‘We forget that there’s so many people in our own community that need help too’

St. Mary's Healthcare provides free screenings
More than 70 St. Mary's Healthcare employees and community members volunteered at Saturday's Medical Mission at Home event.
More than 70 St. Mary's Healthcare employees and community members volunteered at Saturday's Medical Mission at Home event.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam held a “Medical Mission at Home” event on Saturday where members of the public could get health screenings and consultations at no charge. 

“It’s just a day where anyone can come regardless of their insurance status and get healthcare services,” said Bri Giulianelli, director of community benefits for St. Mary’s. 

The event took place in the hospital’s Carondelet Pavilion on Guy Park Avenue. Giulianelli said the hospital had a pediatrician, a podiatrist, two primary care doctors and two nurse practitioners on hand to screen and advise patients on a walk-in basis. 

Dr. Kevin Cope, a primary care doctor at St. Mary’s, said the event is a good way to reach people who normally wouldn’t schedule a doctor’s appointment. 

“Some people have no insurance, they have no primary care provider and haven’t seen a doctor in years,” said Dr. Cope. “I just felt as a physician, I should support this event and the community, it was worth taking a Saturday and doing.” 

Dr. Cope said he often travels to Honduras on mission trips where he provides free healthcare services, “but it’s great to be able to provide that to our own community.” 

The “Medical Mission at Home” event name is a nod to the mission-style health care being offered right on St. Mary’s campus. While the event has occurred at other hospitals in the Ascension Health network, the parent company of St. Mary’s, Saturday’s was the first to be held in Amsterdam. 

“We forget that there’s so many people in our own community that need help too,” said Giulianelli. “We don’t want to forget about them.” 

The free health care services offered included general medical services for adults and children, vision and hearing screenings, foot care, behavioral health care and health insurance enrollment. Free transportation to and from the event was also provided to area residents by the hospital. 

More than a dozen community organizations also participated by having a table at the event. These groups included Centro Civico, Hamilton Fulton Montgomery Prevention Council, Wal-Mart Vision Center, Community Hospice and Montgomery County Office for Aging.  

Victor Baldarassi, an optometrist with Wal-Mart, said he screened several individuals who had no idea that anything was wrong with their vision. 

“You think you’re seeing fine and you’re not,” said Baldarassi with a laugh.

He said he and his colleague volunteered for the event to get out in the community and offer free vision screenings to people who normally wouldn’t consider getting their eyes checked. 

“Anybody that we saw wouldn’t have gone on their own and scheduled an appointment with an eye doctor before we saw them,” said Baldarassi.

Giulianelli said the event was designed to reach people who never get checked up due to the cost involved or other impediments to obtaining health care. 

“We have a very poor population in Amsterdam, and a very rural population in Montgomery County,” she said. “Thirty-eight percent of our population lives in poverty, so this is a great service for them.” 

The event drew over 70 volunteers from St. Mary’s and the surrounding community. 

Gary and Sylvia Howard of Johnstown were out on the sidewalk in front of the Carondelet Pavilion, spreading the word about the event. 

“It’s a wonderful program and very community centered, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “They have a ton of volunteers and I think that’s great.”

Giulianelli said while the event Saturday only drew a couple dozen people, St. Mary’s is planning to hold another medical mission next year and they’re expecting greater turnout at future events. 

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