Committee developing clinic’s new funding model
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Betsy Bond, the director of St. Luke Free Clinic since 2009, is resigning effective Sept. 27.
Bond said she needs to spend more time with her family. If she works, it will be to resume the office organization business she did before taking this job, she said.
Bond is leaving at a pivotal time in the life of the organization. Leaders of the Christian County Health Department decided in June they cannot afford to continue paying the salaries of the free clinic’s staff after June of next year, so a committee is now researching alternative funding models.
But Bond said she’s not just jumping ship out of concern that St. Luke won’t last.
“I see St. Luke there in the future in some form,” she said. “The staff is wonderful. The board has been dedicated.”
Brandon Garnett chairs St. Luke’s executive committee. It doesn’t concern him deeply that the clinic’s director is leaving at this pivotal time. The board will keep everything on course — that’s the board’s basic purpose, he said Tuesday.
“We’ve been on our A game for the past six years that I’ve been on the board,” Garnett said. “Because every day it’s a struggle to make sure that we’re doing the right things and putting the right pieces in place to survive long term.”
St. Luke provides health care to the working uninsured. Their income must be at or below 185 percent of federal poverty guidelines, meaning $41,000 a year or less for a family of four. The hospital served 487 patients last year.
Bond oversees a small staff and about seven volunteer doctors and nurse practitioners, and she helps raise money.
Next week the board will discuss plans for an interim leadership. Pyle and Garnett said they haven’t decided yet whether to re-staff Bond’s position permanently.
Pyle said the clinic’s payroll costs about $225,000 a year. The Christian County Board of Health agreed in June that the clinic should find its own source of funding, and Pyle helped organize a committee toward this end. It has met twice since July, Pyle said.
Garnett said the committee is still researching its options. He hopes to see a business plan in place within six months.
Pyle provided details on the plan’s prospects in an email to the New Era. It could involve an advanced registered nurse practitioner, reliance on medical students and a structure like that of a medical office. The health department, Jennie Stuart Medical Center and Pennyroyal Mental Health would form a coalition that would oversee St. Luke.
“This Health Care Coalition would ensure the delivery of a public health system approach to the health care in our community,” Pyle wrote.
Pyle told the board of health last month that he wants to create a “community health system” that involves every local organization dedicated to health issues.
Bond said it’s also possible the clinic could start accepting Medicaid. The state government may soon expand the Medicaid program, as part of the Affordable Care Act, to cover more than 250,000 currently uninsured people.