Wanted: Physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, health services aides and clerical workers willing to volunteer their time and expertise to enable the City of Trenton to re-open its pediatric and adolescent health clinic for the first time since 2008.
“We are inviting physicians and other healthcare professionals to volunteer their services for two to four hours at a time at the Trenton Pediatric and Adolescent Treatment Center at 218 North Broad Street,” said James A. Brownlee, director of the city’s Department of Health & Human Services. Medical malpractice coverage will be provided to volunteers at no charge as a result of recent federal action granting the city what is called free clinic status.
“Our goal is to re-open our clinic and keep the doors open five days a week to serve the uninsured children and teens of Trenton. Now that we are able to take care of malpractice coverage, we are hopeful that doctors, nurses and other professionals who are retired or otherwise available will help us provide much needed care for the people of Trenton,” Brownlee said.
Donations of medicines and medical supplies, such as aspirin, bandages, diagnostic equipment, glucometers, nebulizers and other supplies, from pharmaceutical companies are also needed, he said.
Individuals wishing to volunteer and companies wishing to donate medicines or medical supplies can contact Brownlee and his team at the city Health Department at 609-989-3242, ext. 109.
There is some urgency to getting the clinic re-opened, Brownlee said. Children must be immunized against a number of contagious diseases prior to the start of school, and without the immunizations, they will be barred from attendance. With the help of the volunteer medical squad, the city can provide those immunizations.
“We need to provide preventive care for children from newborn to age 17, including lots of preventive services to help children be healthy and ready to attend school,” said Dr. Ruth Perry, executive director of the Trenton Health Team, a community-based health improvement program which has been bridging many of the gaps in care while the city’s health department has worked to restore services.
In fact, Perry and Robert Remstein, president of the Trenton Health Team and vice president at Capital Health, have been volunteering their medical services to the city for the past year, providing physician services in the city’s tuberculosis clinic. In addition, member institutions of the Trenton Health Team, St. Francis Medical Center, Henry J. Austin Federally Qualified Health Center and Capital Health all operate clinics for city residents.
Despite these efforts, a significant percentage of children have not been receiving needed services, Brownlee said. That will change with the opening of the pediatric and adolescent clinic in the next few weeks.
For some time, Brownlee has been exploring ways to create a volunteer-based public health service program. The most significant impediment has been the need to provide very costly medical malpractice insurance for volunteers. The city applied for “free clinic status” with the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With that status, volunteers can be provided malpractice coverage at no cost to them. The city department earned approval of its application for that status a few months ago, and Brownlee and his team have been planning the reopening of the clinics since.
Restoring pediatric and adolescent services is the first priority, Brownlee said. In collaboration with the Trenton Health Team, Brownlee will next look to re-open the adult clinic, which will provide primary care services. Finally the clinic’s focus will expand to specialty care in chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, since the incidence of those diseases among Trenton residents is very high.
The city clinic at 218 Broad Street includes five children’s and five adult exam rooms. Other services for children to be offered include well baby examinations, physical exams for children and teens, preventive and sick child care.
Trenton Health Team is an alliance of the city’s major providers of healthcare services including Capital Health, St. Francis Medical Center, Henry J. Austin Health Center and the city’s Health Department. In collaboration with residents and the city’s active social services network, THT is developing an integrated healthcare delivery system to transform the city’s fragmented primary care system and restore health to the city. THT aims to make Trenton the healthiest city in the state. The THT receives generous support from the Nicholson Foundation, corporate partners, and other foundations. For more information, visit www.trentonhealthteam.org.