By Jean Clark
Health care issues are all over the news today. What kind of insurance to get? Where to go for health care? What can I afford? Health information websites are slow, cranky and confusing. Fortunately, there is a marvelously uncomplicated place in Pleasant Hill at 9400 Sparta Hwy. (Rt. 70 W) called the Rural Health Clinic of the Cumberlands, Inc. (RHCC).
It was formed on Aug. 31, 2006, and is a nonprofit organization supported though individual businesses, community leaders, grants and donations from individuals. RHCC serves the people of Cumberland and White counties and Monterey regardless of income, race, national origin or gender. This past year they served 788 patients who are the uninsured, underinsured and disabled. Now, they can accept Medicare and TennCare recipients.
The caring staff consists of volunteer doctors, nurses and administrators who are dedicated to improving community health. Dr. Harold Lowe is the medical director, and his wife, Diana Gustafson-Lowe, is the executive director. Dr. Lowe, a specialist in cardiology and internal medicine, practiced medicine for more than 30 years in Sacramento, CA, where he was chief of cardiology at Mercy Hospital. Diana Gustafson-Lowe, a career teacher of several grades and subjects, learned the ropes of a free clinic in West Virginia.
The Lowes were honored with one of Cumberland County's Dimpled Globe Awards in April of 1913. The couple was drawn to Cumberland County by relatives who extolled the beauty of the Plateau. RHCC offers medical exams, with down-to-earth doctors and nurses who listen. Ruth Ann McKay, RN, is the director of nurses. She is ably assisted by nurse practitioners, Ree Smith and Janice Burgess.
Their mission is to provide continuous primary health care services to the local people regardless of income. They offer outpatient medical care including prescription medicines at minimal or no cost to the patient with referrals to specialists if necessary. RHCC will also provide prevention education and maintenance for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, COPD, obesity and other related disorders. They work with community organizations, existing facilities, and government agencies to provide the best care possible for all of their patients. RHCC partners with Americare and Direct Relief.
Patients do need to bring proof of need when they make their first appointment. The clinic provides low-cost laboratory services, as well as EKGs, echocardiograms, neurology and x-ray facilities. There is diagnostic testing and prescription assistance, helping get low-cost prescriptions through the Prescription Assistance Program from several Pharmaceutical companies. Presently, the clinic charges $15 per office visit and low-cost laboratory service.
The speakers noted that the residents of this area of Tennessee seem caught in a cycle of poor diets, bad living conditions, under or no employment and failing health.
Diana Gustafson-Lowe commented, “The people we see seem to be sicker, poorer and in need more now than when we first started six years ago.”
RHCC welcomes monetary contributions, donations of medical supplies, office or technical supplies. Volunteers are always needed. Presently, they are seeking volunteer medical personnel, qualified counselors, tech assistance and transcribers to enter medical dictation into computerized records. Hours of operation are Monday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is not a walk-in clinic and appointments must be made by calling 277-5992 during clinic hours. Visit their Facebook page or website at www.rhccine.org.
This week in Pleasant Hill: Tops and puppets with Jan Landis will be presented today, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. in Adshead Hall. Coffee and tea with Shalom (Maria Gitin on Civil Rights voting campaign) will be Thursday, Nov. 7, at 3:30 p.m. in Pleasant Hill Community House. Benefit in memory of Domonic, Jonathan, Steven and Rikki will be held Saturday, Nov. 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Pleasant Hill Community House. The Wharton Association Craft Boutique will be Saturday, Nov. 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Blue Barn on Lake Rd.