Tuesday, March 25, 2014
For those of us who are fortunate enough to have health insurance, it can be something we rarely consider. Like the thousands of breaths we take each day or the electricity that lights our home, our insurance is always there – ready when we need it.
But that peace of mind is missing for many of our friends and neighbors. Every morning in Georgetown County, one in three low-income adults begins the day without health insurance – an illness or injury away from disaster. All told, there are nearly 10,000 Georgetown County residents living without health insurance right now.
That’s a bleak number. But there is good news. And there is an opportunity for you to be part of it.
Since 1985, the Smith Medical Clinic has provided free medical care to Georgetown County residents who don’t have health insurance and who can’t afford to pay for health care services. In the nearly 30 years since the clinic opened its doors, thousands of area residents have received essential health care services. More than 2,000 patients were treated in 2013 alone.
Services offered at the clinic range from primary care and preventive screenings to chronic disease management and mental health counseling. All told, the clinic provides services valued at more than $4 million annually, and its efforts result in an estimated savings to our community of $6 million in avoided ER visits each year.
What’s most remarkable is Smith Medical Clinic accomplishes all this without federal or state funding. The clinic, since its establishment by Dr. Cathcart Smith and his wife, Nancy, on the campus of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, has been funded by donations from patients, private individuals, community partners and foundations.
Georgetown Hospital System is a long-time supporter of Smith Medical Clinic. And I’m proud to say many of our physicians, clinicians and employees donate their time and expertise to support the clinic. All told, nearly 200 community volunteers donate more than 13,000 hours of service to the clinic each year. On behalf of our entire community, I extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to every individual and organization that supports the clinic.
There are many ways for you to become involved in Smith Medical Clinic’s healing mission, as well. One of the easiest is to support the organization’s premier fundraiser – its annual gala. This year, the gala – A Magical Evening to Benefit Smith Medical Clinic at Baskervill – will be held Sunday, April 6, at Frank’s Outback in Pawleys Island. Tickets to the 6 p.m. event, which will feature hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and an exciting auction, are $150 per person and can be purchased online at smithfreeclinic.org by clicking the “gala” tab.
Tickets may also be purchased by mail at Smith Medical Clinic, 116 Baskervill Drive, Pawleys Island, S.C., 29585.
Every year, the annual gala raises a full one-third of the funding required to operate the clinic. It truly is an example of putting your dollars to work for community good. If you’re interested in purchasing tickets, I encourage you to do so quickly. Last year, the event sold out.
Even if you’re unable to attend the gala, however, there are still opportunities for you to become involved. Every dollar you donate to the Smith Medical Clinic generates more than $6 in health care. A donation of just $250, for instance, provides medical care for one individual for an entire year. All donations are tax-deductible.
You can also become involved by donating your time and talents to support the clinic’s mission. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization, and new volunteers are always welcome. For more information, contact Anne Faul, the clinic’s executive director, at 843.237.2672.
Our community is truly blessed to have the resources of Smith Medical Clinic available to assist those in need. It’s a real-world example of what makes Georgetown County a remarkable place to live, work and call home – friends and neighbors caring for friends and neighbors and making our whole community stronger as a result.
Bruce Bailey is president and CEO of Georgetown Hospital System.