Imagine a free health clinic where patients have access to primary and specialty care, dental and eye care and mental health resources without having to make multiple appointments or travel to more than one location.
That’s exactly what Lt. Col. Natalie Nevins, DO, has helped create as the medical director of Care Harbor, a health care nonprofit that has held a free clinic event in Los Angeles every year since 2010. Each year, about 3,000 patients are seen at the event. Dr. Nevins is currently seeking volunteer physicians for Care Harbor’s next Los Angeles clinic event, which will be held Jan. 20-22, 2017, at The Reef exposition hall. Volunteers who practice outside the state of California are welcome. To learn more, visit the volunteer page at CareHarbor.org.
One of a kind
Care Harbor is unique in that the clinic is able to provide same-day comprehensive and preventive care. Unlike some other free health clinics, patients are not simply referred to a specialist, but are walked over to one, often for on-the-spot treatment.
One year, a patient at the clinic visited specialists in endocrinology, cardiology, podiatry, and ophthalmology for diabetes treatment, Dr. Nevins says.
“This patient might have needed to have his leg amputated if a wound on it had not been addressed,” says Dr. Nevins. “He had a primary care doctor and the clinic he attended was trying to help, but they had run out of resources.”
How Care Harbor works
Care Harbor seeks to address two of the most common challenges associated with health clinics: limited access to follow-up treatment and lack of communication with patients’ primary care physicians.
Care Harbor patients can sign up for a time slot and obtain a wristband up to a week before the event. Upon arriving at the clinic, the patient registers using the wristband and an electronic medical record is created. Patients then provide a basic health history, take a blood test and discuss available health services with clinic staff.
Volunteers escort patients to each medical professional they need to visit during their time at the clinic. Before patients leave, a nurse educator reviews their records to see if follow-up care is needed, discusses options and makes sure medical records are forwarded to the appropriate physicians.
Caring for the community
Care Harbor provides patients with access to care that many would otherwise wait months or even years to receive. Community clinics are overcrowded, Dr. Nevins explains, and not enough specialists accept public health insurance to meet the patient demand.
“Many patients at Care Harbor events work three to four part-time jobs without health insurance and often don’t know they are eligible for public health insurance,” says Dr. Nevins.
Dr. Nevins, whose nonprofit, AD World Health, supports Care Harbor, says that if any part of our world is suffering, we’re all suffering.
“One of the most rewarding things is when a volunteer comes up and says ‘Hi Dr. Nevins, I was your patient last year and now I’m feeling better so I came to help out,'” says Dr. Nevins. “That’s the best gift ever.”