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Why a physician started a true charity medical clinic.

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Published on May 27, 2012

Ophthalmologist and ophthalmic surgeon Jeffrey Liegner, MD explains the reasons he opened a charity medical clinic. His clinic, in northwest New Jersey http://freeclinicnewton.org, does not take taxpayer dollars.

How and Why: The Enormous Benefits of a Free Clinic

A free healthcare clinic is a very powerful community service characterized by volunteerism at the local level, providing direct medical services to the County's poor and uninsured within an efficient, convenient and inexpensive delivery model. These clinics are also an important supplement to community-based solutions for the social challenges involving healthcare for the homeless, the abused and disenfranchised.

Physicians frequently provide uncompensated free care within their office practices and through the hospital emergency room; by bringing that care into a free community clinic, the services provided are completed with far less complexity and cost, recognized as charity and volunteerism by the individuals and community, are associated with much lower malpractice liability for the healthcare providers, help reduce non-emergent utilization of the hospital's Emergency Room, and save tax dollars by developing community supported healthcare charity without bureaucracy. Also, a free clinic offers an additional portal for the poor and homeless to access community social services, food and clothing banks, and recovery opportunities through counseling and earlier interventions.

Services provided in the free clinic include basic eye care (routine exams, prescribing glasses, treatments and procedures), some chronic medical care (e.g., hypertension, diabetes, hypothyroid), minor procedures (lacerations, bandaging injuries), triage assessments (perhaps requiring hospital referral), diagnostic testing (e.g., EKG, ultrasound), and referral for selected surgical procedures (including pre- and post-op care).

The Free Clinic Newton will be recognized by the IRS as a 501c3 charity (application pending), making the personal and corporate donations of money and clinic supplies tax deductible.

The Federal Government recognizes Free Healthcare Clinics as unique and valuable community based facilities, and through the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a free clinic and the licensed volunteers are deemed to be federally insured (application pending) for the medical services provided.

Within a Free Clinic, volunteer physicians and nurses are able to personally deliver a wider range of healthcare services with resources and opportunity greater than their private practices, enhancing the volunteer experience. Medications are prescribed from a large preferred inventory of generic and low cost drugs available though local pharmacy cooperatives, some donated for free. Lab and Xray services are available when clinically needed through discounted arrangements with local facilities.

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