Free Medical Clinic In Hancock County Set To Close Saturday

The free medical care and medicines provided to Hancock County storm victims is about to end. Leaders of the Loudoun Medical Clinic located in the Bay St. Louis train depot say they will close their doors for good Saturday at 5pm. Sources close to the clinic tell WLOX News the free clinic is shutting down under pressure by local physicians who want to get their patients back.

The Loudoun Medical Clinic has been providing free health care to hundreds of Hancock County storm victims since Hurricane Katrina crippled the coast four months ago.

"Yesterday we saw 124 patients. Today, so far, I know we've seen close to 80. We're pushing 80 to 100 or more a day. That's quite a few patients," the clinic's lead physician Dr. Carol Currier said.

The volunteer medical group is from Virginia. Leaders say they have the resources and the staff commitment to continue operating for several months.

"But I'm told that the medical staff in the hospital are wanting to take care of all of the local patients themselves," Dr. Currier said.

And that's something she's concerned about at this time.

"If you go to the emergency room, the fee up front is $250. Then the cost goes up. They can bill you, but that can be a crushing sum of money to a person out of work and uninsured who happens to not have Medicaid."

The people who use the clinic agree.

"I hope they don't close this place. The poor people really, really need this. They have no income, no jobs. If they give them free treatment with these doctors and the hospital it would be okay. But this clinic has been wonderful for me. They gave me my medication, it took my stitches out. I had a fall, I had a nail in my foot, there were no doctors to see, so this place has been a blessing," Bay St. Louis Resident Joan Ploue said.

Hancock Medical Center's Marketing Director disagrees.

"No patient will go without care. The Mississippi Medicaid has a disaster provision where victims of Katrina can qualify for Medicaid for about six months. Coastal family health is due to open Tuesday. And Coastal Family Health is a federally supported program," Janet McQueen said.

McQueen says most of the doctors on staff at Hancock Medical and in the community are back in business and ready for their patients.

"All along everyone has worked collaboratively meeting every week to establish a plan of care to care for our residents. The end goal of that was to return that care to the physicians whom people have entrusted their lives for years, and we're watching that plan happen. And we are so grateful for all the help we've received. That's the greatest gift. We're also grateful to see our own medical staff back up and running."

Meanwhile the people who use the clinic say they plan to fight to keep it open.

by Al Showers