The Perkins Perspective | Features | Winter 2014
Two Employees, 30 Volunteer Physicians, and 3,600 Patients
By Christina Childs, Cody Gilman, Alex Ius, and Nicolle Seward
Every human being has equal moral worth, according to Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. Human dignity and worth are independent of our successes or failures, what we have made of ourselves or not, or who we know or don’t know. Our moral worth remains ― regardless of who we are (e.g., homeless, mentally ill, or criminal) or our race, nationality, or economic level. None of these circumstances reduces our moral standing among other humans.
This concept is critical in health care. The constitution of the World Health Organization states good care is “one of the fundamental rights of every human being."
To examine what one Seattle clinic is doing in response to the need to recognize health as a human right, a group of students in Dr. Max Hunter’s freshmen seminar, “Pathology of Power: Medicine, Power, and Justice,” visited Seattle’s Swedish Community Specialty Clinic.
According to clinic coordinator Stacy Hammonds, Swedish Medical Center launched this community clinic three years ago. In 2005, the first iteration began on Cherry Hill as the Mother Joseph Clinic, providing medical care to the underprivileged; in 2011, they partnered with Swedish to offer dental and medical care. Since then, the specialty clinic has won the Providence Mission Leadership Award for providing exceptional community services, and has become recognized for offering comprehensive care to those who would not otherwise have access.
Today this specialty clinic is run primarily by more than 30 volunteer physicians; and more than 300 physicians volunteer throughout the Project Access system. The clinic has only two paid employees Hammonds and the medical assistant.
Providing care to those who are uninsured and underinsured, including those with Medicaid, the clinic offer a variety of specialties: podiatry, general surgeries, hand surgery, gynecology, infectious diseases, and dental (complex extractions). The medical services are for adults 18 and older, and the dental services are offered for individuals 15 and older. For both medical and dental care the clinic offers consultations, procedures, treatments, and post-operative care.
The staff sees approximately 30 medical patients and 12 dental patients on a daily basis. The most common ailments among the patients are hernias, gallbladder problems, general surgeries, broken ankles, and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. By the end of the year, the SCSC will have seen more than 2,000 dental patients and 1,600 medical patients.
The clinic gets the majority of its funding from donations, grants, and the Swedish Foundation. Berkhart Dental has donated most of the equipment and furniture in the clinic, while supplies are provided by Washington Dental. Because they have only two paid employees, the cost to run the clinic is low. Swedish Hospital pays the lease for the building, which saves the hospital money because the hospital now sees 50 percent fewer dental patients without insurance in the ER.
A patient must be referred to the clinic by Project Access (A partner of the clinic that specializes in referring uninsured or underinsured patients to quality specialized health care) or by the Swedish Emergency Room.
“Society is the result of human actions or choices,” according to French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was interested in ameliorating disparities in distributions between the richest and poorest in modern Europe. Rousseau was also committed to eradicating the belief that the poor were either fitted to or the blame for their poverty. Several Enlightenment thinkers had a similar interest in the distribution of wealth and in the condition of the poor, including Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, who penned The Wealth of Nations, the first modern work of economics. In the age of modern medicine, health becomes a universal form of capital, and health care an important element in our bundle of rights.
Consequently, redistribution in health care has implications promoting equality and increasing opportunity and democratic participation among all people.
SCSC was established to help those living on the farthest margins of society. Many individuals and families dealing with difficult circumstances do not have access to adequate health insurance and medical care. On a human level, we have a moral obligation to assist others to maintain society through promoting good health. According to the WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmities.” A holistic approach promotes God’s Shalom. The verb tense means to "restore” with the objective of making an individual whole and complete.
As Christians and students at SPU with interest in careers in health care, we have a moral obligation to help and heal the sick that runs even deeper: biblical commands.
Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, give clothes to those who have none, and visit the sick in Matthew 25:34-40. In 1 John 3:18-19, the Apostle John adds, “Let us not love in word or tongue, but in truth and deed.” Actions speak louder than words, and the power of our actions impacts the world in remarkable ways.
Christina Childs, Cody Gilman, Alex Ius, and Nicolle Seward are freshmen at Seattle Pacific University.
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