SCHENECTADY — Ellis Medicine’s free weekly clinic at the Schenectady City Mission has a new upgraded space, and both Ellis and the Mission are hoping it will serve more patients from the Mission as well as from the surrounding neighborhood.
The Mission created a formal space for the Tuesday-evening visits by Ellis caregivers, and Ellis has installed computer equipment that will allow easier referrals for patients who need followup care.
“For several years Ellis on Tuesday nights would send residents down from the Family Health Care practice,” Mission Executive Director Michael Saccocio said. Under the previous model, the Mission just moved coat racks out of a small room and designated that as the clinic space.
The medical visits resumed this summer with a more formal, private and dignified space, he said.
Associate Executive Director Robin Messick said the exams serve as a way to flag problems that patients haven’t been taking care of or don’t even know about.
“It launches referrals, we refer for followup care,” she said.
In this sense, the clinic functions as the primary care physician that most Mission clients and some neighborhood residents lack.
“There’s currently a three-month wait for primary care,” Messick said.
“You’re dealing with folks who have historical barriers to health care,” Saccocio said. Money is a significant barrier, he explained — the priorities of those living in poverty often don’t include health care until a crisis point is reached.
“If the pain is manageable you just work past it,” Saccocio said.
Other barriers can include distrust of the medical profession, or simply not knowing what good preventative health care is.
Counselors in the Mission’s Empower Health program understand and have themselves known the effects of generational poverty and they recognize the social determinants of health. They can help potential patients past their obstacles and into a health care program.
“There really is a synergy here that makes a lot of sense,” Saccocio said.
Dr. Michael Ferro, an Ellis Primary Care physician, began seeing patients at the Mission during his own residency and now brings other resident physicians from Family Health to the Mission clinic to continue the work.
Kerry Yakawiak, an Ellis Primary Care physician assistant, started seeing patients at the mission when the clinic resumed in its new space in July.
“There was a great need for this type of service in that area,” She said. “We see a lot of acute problems — wounds, cough, cold, those types of things. Diabetes, hypertension.”
While Schenectady City Mission residents can range from birth to extreme old age, the bulk of those she sees are men ages 30 to 60. Patient volume has increased from three or four per evening to eight or more.
“We’ve been going there since July, so I have some patients I’ve seen three or four times,” Yakawiak said. “We do develop a relationship.”
She said she senses a lot of gratitude from the patients she sees at the Mission, and notices a greater willingness on their part to sit and wait than patients at her full-time practice on Ellis’ McClellan Street campus.
Yakawiak also likes being able to see people who haven’t been receiving regular health care or screenings.
“We have had a number of patients that have had high blood pressure that were diagnosed by us who didn’t even know it. I really enjoy the work we’re doing.”
The clinics are free to patients. Ellis receives Medicaid reimbursement for services to about half the patients and Medicare reimbursement for about 20 percent.
Another 20 percent of patients are uninsured.