COLUMBIA - The uninsured and underinsured residents of Columbia are now receiving more timely health care with the Boone County Family Health Center's hiring of three new health care providers.
The center was established in June 1992. Its mission statement states that the center exists to "provide medical services to all community members who need care with emphasis on the medically underserved." Facing an ever-increasing demand for their services, the center hired nurse practitioner Diane Spalding and family physician Dr. Denise Barba on a full-time basis and family physician Dr. Brian Schultz on a part-time basis. The center averages 255 new patients a month. Prior to hiring the new staff, patients often faced a five-month waiting list for an appointment.
"We simply didn't have enough providers to serve those who needed care," Director Gloria Crull said.
Now the waiting list has been almost eliminated, and patients are typically able to schedule an appointment within one month.
"I mean, even with those that are fully insured you sometimes have to wait two months to see a doctor," Crull said. "I think people are surprised because they expected to have a longer wait."
The funding for the new hires comes from the additional revenue each provider will generate for their services. Crull said it is becoming more and more difficult to find family physicians, especially those who are willing to work with the medically underserved.
Barba, originally from the Philippines, received her medical degree from University of Philippines College of Medicine and worked with those who didn't have adequate funding for medical care.
"I've always enjoyed working with and following patients with chronic diseases who are medically underserved," Barba said, "It's challenging stuff, but it's rewarding as well."
The challenges the clinic faces do not end just by treating patients in a timely manner, however.
"When you're working with someone who is fully insured and they need a test or something else, you just go ahead and order it," Barba said. "But when you're working with the uninsured, it's more challenging. You have to know the community resources and now where to go for what."