Living Healthy Community Clinic: Health clinic for uninsured gets new, better home

Thomas Keefe, (920) 424-2178 or (920) 203-1570
Leona Whitman, clinic director, (920) 424-1242

OSHKOSH – The Living Healthy Community Clinic, which has served the uninsured of Winnebago County for 10 years, stopped taking calls from patients today …

But only for a day, until the phones are switched to a vastly expanded and improved facility located closer to the people it serves.

A grand opening of the new clinic at 510 Doctors Court will be 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 8. A ribbon cutting will be followed by an open house and public tours.

“The community, and especially its major medical providers, have stepped up in a major way to support health care for the most vulnerable in our community,” said
UW-Oshkosh Foundation President Thomas Keefe.

The unique collaboration­including hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from Mercy Health Foundation, Aurora Health Care, ThedaCare and others­has created a clinic with seven, fully equipped exam rooms, a lab room and teaching space.

Affinity Health System/Mercy Medical Center, Aurora Health Care and ThedaCare donated the equipment and furnishings. Affinity Health System also leased the clinic building to the UW-Oshkosh Foundation for $1 a year.

Additional support has come from Mercy Medical Foundation, Winnebago County, Bemis Foundation, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and Oshkosh Area United Way. More than $300,000 has been pledged over the next two years to operate the clinic, which serves an increasing number of uninsured working families in Winnebago County.

The patient load in the cramped facility in the basement of a UW-Oshkosh academic building has increased nearly 400 percent in four years. The new facility, with its more central location, is expected to further increase patient visits.

“We won’t be able to hire additional staff, but we are hearing from local doctors and members of the UW-Oshkosh nursing faculty who are interested in volunteering,” Whitman said. “We are going to need volunteers.”

Several local doctors already volunteer at the clinic.

The open house will be hosted by UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard H. Wells and nursing Dean Rosemary Smith. The opening ceremony will be 9-10 a.m., followed by the open house and tours from 10 a.m. to noon.

“The clinic exemplifies collaboration at its very best,” Smith said. “It brings together health care providers, foundations, governmental units and individuals from all walks of life to address the critical needs of our insured.”

There are at least 16,000 uninsured in Winnebago County­most from working families. Based on figures for 2002 from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, nearly $14 million in emergency and other hospitalization expenses could have been prevented by the timely, effective care that the Living Healthy Community Clinic provides.

The clinic was created at UW-Oshkosh in 1995, when the county general relief program ended. Initially involving only UW-Oshkosh and Winnebago County, it became the first clinic in Oshkosh to offer family practice services to the uninsured.

Demand increased and the clinic closed for two months in 1998, because Winnebago County could no longer cover the cost. Mercy Health Foundation was the first to provided funding to match county support, which allowed services to continue and expand. Others added their support as plans got underway for service at the new location.

Clinic staff includes full-time director Leona Whitman, a full-time registered nurse, two part-time nurse practitioners and a part-time medical program assistant who works with patients and with pharmaceutical companies that donate prescription drugs. UW-Oshkosh nursing students also work with patients.