National health care reform is meant to make seeing a doctor easier and more affordable for those most in need. But getting an appointment can still be tough and a local doctor is working to meet that need.
Dr. Robert Heyl started providing a free primary care medical clinic for the uninsured at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church three years ago because he wanted to get involved with missionary medicine and realized there was a need right here in Cortez.
“For me, it’s my Christian faith and wanting to give back to people using my skills,” he said.
Now he is working with the Nurse Navigator program at Southwest Memorial Hospital to connect people with a permanent primary care doctor.
“Every time, I’m going to be encouraging them to get set up with a (Primary Health Care Provider),” he said.
The Nurse Navigator program was started at the hospital in September to help break down all kinds of barriers of care. Maureen Pyle, who heads the program, said she connects patients with primary care doctors, transportation and financial advisers, who can help them sign up for Medicaid or other forms of insurance.
The program is part of a trend all over the country to connect patients with care, she said. The hospital received a two-year grant from the state to start the navigator program and it is planned to continue after the grant runs out.
“It will continue to be a main part of our hospital,” Pyle said.
But sometimes the referrals will flow the other way and Pyle will refer patients to Heyl’s free clinic because the wait time to see a primary care doctor can be up to a month.
“We only have so many physicians and practitioners in our county,” Pyle said.
Heyl suspended the clinics over the summer and received moving thank-you letters, which encouraged him to return to his work.
Debrah Archer, a family nurse practitioner, began helping staff the clinics when they restarted so they could be offered more consistently.
Patients can receive prescriptions and X-ray orders at the clinics.
However, they are responsible for the cost of medicine.
The free clinics are held at 110 W. North St. on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Call 565-4436 for an appointment or walk in.