Pocatello Free Clinic and Idaho State University partner to provide no cost healthcare to Southeast Idaho
June 5, 2019 - POCATELLO, ID
Healthcare agencies across Pocatello are working collaboratively to bridge a significant gap between the community and accessible healthcare. For many years, the Pocatello Free Clinic (PFC) has collaborated with the Kasiska Division of Health Sciences (KDHS) at Idaho State University (ISU) and a multitude of other agencies to provide free healthcare services in Southeast Idaho. These services are available to those who are within 200% of the Federal Poverty Level and without medical insurance.
A new addition to the PFC/ISU team is further enhancing the availability of these free services. Cynthia Bunde, MPAS, PA-C, is a recently hired physician assistant (PA) for the PFC and an ISU PA faculty member who has a soft spot in her heart for the free clinic. Before becoming a student in ISU’s Physician Assistant Studies program, she frequently volunteered at the clinic, and continued her volunteer work while in school. Bunde graduated from the ISU PA program in 2000 and also served as a PFC board member. Referring to the PFC/ISU partnership as her “dream job,” she displays a long-standing passion for the patients seen at the clinic, as well as the students she is able to teach and mentor there.
Having an additional provider at PFC allows ISU students from multiple health disciplines to receive hands-on training and clinical hours as part of their program requirements. The students receive extraordinary benefit from this experience, as it enhances their preparation for entering the workforce. The PFC, which moved to a new location in April, is happy to welcome ISU faculty, students, and resident physicians onto their staff. These groups work unpaid, sustaining the clinic's ability to provide free healthcare services to community members who need it most.
Sherrie Joseph, president of the PFC Board of Directors, says the Board is pleased to work in collaboration with ISU to continue the clinic’s history of providing free care for this community. Bannock County, the Portneuf Health Trust, the City of Pocatello, along with many local physicians, dentists, other health clinics, are just a few of the groups who have helped make it possible for the free clinic to continue supporting their patients for so many years. Bunde’s position at PFC is partially funded by the Portneuf Health Trust, allowing expanded hours at the clinic. Previously, the clinic was only open a couple days a week with limited hours, but with Cindy here as an additional provider, they are now open 9am - 6pm Monday through Friday, with walk-in hours available.
In addition to physician assistant students and faculty, a number of health science programs at ISU are involved in volunteering at the clinic:
- As part of another new addition, ISU audiology students will soon offer comprehensive audiological evaluations for adults who do not have insurance or the ability to pay for an evaluation. Additionally, they will utilize assistance from national programs to obtain hearing aids for those who could benefit from amplification, working under the supervision of ISU audiology faculty. They also accept hearing aid donations at the PFC, as they are able to refurbish hearing aids and distribute to those in need. This service is usually unreachable for many patients in need of hearing evaluation and hearing aids.
- Family Medicine Residency physicians volunteer on Tuesdays every week, and fill in for other physicians when needed.
- Pharmacy students run the PFC’s on-site Prescriber Drug Outlet. This allows the PFC to prescribe pharmaceuticals to the community at no cost through donations. This year, several Career Path Intern students from the College of Pharmacy provided pharmaceutical care while also working to research and draft Idaho Representative Sue Chew's (D, District 17) Legend Drug Donation Act. This act expands the list of qualified donors (to include individuals) who can provide unused prescription medication to charitable clinic locations and centers. The PFC is then able to make the drugs available for their patients at no charge.
- Students and faculty in ISU’s Dental Hygiene program perform oral health evaluations and teeth cleanings, while dentists from the Pocatello Family Dentistry Clinic volunteer to provide additional dental care and services.
As one of the oldest operating free clinics in the country, the PFC has been bringing free healthcare to the underserved of the community for decades. Since opening its doors in 1971, the clinic was designed to serve those without insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. Bunde says providing care to underserved populations is a gratifying process, one that she enjoys sharing with her students. Expressing her passion for serving patients, she says, "The Pocatello Free Clinic embodies everything I went into medicine for, it's all about caring for people without regard to profit. Many students are moved by this experience to continue in this area of work after they graduate, and it proves to be fulfilling for all involved.”
Idaho State University’s Kasiska Division of Health Sciences provides leadership in the delivery of rural health care by educating caring and competent professionals across all dimensions of health and promoting interprofessional research and practice in the health sciences. The KDHS operates 12 campus clinics in Pocatello and three in Meridian, many of which offer services on a sliding fee scale. The clinics are open to the community, along with ISU students and faculty.