On a busy Monday morning in November, volunteers at the Volunteers in Medicine clinic in St. Charles hustle through the halls, squeezing past one another as they pop into patient rooms.
This year, the Volunteers in Medicine clinic gained a bit more space to move about when it moved from the basement of the Salvation Army facility at 2410 N. Fourth Street to a 3,000 square foot space at 1039 South Duchesne in September.
The 49 volunteers who provide medical care and support at the clinic now have more space to do so, with six exam rooms, a waiting room, staff offices and even a break room.
Anita Hockett, who started Volunteers in Medicine in 1996, said everyone is thrilled with the new location.
"We never, ever dreamed it would grow into something like this," she said. "Years ago, we wondered if we could pay for the medicine each month. We've never been where we felt like we could back off of trying to get funds."
The clinic used to be located in the lower level of the Salvation Army in a 1,485 square foot space. Plans to expand the Salvation Army facility fell through, and Hockett said they started looking at other options.
"We knew we had to do something," she said.
VIM now has to pay monthly rent in addition to the cost of medicine for patients, the largest expense the organization faces. Funding comes from individuals, grants, foundations and community groups.
The clinic is open two days a week, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Mondays and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays. New patients are experiencing a four to six-week wait for an appointment, said Phyllis Hymes, volunteer grant writer for the organization.
"The need is so much greater," she said. The number of patient visits has grown over the past several years. Last year, the clinic had 4,644 patient visits.
For the first time ever in 2008 and 2009, 40 percent of new patients were college graduates, Hymes said.
The clinic serves people ages 18 to 65 who have no insurance and who must meet income criteria based on federal poverty guidelines.
Clinic Helps Address Need
Patricia Robinson, 50, of St. Peters, was referred to VIM by a local service organization after she lost both of her jobs and her insurance.
Robinson is diabetic and said she hopes to some day repay the clinic for the care she has received. She's currently training to be a pharmacy technician.
She said the clinic is an important service in the St. Charles community.
"I think the way things are going, it's going to be a lot worse," she said. "I know they saved my life."
Computer-Savvy Volunteers Needed
After 16 years of using paper records, the clinic is transitioning to keeping more information digitally with the donation of several computers by EPC.
Now the clinic can pull lab records from Barnes St. Peters Hospital and St. Joseph Health Center online, rather than wait for the results to arrive in the mail.
But computer-savvy volunteers are needed to help make the transition a reality, Hymes said.
To volunteer, call the clinic at 636-724-4848.