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Springfield's Only Free Clinic Struggling to Meet "Staggering" Demand

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/springfiel_4153.mp3

Due to a spike in the number of patients walking through its doors, Springfield’s only free medical clinic is struggling to stay afloat. Non-profit organization The Kitchen, which operates the free clinic, says it has decided to partner up with a local health organization in an effort to keep from closing its doors altogether. KSMU's Jennifer Moore reports.

The Kitchen’s clinic sees patients who have neither Medicaid nor Medicare, and who don’t have health insurance. It’s the only facility where the homeless can see a doctor and get their prescriptions filled free of charge.But that all might soon change. The president of The Kitchen’s board, Brian Fogle, says The Kitchen is struggling to continue operating its free clinic. As a result, he says the clinic is looking into what options it has.

"How we look a year from now, I don't know. We will continue to offer services there in some form or fashion. And how that will look, we're not sure. And again, those are the details we're working through right now," Fogle said.

Fogle stressed that the clinic is not planning on closing as of now. But in order to keep operating, Fogle says The Kitchen’s Clinic has formed an agreement with a local health organization. This partnership will allow the clinic to keep providing medical services for now, although those services will likely change.

Fogle declined to comment on which local health organization The Kitchen has partnered up with.

"At this time, it's probably too preliminary. A lot of details are continuing to be worked through," Fogle said.

The yearly budget to operate the clinic is more than $800,000 per year. Part of it is funded by non-profits like the United Way. Rorie Orgeron, CEO of The Kitchen, said the funding has been fairly steady. But the challenge has been in the “staggering” number of new patients. Orgeron says in 2008, the clinic had to turn away up to 250 individuals per month.Officials from The Kitchen stressed that their number one priority is to continue serving the low-income patients it serves now. The non-profit says it will be changing how its clinic operates, but it doesn’t intend to implement those changes before the summer.For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.