Thursday, March 18, 2004

Volunteers in Medicine Institute

A former student is working (pro bono, of course) to help set up a free medical clinic in a Dallas suburb. The hope is that by creating a clinic that can deal with the primary-care needs of the uninsured, they can take some of the pressure (and expense) off local emergency rooms, which are struggling to meet their EMTALA (anti-dumping) obligation to provide a appropriate medical screening for all who come to their emergency departments seeking emergency care and still have the resources needed to treat the true emergencies who come through the door. Their model is the Volunteers in Medicine Institute that sprang up on Hilton Head Island a few years back. The idea is that retired medical, nursing, and dental professionals could be organized into a free community clinic. According to their web page:
Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) began in Hilton Head, South Carolina. In 1992, one out of three people who lived on Hilton Head Island had no access to health care. At the same time, a number of retired medical personnel (physicians, nurses, dentists) began expressing an interest in finding a way to continue practicing their profession on a voluntary, part-time basis to help those without access to care.
So in 1993, we brought these two groups together and created the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic, a 501 (c)(3) free health clinic utilizing retired health care professionals.

The response from the medical community was extraordinary: 55 physicians, 64 nurses, and 15 dentists were recruited, all of whom were retired. They tell us this is what they always wanted to do: to be able to practice their professions in a "hassle-free" environment.

Presently in the U.S., there are 160,000 retired physicians, 350,000 nurses, and 40,000 dentists. Most are looking for a meaningful way to spend their retirement. Not only do many retired medical professionals still want to practice, they need to practice. Serving those in need is as therapeutic for the caregiver as it is for the care recipient.
There are undoubtedly legal issues out the wazoo that would need to be addressed before such a clinic could be launched, but it's certainly a win-win-win solution for the patients, the retired professionals, and their community.
posted by tommayo, 8:49 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter