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Published on October 24, 2009

Our View: Just What the Doctor Ordered

DAILY CHRONICLE : Saturday, October 24, 2009

The argument over proposed health care reform has been among the most contentious public discussions in recent years. The primary origin of the de bate in Washington, D.C. is how to care for the millions of Americans who are denied or cannot afford health insurance. The proposed solutions inflamed arguments that metastasized through town halls across the country last summer. 

During that same time period, officials in DeKalb County were quietly opening a clinic designed to help meet the needs of those whose health care was being so hotly debated. While most people were talking about it, people here were doing something about it.

Community Cares Clinic opened in August, but only this week did officials from its two primary partners – KishHealth System and Northern Illinois University – hold its formal unveiling. This primary care clinic caters to uninsured, underinsured and Medicaid patients, many of whom had to travel outside the county because so many health care providers had stopped seeing patients on government aid. 

In 2007, State Rep. Bob Pritchard assembled a team of local health care experts, and also philanthropists who helped cover the start-up costs. On Aug. 17, the clinic was opened, reaching out first to patients at Hope Haven homeless shelter. 

Physician Assistant David Wester manages the clinic, and Nurse Practitioner Traci Costigan is also on staff. When consultations are needed, they can call on three local physicians – Drs. George Gonnella, Asad Shah and Jamison Allen – who oversee the medical care of clinic patients.

The two primary partners have committed $1.2 million to keep the clinic operational for at least three years, at which time officials hope it will pay for itself. Whether that happens is anyone's guess, because so much might happen in the health care industry over the next three years. A lot of people are trying to figure out the best way to provide health care to everyone, and no one has the perfect model for doing so.

Community Cares Clinic may not be the perfect model, but it is a good one. And with time and experience, a good model can be molded into something far better than its initial shape might have suggested. We applaud everyone involved in Community Cares Clinic for not just talking about it, but doing something about it. 

It may be just what the doctor ordered.

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