On the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, the St. Mary's Legacy Clinic, a mobile clinic operated by the Diocese of Knoxville, comes to Crab Orchard and offers free medical care to low-income patients in the community who have no health insurance.

“This is the fifth year we’ve been doing this, and we are changing peoples lives, helping them improve and manage their health conditions,” Sister Mariana Koonce, the clinic’s medical director, said. “Some of our patients have been coming to us since we started, and we have gotten to know a lot of them.”

During a quick 10-minute break in-between seeing patients, Koonce rushes to the back of the Crab Orchard Care Center and takes advantage of the brief opportunity to eat a sandwich for lunch and grab a quick beverage.

It’s an unseasonably warm, sunny day in Crab Orchard.

“This weather is beautiful today,” Koonce says as she explains their services. “We are a primary care clinic treating adults from ages 19-64 for basic health care services, chronic disease management services, and offering compassionate care for people who can not afford to buy or pay for health care services and try to help those who don’t have health insurance.”

The truth is the mobile clinic has paid plenty of visits to Crab Orchard during cold, dreary and rainy days, too. Visits are canceled however if weather conditions become dangerous for travel.

“These people depend on us. For many of them we are their primary care provider,” Koonce said.

Koonce said they emphasize patient education with the clinic.

“We try to get them to take responsibility of their health care and set some goals with exercise, social interaction, family, quitting smoking and taking care of managing their health conditions,” she said.

The St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic visits six communities in East Tennessee. The mobile clinic made its first visit to Crab Orchard in January 2014.

The mobile clinic partners with the Crab Orchard Care Center at 87 Commerce St. in Crab Orchard’s Main St. The site is less than a mile off Interstate 40, exit 329.

Although the mobile clinic, based in Knoxville, comes to Crab Orchard, the patients who are treated there come from as far away as Cookeville or Baxter.

“This is the farthest site west that we visit, but our patients come from all over the area to see us,” Koonce said.

The mobile clinic travels to the sites seven days per month, with two of the visits being at the Crab Orchard Care Center.

“We really feel like we’re doing God’s work,” Koonce says as she heads to greet another patient.

The St. Mary’s Legacy mobile clinic was initially funded by the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation following the sale of St. Mary’s Hospital in Knoxville by Mercy Health Partners in 2011. It is a nonprofit organization.

Other sites the mobile clinic visits in East Tennessee communities include Athens, Decatur, Gatlinburg, Rutledge and Washburn.

The mobile clinic relies heavily on volunteers and donations in order to meet its mission of being “the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and continuing the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy by providing healthcare to the poor and medically underserved in the rural areas of East Tennessee.”

There are several volunteers for the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic at each site. Several volunteers at the Crab Orchard site come from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fairfield Glade.

“I had volunteered with Cumberland Medical Center so I had some experience and then I found out about the St. Mary’s program in Crab Orchard through my church, St. Francis of Assisi,” Carm Shaw of Fairfield Glade, said. “I love to see the people, and it’s nice to know that we can help them.”

Shaw said she is impressed with the volunteer spirit in the community and all of the people who volunteer for the program.

“Volunteering for this program is a good feeling. It boosts your spirit. It’s like giving back to the community, and it really lifts your spirits,” Shaw said.

The St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic offers primary care services such as medical evaluations and treatment plans provided by health care professionals, distribution of limited donated medications through AmeriCares, prescriptions, laboratory work, Point of Care testing with the results during the visit including blood work such as fasting lipid panel to check cholesterol, hemoglobin and hematocrit to test for anemia, glucose test for blood sugar, personalized patient education by a registered nurse and referrals to Knoxville Area Project Access for specialty services.

Orders for diagnostic imaging or further medical treatment when necessary can also be made.

The St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic has helped thousands of uninsured patients in East Tennessee over the past five years.

The St. Mary’s Legacy mobile clinic will be in Crab Orchard Tuesday, Feb. 12, and Tuesday, Feb. 26, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For potential patients who are currently without health insurance and are interested in being seen in the mobile clinic, call 865-212-5570 to schedule an appointment. 

For more information about the St. Mary's Legacy Clinic, call 865-212-5570, or visit stmaryclinic.org.

Gary Nelson may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com

Trending Video