At Grace Medical Home, patients get help from volunteering doctors.
Grace Medical Home is not a building, house or hospital. It is a non-profit home-base where low income and uninsured patients can turn to for their health care needs. Opened May 7, 2010, it is the shared dream of Dr. Marvin Hardy and Dr. Kirsten Carter. Years ago, the two local physicians participated in a medical mission in the Dominican Republic, turning a children’s sick clinic into a medical home, providing sick visits, well-care checkups and health education. When they returned home, they saw a need for a similar facility in Orlando. Business and community leaders, churches and individuals stepped forward with similar dreams and began raising funds and donating equipment for the operation, which is totally dependent on donations and volunteers.
They adopted a mission “to reflect the character and compassion of Christ by offering the highest level of medical care to those in our community who need it most.” Hardy, a pediatrician, is now medical director of Grace Medical Home and Carter is the director of internal medicine. “We couldn’t manage Grace without the volunteers,” says Stephanie Garris, executive director. “The physicians, office staff and nurses are all volunteers. We even have one student volunteer who is going to medical school.” One volunteer, Beachy Harrell of Winter Park, gives four hours of her time once a week. “By confirming appointments and doing general office help, it gives me a sense of support to others who need help with their health care,” she says.
Located on Pennsylvania Street in a donated, rent-free, renovated building in downtown Orlando, Grace Medical Home provides comprehensive primary care for adults and children including vaccinations, well-visit check-ups, treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, laboratory services, X-ray capabilities, social services assistance and health education. “Grace Medical Home is an amazing place,” Garris says. “We have 15 primary care physicians, 10 specialists and more than 750 enrolled patients of all ages whose medical care has been neglected for years.” Orlando Health and Florida Hospital offer Grace Medical Home in-kind support, including equipment and staff expertise. Officials of these hospitals serve on Grace’s board of directors.
Dr. Melissa de la Roza is an emergency physician with a 20-month-old son and expecting another son in June. She volunteers six hours, three or four times a month and explains that hospitals support Grace largely because it helps treat patients who have only the ER department to go to when even minor health problems occur. “At Grace I can do more than treat emergencies,” she says. “I’m more like a general practitioner and primary care physician. I get to know the patients, which I cannot do in hospital ERs. Grace fulfills a spiritual part in my life, becoming like a church family,” she says. Patients must be a legal U.S. resident currently living in Orange County and earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
They must have been employed within the last six months or be a single parent or a full-time student. They also must be uninsured and not eligible for government -assisted health care programs, such as Medicaid or Medicare. Grace charges a $20 annual enrollment fee and a $20 facility fee per visit. “I was losing hope as my health deteriorated,” says one patient. “Grace Medical Home is restoring not only my health but my faith in people.”