Edisto Indian Free Clinic gets $20,000 grant from Roper St. Francis
by The Press and Standard | September 1, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: August 28, 2018 at 2:29 pm
Last week, the Edisto Indian Free Clinic got shot in the arm from the Roper St. Francis Physicians Endowment, which presented the Edisto Clinic with a grant for $20,000.
That’s a huge boost for Dr. John Creel, who operates the clinic in Ridgeville that serves those who can’t afford to pay for medical care. Creel is an expert at doing much with little: his budget for the clinic for next year is only $160,000. But the clinic’s patients get a whole lot of health care for that seemingly small amount.
There is no charge to go to the clinic. “It really is free,” Creel said. They have an agreement with LabCorps to do free labs; with a gastroenterologist to do free endoscopies and colonoscopies; give free samples of medicines; help patients get signed up with Wellvista, a state non-profit that helps uninsured and underserved South Carolinians gain access to essential health services, as well as free prescriptions for chronic diseases and a pediatric dental program. The office also helps with the paperwork for Medicaid and is a Best Chance Network provider for preventative care.
And all of this is supported by grants like the one from Roper and other grant providers such as the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation and the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
The Edisto Indian Free Clinic started in the early 1990s, serving just the Edisto-Kusso-Natchez Indians who live in the Creeltown area. After getting accepted into medical school in 1995, Creel accepted the chance to fill in as pastor for Little Rock Holiness Church there and started volunteering at the clinic.
When he completed his residency in 2001, the doctor who started the clinic told him, “It’s all yours now.” So Creel got to work, organizing and updating the way the clinic operated.
Then the clinic was operated under the Four Holes Tribal Council Inc.’s non-profit status and served only Native Americans. But Creel had a bigger vision. A few years ago, the clinic received its own non-profit status, which enables both the Tribal Council and the clinic to apply for available grants as separate entities. The Tribal Council owns the clinic’s building, so it benefits both the clinic and the council to have extra funding opportunities to pay the bills and expand the medical services, and the Tribal Council can devote its funds to all the other aspects of tribal affairs. Creel hopes that this year he’ll be able to get an ANA grant (specific for Native Americans), which could bring up to $400,000 each if both the Tribal Council and the clinic are approved.
Creel’s current mission is to have the clinic’s doors open three days a week by the first of the year and add a second PA, so they can open two days a week starting in October. Right now, they are just $10,000 short of the $50,000 needed to accomplish that goal.
“That’s our goal: to be open three days and eventually four days. Being able to bill Medicaid and hopefully eventually Medicare. Then we’d become self-sustaining,” he said. “We could get equipment for vaccinations and start doing more pediatrics.” And if that happens, the clinic would save “in my estimation, about $8 million in taxpayer dollars.
“You think about patients with diabetes and hypertension — if you can prevent hospitalization, end-organ disease, heart attack or stroke. When you think about all the care those require, if we can give them primary care help and a health care home, then they would not have to go through all that process and money and end up on disability and not be a contributing member of society,” he said.
Another change Creel initiated: The clinic now accepts any child or adult, not just Native Americans. Any patient who is uninsured, under-insured, on Medicaid or who has a high deductible can receive free medical care. “We try to promote awareness that we’re here serving everybody. We don’t discriminate against anybody,” he said.
The clinic’s mission statement says it all: “It is the mission of the EIFC to provide free and/or discounted medical care and medications to residents of this community and the surrounding areas who have no insurance and who are without the financial resources to afford such care. We also see Medicaid patients. It is our intent to promote the physical health and well-being of all who need our care. It is further intended that this clinic will be a place where the medically needy will be provided preventative measures, patient education and periodic health maintenance procedures.”