By MeLinda Schnyder
Many Wichitans have at least heard of the Midwest Winefest, if not attended one of the events during the past 22 years. The annual festival has grown into a three-day fundraiser that attracts more than 4,000 from across the region to Wichita each April. But did you know that Midwest Winefest is the only fundraiser for a local non-profit that provides health care for the working poor aged 18 to 64, regardless of their ability to pay?
Guadalupe Health Foundation organizes the fundraiser and Guadalupe Clinic is the primary beneficiary of the health foundation’s funds.
“We write a grant each year to the foundation and they provide approximately 25 percent of the funds we need to operate, which is why this fundraiser is so important,” said David H. Gear, executive director of Guadalupe Clinic. Every $100 raised provides 10 patients with blood tests that are critical to assessing cardiac risk. Every $500 pays for 100 patients who can’t afford the $5 donation, and $1,000 can give 40 patients a month’s worth of antibiotics.
“These are people who without Guadalupe Clinic would have to choose between taking care of their family or seeing a doctor,” Gear said. “At Guadalupe Clinic we strive to take that burden from them by reducing all barriers to accessing quality health care. No one should ever have to make that kind of choice.”
Guadalupe Clinic does not receive federal funding, instead relying on grants and donations from individuals and corporations. The average cost of services provided per patient is $100 and patients are asked for a $5 donation, although no one is turned away due to an inability to pay.
“Other safety-net clinics serve the poor but due to their different model of charging sliding scale fees with additional costs for each service, our patients can’t afford to go to them,” Gear said. “In fact more than 40 percent of our patients can’t afford our request for a $5 donation.”
With a paid staff of just 20 people, the clinic provided medical services through more than 9,000 patient visits during the 2015-16 fiscal year with the help of hundreds of volunteers and partnerships. The services range from general exams to X-rays to specialty services, like diabetic or chronic illness care. “We work very hard to build strategic business, medical and educational partnerships so that our patients are provided with everything they need without any cost barriers,” Gear said.
Providing health care to the poorest of the poor
Professional partnerships with several local radiological and lab groups allow the clinic to provide X-rays and lab tests within the requested $5 donation. Many medications are provided for free through partnerships with state and national programs, or through the clinic’s medical assistance program that matches patients to pharmaceutical companies who provide patients with free medication if they meet the pharmaceutical company qualifications. Other strategic partnerships allow the clinic to treat the whole person, for example a grantor covers the cost for mental health professionals to see patients at the South St. Francis clinic each Wednesday. Gear shared the story of a female patient who has benefitted from this service.
“She had multiple issues including hypertension, coronary artery disease and a history of heart attacks,” he explained. “The first six months of her experience with Guadalupe Clinic were challenging. She was having a difficult time taking care of herself mostly due to severe depression. After several visits with a social worker, she is now taking her medication regularly and doing well. This patient is only one example of the tremendous progress that can be made when the uninsured and underserved have access to quality health care without cost barriers.”
Beginning with six founding volunteer nurses, the clinic has always operated with the philosophy that health care professionals would follow their stewardship calling by volunteering their time and talents to keep costs low. Thirty-two summers ago, the Guadalupe Health Station opened its doors in the former Guadalupe Grade School on South St. Francis. Funding came from the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in Oklahoma, who had been teachers at Guadalupe Catholic Grade School for 30 years prior to the school closing. The next year, 1986, volunteer physicians joined the six nurses and the health station was renamed Guadalupe Clinic and incorporated.
“During our 2015-16 fiscal year, we had 319 medical volunteers that donated 7,787 hours of their time and talents,” Gear said, “and we provided 205 future doctors and nurses with learning opportunities.”
Many of today’s medical volunteers are long-time volunteers or got started while a student. Twelve years ago the clinic started a partnership with the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita JayDoc program. Since then other educational partnerships have formed, for example with the KU School of Pharmacy, nursing programs at Wichita State University and Newman University and the medical assistant programs at Vatterott College and Wichita Technical Institute. Educational partnerships provide an opportunity for students to work side-by-side with licensed medical professionals and experience health care issues they might not encounter in other medical settings.
Doug Woolley is a physician who retired in 2015 from the KU School of Medicine Wichita, where he was a full-time faculty member in Family Medicine with a focus on teaching geriatrics and research methods. While teaching, he volunteered through the JayDoc program on Saturdays and now volunteers regularly throughout the week.
“Dr. Woolley is awesome,” said Jane McGuire, Guadalupe Clinic’s nursing director. “He not only is here whenever we need him, he also enjoys sharing his knowledge with others. He is a blessing to the staff as well as the patients.”
Need continues to grow
During the 2015-16 fiscal year, Guadalupe Clinic saw 1,050 new patients using one of its three clinic locations or nine outreach programs, and Gear expects that number to continue to rise as more people in poverty find themselves unable to afford other health care options.
“Our first 27 years we operated with one location on South St. Francis,” he said. “In 2012, due to the need in the Planeview area of Wichita, we opened our second location on South Hillside. Within the first six months we were booked to capacity
every day and realized we needed to increase the space to provide for more patients. Last summer, with a generous grant from the Goebel Family Star Lumber Foundation, we doubled the clinic size on South Hillside. We are already at capacity again, which shows the need for services in our community.”
Guadalupe Clinic also operates a part-time clinic at 445 N. Market. Gear said he hopes to build a permanent clinic with the expanded The Lord’s Diner facility on North Broadway. “Having The Lord’s Diner and Guadalupe Clinic located adjacent to one another is a great model, one that is popular in many other cities,” he said.
“People may wonder why we chose these specific locations. It is a matter of being able to offer health care services where we are needed. To most people, traveling 5 miles to go to a doctor would not be an issue. However, for someone living 200 percent below poverty level who may not own a car and works multiple jobs to support their family, it isn’t so easy.”
2017 Midwest Winefest
The annual Winefest offers three nights of food and wine; each night is designed for differing tastes and budgets. The 2017 Midwest Winefest is April 20-22 and tickets go on sale March 13 at WichitaTIX.com. Tickets for some events sell out early, especially the Old Town Walkabout.
Old Town Walkabout: 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 20; $55 per person. Casually explore wine and wine-friendly food at 15 to 20 venues, all within walking distance or a free trolley ride in Old Town.
Winemaker Dinners: 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21; prices vary based on menu. Each year the American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF) – Wichita Chapter organizes dinners at various Wichita establishments. These sit-down, black-tie optional dinners feature wines specifically paired to each course and the winemaker is there to introduce you to their wines.
Grand Tasting Stroll: 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 at Century II; $66 per person. They call this the Walkabout on steroids. Participants can sample food from nearly 40 restaurants and about 300 wines inside and on the vineyard patio on Kennedy Plaza, which features live music and more food, wine and beer. There also are live and silent auctions.
More information: www.midwestwinefest.org.