For Immediate Release
August 8, 2013
For more information, contact:
Glenda Silvey, (918) 660-3317 or (918) 770-2407
Karen Mulkey, (918) 660-3098 or (918) 625-5698
TULSA, Okla. – Two OU School of Community Medicine community health clinics are marking their ten-year anniversary in providing health care to uninsured patients in the Tulsa metropolitan area. The Bedlam Clinics have delivered health services, free of charge, to thousands of indigent and underserved patients in the last decade. The clinics are one of the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine’s signature community projects, helping fulfill its mission of improving the health of all Oklahomans, particularly the urban and rural underserved.
The two clinics, called Bedlam Evening and Bedlam Longitudinal, were created in response to harsh economic times in Tulsa following the September 11 attacks of 2001. Job losses created a dramatic rise in the number of uninsured. With nowhere else to go, those without coverage flooded local emergency rooms, straining hospital budgets and staff, and costing patients much more than a regular physician office visit. OU-Tulsa convened a summit of state and local leaders and agencies to analyze Oklahoma’s poor health statistics – among the worst in the nation – and propose solutions. One of the first actions recommended was creation of a free, walk-in evening clinic for the working uninsured, staffed by medical students and volunteer physicians. In August, 2003, funded by private donations, the Bedlam Evening Clinic, also known as “Bedlam – E,” opened, offering free acute and limited specialty care. More than 100 patients were waiting in line the first night it opened.
“We were encouraged to be able to help some of the working poor, many of whom were going to work every day with challenging health problems,” said University of Oklahoma – Tulsa President Gerard P. Clancy, M.D. “But we quickly recognized that Bedlam – E couldn’t meet the needs of patients who needed continuous care. Bedlam Longitudinal – known as ‘Bedlam – L’ grew out of that need, delivering care to patients with more chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart and lung disease.”
OU School of Community Medicine students take leading roles in clinic operations, supervised by OU faculty physicians. OU medical residents; OSU medical students; students from the OU Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, and Social Work and OU Physician Assistant students also perform clinical rotations in the Bedlam Clinics. Fourth year medical student William McNitt calls the clinics “a fantastic experience for students.”
“In Bedlam – L, we really get to know our patients, showing us how truly desperate the financial and domestic reality is for many Tulsa residents. We also see the resilience of the community and these individuals, which motivates us to keep serving the less fortunate in health care and in health policy. The clinics also reveal the gaps in society’s safety net, which I think will help us to be more empathic and resourceful providers in the future.”
One hundred percent of all patients seen at Bedlam Clinics are low income, typically falling under the 200 percent bracket of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines. OU receives no direct state or federal funding for the clinics, operated exclusively through private donations. The clinics have treated some 7,800 patients in the last ten years, conducting more than 62,000 patient appointments. The estimated savings to patients or hospitals due to diversion from hospital emergency rooms over the ten year period is as much as $56,284,39, or as much as $5,628,440 per year.
Bedlam Evening Clinic, located at OU Physicians Family Medicine Clinic at 1111 South St. Louis in Tulsa, is held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Bedlam Longitudinal is open Thursday afternoons from 12:30 – 5:00 p.m. at the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Clinic at 41st and Yale and at the Family Medicine Clinic. The clinics operate 48 weeks out of the year. Once a month, specialty services are available in Urology, Gynecology, Dermatology, Allergy, Psychiatry, Optometry and Sports Medicine. Laboratory and radiation services are also free.
Not all patients who come to the Bedlam Evening Clinic will be seen; the number chosen depends on the number and type of volunteer physicians, students and practitioners scheduled that night. Those turned away are provided a list of other community clinics and resources and may also try again in following weeks.
The clinic does not see patients with chronic pain issues requiring narcotics, bone injuries, new Hepatitis C patients, social security determination, children under the age of 18 or those needing back-to-work release forms.
“Many of our patients are coping with significant social pressures along with serious health problems,” says Bedlam Clinics Medical Director Janelle Whitt, D.O. “Receiving quality health care is a huge relief to them, often enabling them to better manage work and home challenges. Most tell us how grateful they are, and that they don’t know what they’d do without the treatment and medicine they receive at Bedlam.”
Dr. Clancy said, “We are hearing from our graduates now practicing across Oklahoma what a difference the Bedlam experience made in both instilling a strong sense of altruism but also in improving their clinical skills. Bedlam has been a win-win for patients and students, gaining great benefit in a cost effective way.”
The University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine is the first medical school of its kind in the nation. Created in 2008 with a $50 million donation from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the school’s mission is to improve the health status of all Oklahoma communities, where health statistics are consistently ranked near the lowest in the U.S. The OU School of Community Medicine and its physician practice, OU Physicians, includes more than 300 physicians, some 70 medical students and 81 physician assistant students. They perform approximately 300,000 patient visits per year at 24 community clinics and work from Saint Francis Hospital, Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital, Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville, Hillcrest Medical Center and St. John Medical Center. For more information about the OU School of Community Medicine, call 660-3098 or visit http://tulsa.ou.edu.