New Southwest Portland Health Clinic Helps Low-Income, Uninsured Patients

06/02/05    Portland, Ore.

A new health clinic has opened to help low income and uninsured patients in southwest Portland.

The Southwest Community Health Center is located in the Multnomah Art Center, Multnomah Village, 7688 S.W. Capitol Hwy. A public open house is planned for Wednesday, June 15, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Oregon Health & Science University family medicine physicians, residents and students,  as well as other professional community volunteers, provide the medical care. Community volunteers help to staff the clinic and provide office support.

The new health center offers quality, basic health services focusing on acute health problems. Patients needing specialized care will be referred to other health care professionals.

They expect to treat about 800 patients the first year. Already it has served more than  50 patients, mostly women and children, said Southwest Community Health Center Board President Carol Allen.

 The health center is open Tuesdays and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. In order to provide services, a sliding-scale fee based on income is required of patients. Besides providing health care, volunteers will help patients with Oregon Health Plan (OHP) eligibility screening and in filling out the OHP applications. 

"We believe health care is a right -- not a privilege. There is so little access to health care for the uninsured west side of Portland, and there is so much demand. There are some very big pockets of poverty in southwest Portland," said Samira Godil, health center executive director, who was instrumental in creating this community clinic.

Godil said she was trying to create a clinic in this area and approached faculty at OHSU. Godil has worked for community agencies where she saw families without access to basic health care such as check ups and immunizations for their children.

"More than 50,000 people recently lost their Medicaid coverage, and here we are as medical people with our hearts hanging out," said Frank Dornfest, M.D., medical director of the new health center and associate professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine. "Our souls moved us to find some way to provide care in the area. OHSU Family Medicine is committed. We have a mission to serve the poor as well as everybody else.  Our whole faculty and our residents are very excited about this project." Dornfest also is the medical director of OHSU Family Medicine at Gabriel Park.
 
Southwest Community Health Center is a new member of the Multnomah County Coalition of Community Health Centers and the only safety net clinic for low-income and uninsured people in outer southwest Portland. The governing board of directors includes  clinicians, public health, social service and child advocacy professionals.

The health center received a Northwest Health Foundation grant, which helped get it started. Patient fees help, but donations will be needed, said Allen. "We hope to be able to be open more days. The demand is definitely going to be there," she said. If interested, people can send donations to S.W. Community Health Center, 7688 Capital Hwy., #37, Portland, OR 97219.