Friday, May 29, 2015

TOP STORY >> Sherwood church opens clinic

Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church recently held a ribbon cutting with fellow chamber of commerce members on the first day its new free medical clinic opened. The clinic is the only one of its kind in the area.

Leader staff writer

Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church in Sherwood recently opened the city’s first free health clinic.

It is open from 4 until 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at 9921 Hwy. 107. There are no age, income or residency restrictions for patients.

“Just show up. If you show up, we’ll serve you,” Rev. Brittany Richardson-Watson said with a laugh. The clinic had 23 patients the first night it was open.

One goal of the endeavor is to have at least one, if not two, doctors there each month. Five retired nurses who are church members have volunteered to help.

About the clinic’s focus, the reverend continued, “Our primary concern is their health and making sure they feel there’s a place that cares about them. We hope to be that place that cares.”

The clinic is a years-in-the-making brainchild of long-time church member Audrey Burks, a retired nurse with 48 years of experience in that field. She’s been a member of the church for over 50 years.

Burks said, initially, histories would be collected from the clinic’s patients. The staff will test blood pressure and blood sugar levels during every visit.

Burks added that a light meal will be served at each, too, and a community resources expert will be on hand.

There will be some kind of special event each month as well, she said, such as hearing screenings that will be performed next month in conjunction with Infinity Hearing Center, which is at 3115 E. Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood.

In August, the clinic will offer immunizations and physicals for preschoolers, Burks continued.

She explained that the clinic would concentrate on wellness checks — preventative care — and educating patients, although individuals with ailments like coughs, earaches and more are also welcome.

The staff will also review medications with patients to make sure they have what they need and are taking pills correctly, Burks said.

She continued, “A lot of people in Little Rock think we should have been in an under-served area, but I think we have the working poor in Sylvan Hills. I think we do still have an ‘under-served’ clinic.

“And everybody still does not have insurance. I know everybody should have insurance. But, even with insurance, if you’ve got four children or you’ve got three children…it’s way too expensive sometimes.

“This is just a ‘hey, stop. Do you really need to go on to pay more? Or can we handle you right here? Could we save you some money and get you good health, too?’ We wanted a healthy community.”

A healthy public and congregation “can do more things for the Lord,” Burks noted.

She also said, “It’s wonderful being old. I love this time in my life. It’s a wonderful time of your life, but, if you’re not healthy, it’s not a wonderful time. So why not keep yourself healthy? Why not prevent what’s out there, what’s coming? You know, we’re living longer, so why not be healthier and keep yourselves going?”

On future plans for the clinic, Richardson-Watson added, “I think we’d be interested in more dates if we get a good response. We’re starting small and kind of seeing what the response is going to be.”

The idea of opening a clinic was first brought up in a community outreach task force meeting at the church, but it didn’t gain momentum until the current reverend arrived and threw her support behind it, Burks said.

The clinic took about six months to set up and is approved by the state Health Department, she said.

“Just about everything was donated to us,” Burks noted, thanking church members for their financial contributions, a local doctor’s office for giving the clinic supplies and Baptist Health for providing its scale and filing cabinets.

The church’s reverend will also be available at the clinic each month for patients who need counseling for their spiritual wellness, Burks added.