Beaufort News

Bluffton Volunteers in Medicine effort needs people, equipment and money

A free clinic in Bluffton set to open in mid-March still needs volunteer health care professionals, money and equipment.

Officials with the Bluffton/Jasper Volunteers in Medicine are seeking donations, doctors, nurses and volunteers. The clinic is at 132 Bluffton Road, across from the U.S. Post Office on S.C. 46.

"We have three doctors who are willing to do an evening clinic and one nurse practitioner," said executive director Jennifer Brown. "We are getting there, but without more doctors and nurses" the clinic will be limited in how many patients it can treat and when.

Brown said the clinic plans to open from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. It does not have enough volunteers to operate more than once a week.

"We are starting off slowly, with the hope of eventually getting enough physicians to have a clinic every morning, as well as specialty physicians to run afternoon clinics on diabetes, hypertension and mental health," she said.

The clinic also needs medical equipment, including an electrocardiograph and a crash cart to transport medication and other items.

Computers are needed to store medical records electronically. Pharmacists, antibiotics and other medications are in short supply.

"We need donations to help us. We don't have a magic wand. We need supplies and money to help us open," Brown said.

Volunteers in Medicine was founded on Hilton Head Island by Dr. Jack McConnell to serve the uninsured and under-insured and has spawned 77 clinics nationwide.More than 200 medical professionals, mostly retired, volunteer at the island clinic. On average, 40 volunteers serve 100 patients per session, amounting to more than 22,000 patient visits last year, according to its website.

Brown said a new clinic based on the same model is needed to help Bluffton and Jasper County residents not served by the Hilton Head location.

Screenings and appointments will be made at the clinic Monday mornings, Brown said.

Individuals need a pay stub and utility bill to prove they live and work in the area. To qualify, individuals' and families' gross income must be at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, Brown said. For a family of four, that is $55,875, according to the Foundation for Health Coverage Education website.