Despite funding cuts, low cost clinics staying busy

Despite funding cuts, low cost clinics staying busy


by MICHELLE BOUDIN / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @MichelleBoudin

Posted on October 13, 2011 at 5:46 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 13 at 6:02 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The number of people who've lost their health insurance in recent years because of the economy means more people aren't getting the healthcare they need.

A handful of neighborhood clinics in our area are working to change that, despite recently losing much of their funding.

NewsChannel 36 visited CMC Myers Park and met Ralph Leach, a patient who suffered congestive heart failure in February.

He’s been seeing his cardiologist, Dr. Laszlo Littmann, since then.

“This place is great.  They saved my life.  I’m a walking example, I’m a miracle,” Leach said.

Leach doesn't have insurance, but he regularly sees Dr.Littmann at CMC Myers Park, one of a handful of strategically placed neighborhood clinics around Charlotte. There are OBGYN’S's, urologists and cardiologists.

The clinics are in areas where there are low income families or where city transit makes them easily accessible.

 “Almost all of them are uninsured.  Many are homeless.  They have poor social support services, no medical insurance,” added Dr. Littmann.

But when they come to the clinic, it’s like seeing their regular doctor and they see a pharmacist, a nutritionist and a social worker.  The need here has gone up dramatically in recent years.

“It’s huge.  We always had a big patient population, but now we get more referrals for patients who used to have health insurance.  Now they lost it.  They used to be seen by a private cardiologist, but now they cannot go back because they lost their insurance,” Dr. Littmann added.

Patients pay on a sliding scale based on their income, from nothing to $15 or $30. And the need for that sliding scale has doubled in just the last two years.

“I didn’t know nothing about this place but when they told me.  They took me in, took care of me.  They helped me.  If weren’t for them I’d be dead,” Leach said.

He says he can never fully repay them.

“I’m truly grateful with the care and how they have helped me back to myself and gave me another life a second chance.”

Up until this year the county gave CMC $8 million to help run the clinics, but thanks to budget cuts that money is gone. A hospital spokeswoman says they are going to keep the clinics running and take an $8 million loss.