Last winter, Karen was having problems swallowing. By April, having lost 40 pounds and no longer able to swallow, she walked into an emergency room. The diagnosis – cancer. A malignant tumor was pressing on her esophagus. She was hospitalized and a surgeon inserted a stent to open her esophagus. She was discharged by hospital and was told she needed follow-up care and a treatment plan for her cancer.
Karen left the hospital and went to the oncologist’s office but was told due to her lack of health insurance, he could not treat her. Karen, extremely thin, walked into the Loudoun Free Clinic. “Can you help me?” she asked.
In the late 1990s, several community leaders and medical professionals, met to discuss their concerns around the healthcare needs and availability of healthcare options for the uninsured and indigent population that was growing in Loudoun County. The Catoctin Foundation dba Loudoun Free Clinic (LFC) was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1998. Its mission is to provide quality medical care for adult residents of Loudoun County who, as a result of economic barriers, would otherwise do without.
For the past 20 years, the Clinic has been providing medical care for everything from strep throat to surgeries and cancer treatments. Our patients present with both acute and chronic conditions. 90% of our patients have at least one chronic condition with the average being six per patient – conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and chronic pain. Adding to this medical challenge of co-morbidities, our patients speak twenty different languages.
Last year, LFC provided care to more than 800 uninsured Loudoun residents. All of this care, including lab tests and imaging pictures needed to diagnose illnesses, and most medications, is provided free of charge.
To accommodate these patients while keeping costs low, we have recruited 120 doctors, nurses and translators who volunteer their medical expertise either in the Clinic or agree to see our patients in their offices. Due to this volunteerism, every $1 donated provides $7 worth of medical care!
Last summer, working with Loudoun Hunger Relief (LHR), we introduced their ‘Food as Medicine’ program to our diabetic patients. Each Wednesday and Thursday, fresh vegetables picked up from LHR and packaged into bags by volunteers were distributed to our diabetic patients along with recipes and educational and nutritional information. We look forward to partnering with LHR again this summer!
Chuck Birdie is Executive Director of the Loudoun Free Clinic. He works with a committed staff of 14 to provide care for our most vulnerable county residents.