RotaCare Interim Manager and Clinical Services Coordinator Michelle Luttrell encountered an unusual sight at her Mountain View clinic. On a recent November day, it had more medical providers than patients onsite.
“We actually did not fill our provider schedules, but usually it’s the opposite,” said Luttrell, a nurse practitioner by trade. “Usually we have more patients than volunteers.”
In fact, Luttrell added, the need remains greater than ever. The clinic is currently averaging 530 patients per month – two-thirds of them between the ages of 19 and 64 – a pace far greater than the 3,500-plus patients it has served on an annual basis in recent years.
Although it has traditionally served low-income local workers who are either uninsured or underinsured, the clinic has seen an increased mix in the demography in 2013. That includes a bump in the number of unemployed and highly educated workers who are victims of what Luttrell calls “ageism” – those too young for Medicare but deemed too old to employ.
“That particular patient population is growing,” said Luttrell, who added that the clinic also has experienced a growing number of homeless patients in the past year. “I can’t tell you how many out-of-work engineers we see who are in their 50s and early 60s.”
Making matters increasingly difficult, she added, is a lack of awareness by some who assume that problems like being underemployed or uninsured don’t exist in prosperous Silicon Valley.
“People who work for themselves or work part time – or multiple jobs part time – they don’t have insurance,” she said. “It’s the behind-the-scenes folks, the person who cuts your hair or the person who serves your coffee. It’s your nanny (and) it’s your gardener.”
According to Luttrell, RotaCare doesn’t just keep the individuals healthy.
“We keep the family healthy and, by doing that, we keep the community healthy. … It’s a benefit to the public, which receives services from these people who are uninsured.”
Still, Luttrell said there’s plenty of room for optimism at RotaCare Mountain View. As usual, the clinic continues to offer traditional medical services for acute issues like coughs and colds as well as for chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure, among other maladies. This year, the clinic added cardiology, vascular and pulmonology services in an effort to meet more diverse medical needs.
Luttrell added that she’s particularly thankful for the horde of physicians, nurses and specialists who regularly volunteer their time and expertise to help those without the necessary means.
“We wouldn’t be here without our volunteers,” Luttrell said. “RotaCare would not exist without our volunteers. It’s a really special clinic and a special place to work because the people who are here want to be here.”