches many life skills.
Marty Hiller is a consultant for ECHO (Empowering Church Healthcare Outreach). This remarkable organization was founded by an oil magnate John Snyder and exists to provide free consultative services to start-up free clinics, with the ambitious goal of facilitating 10,000 free clinics by 2030. ECHOclinics.org is ready to assist any church or civic group that would like to start a free clinic. Contact Marty at email@example.com.
Nora Craig (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the NJ-2011 Project finished up with a practical work-shop on the next steps to be taken. We want to establish a hub where the free clinics can find answers and advice on the steps required to move ahead.
It appears that this group represented the seeds of at least 8 new start-up free clinics. We look forward to doing all we can to facilitate the start-ups so that there will be places for physicians to volunteer when the new VPPA law is passed in NJ. Thanks to all who participated. The turnout exceeded our expectations! Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.