“They are your neighbors. They see you in the grocery store, care for your children, and pass you at the park,” says Suzie Foley. As executive director of the Greenville Free Medical Clinic, Foley is pointing to the hundreds of local volunteers who serve at the clinic. But with the same words, she’s also describing the thousands of uninsured patients who receive care at the medical center each year.
Foley explains that the nationally recognized clinic exists primarily as a safety net for the forgotten low-wage workers who fall through the gaps in healthcare coverage. This group consists of adults, ages 18–64, who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford other coverage. “The goal is to have a healthier population,” says Foley. “We want our patients going to work. We want our patients to have access to medication so they can continue to be self-sufficient and take care of their families.”
Founded in 1987, the Greenville Free Medical Clinic is a community-funded comprehensive health facility offering primary, preventive and specialty care, pharmacy dispensation, dental and mental health services, ophthalmology, and health education. Each year, about 3,000 patients receive care and access to $8 million worth of free prescription medications at the clinic. But how does a small medical facility come to offer such an expansive range of services at no cost to its patients? Only through the twin engines of collaboration and community spirit.
“I am just amazed at the love of the volunteers who come to serve. This is a calling in their life and they give it all,” says Dr. Palmira Snape, a family physician and volunteer medical director at the clinic. Nearly 600 volunteers, from nurses, dentists, and specialists to administration and maintenance personnel, give of their time and expertise.
“IberiaBank and First Horizon have come together as one financial institution that remains committed to serving our communities. We are happy to honor those who share our vision and serve as a sponsor of the Community Spirit Award. Congratulations to the Greenville Free Medical Clinic for being the 2020 Award Winner!”
—Sam Erwin, executive vice president / regional president of the Carolinas, IBERIABANK
The web of cooperation extends beyond individuals to other organizations, most notably through partnerships with Greenville’s two major health systems. By providing quality care to those who can’t access it otherwise, the clinic alleviates the strain on emergency room services at Prisma Health and Bon Secours. The health systems give back by providing free diagnostic services to the clinic’s patients, rounding out the spectrum of care. Other nonprofits also contribute to the clinic’s whole-life approach to healthcare, such as Loaves & Fishes, which brings a free weekly market of healthy fruit, vegetables, and meat to the clinic—resulting in improved blood sugar, hypertension, and eating habits for patients.
The coronavirus pandemic has laid a number of challenges on the clinic—new safety protocols, dwindling resources, fundraising hurdles, reduced volunteer force—but hasn’t dampened its fierce commitment to providing exceptional care. “This is a place you could choose for your own family and feel good about it, feel confident that they were getting quality, compassionate care,” says Dr. Snape. “That kind of atmosphere and acceptance goes a long way toward keeping people healthy.”