Houston clinic offers free health services

March 11, 2010 4:35:49 PM PST
Thousands of people in our area don't have health insurance and many have no place to go if they get sick, but there is one Houston clinic that offers free medical help. Just this month, the San Jose Clinic opened a newer, bigger building, but can it keep up with the demand? We show you how the clinic is fighting to meet that need.

Bertha's swollen feet hurt. She's also fighting diabetes and high cholesterol - two potentially dangerous conditions this medical doctor sees a lot. Her name is Sister Rosanne Popp. And besides seeing patients like Bertha, who don't have health insurance, she's seeing something else.

"Now we have another whole layer of people who are in a sense more difficult because they don't know how to access services. They've never been poor before, they've never been uninsured before," said Sister Popp.

It's estimated one in three people in Harris County don't have health insurance. The San Jose Clinic is braced for seeing up to 15,000 patients a year - three times the amount of patients they were able to treat at their former facility in downtown Houston.

The new building opened this month and is state of the art. Over 600 volunteers from doctors to nurses to technicians keep it open, all volunteering to treat people who can't afford to go to the doctor.

"It's one thing to not have a medical home when you have the flu, but what if you had a chronic condition? What if you had lupus and you need medical care and medicines every month?" said Stacie Cokinos, Executive Director of the San Jose Clinic.

The new surroundings are vast when compared to the old clinic, and what's offered here is comparable to any medical facility in the Medical Center.

The new San Jose Clinic has a pharmacy and can treat not only primary medical care but also provide specialty care such as dentistry and cardiology. The clinic interacts with several surrounding hospitals.

"So if somebody needs specialized services such as open heart surgery, specialized pace makers, things such as that, we're able to at least get them into the system," said cardiologist Dr. Devinder Bhatia.

While the doctors and nurses are essential, so are the volunteers like Urania Garza. At 78 years old, she still helps out, volunteering for over 25 years. She first went to the San Jose Clinic in the 1930s for immunizations. Coming here is a hard habit to break.

"We're kind of looking around, maybe there is something we can do here," said Garza.

By tripling their amount of patients, the San Jose Clinic remains ready to help and provide healthcare with dignity to those who need it most.

The San Jose Clinic is the only full-time free clinic in the greater Houston area devoted exclusively to serving the uninsured. The archdiocese owns the San Jose Clinic and it is completely funded by private donations.


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