By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Retired senator Tom Harkin believes the establishment of Community Health Care, Inc., in Clinton was possible, in part, because “no one says ‘no’ to a nun.”
Sister Anne Martin Phelan, OSF, president of the Clinton Franciscans, disagrees. At the ribbon cutting for the new health center Aug. 14, she said it took far more than just the persistence of sisters advocating for a health clinic that could provide quality medical and dental care to patients regardless of income, insurance and citizenship status. It involved state and national legislators securing funds to support the health center. It took donors willing to show support. It took Clinton Hy-Vee donating a plot of land for the construction of the building. “It wasn’t simply a matter of saying ‘no’ to a sister.”
The Clinton Franciscans have long seen the need for such a facility in Clinton. The sisters see it as part of their mission of active nonviolence to help the marginalized. They say many people in Clinton struggle financially and regular health and dental care are often the first things to go when money is tight. If a minor ailment goes untreated — and Community Health Care (CHC) officials say this is a common occurrence — it may necessitate an expensive trip to the emergency room. It can be a financial nightmare for the patient. It can also be costly to the government and taxpayers if the person receiving care qualifies for Emergency Medicaid.
Clinton’s CHC is set to officially open later this month next to Hy-Vee on South Fourth Street. CHC CEO Tom Bowman said at the ribbon cutting, “This is a big day for us. It’s been a long time coming … we didn’t know if this day would ever get here.”
Patients will be able to receive the healthcare they need on a sliding pay scale. Patients are required to pay a $20 minimum for a health appointment and $40 for a dental appointment. This system aims to meet people where they are at, making healthcare more accessible and affordable. Government grants and donations from foundations, businesses and individuals — including $400,000 from the Clinton Franciscans — will fill in the financial gaps for care.
So far, Community Health Care has hired a full-time nurse practitioner, dentist and dental hygienist, along with nurses and other support staff. They have the capacity to hire general practitioners and more dental staff as the facility gets established. CHC can offer preventive, acute and chronic care, as well as laboratory and education services. CHC officials said the facility is not limited to those with reduced access to health care; it’s for anyone looking for a healthcare home.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, Sr. Phelan, sisters and staff had an opportunity to walk through the center and see the 12 medical examination rooms, eight dental examination rooms and high-tech meeting room. Sr. Phelan smiled, impressed with the construction. “I think it’s lovely to have such a wonderful facility for people who might not be used to services like this,” she said.
Sr. Phelan said community members are eager to take advantage of these services. “We know there are a lot of people who are just waiting for this to be open.”