Paloma Quintana was 14 years old when she found out she was pregnant with her first child.
The stress was overwhelming. Quintana became really depressed and began drinking. She needed help for herself and her unborn baby but doors kept getting slammed in her face.
“Because I was really drunk and nobody wanted me in their clinic because they thought they were going to get in trouble for accepting a pregnant 14-year-old,” Quintana says. “So we talked and Dr. James was the only one that said ‘yes, let’s do it so she can have a good pregnancy, a healthy pregnancy.”
The doctor who accepted Quintana is James Gingerich, family physician at the Maple City Health Center in Goshen, Ind. He chose to treat Quintana because of a philosophy he and his staff at the clinic have toward health care.
Clinic Promotes Comprehensive Health Care
“Really improving health almost invariably means significant change in how we function one way or another,” Gingerich says.
Gingerich calls it integrated health care where it isn’t just treating the symptoms, but looking at a patient’s entire life.
Like Quintana, a lot of pregnant women who come to Gingerich’s Maple City clinic aren’t prepared to give birth and be mothers. One of the requirements of Maple City’s prenatal care is attending group sessions with other pregnant women to talk about expectations and to prepare for motherhood.
“We talked about baby names and labor and about what we want to have in the hospital room,” Quintana says. “We talked about things like if we wanted to have a bath in the room and how your body works when you’re pregnant.”
In order to help their patients with the stress of financing their health care, Maple City uses a sliding fee discount system based on income and size of family and whether they have insurance or not.
When the recession hit, Gingerich says even patients with discounted co-pays and medications stopped coming altogether.
“We were sitting around as a staff talking about this and suddenly one of our staff members asked the simple question, ‘if these people don’t have money then what do they have?’ And the obvious answer was time,” Gingerich says. “They’re unemployed.”
How Volunteering Pays For Medical Bills
So how would you use your time to pay for health care? By volunteering.
Gingerich and his staff partnered with local charities like The Window, a center that provides basic need services, to accept Maple City patients as volunteers.
“What happens is they come from Maple City Health Center, they have a certain amount of hours they have to work off,” says Ed Swartly, executive director of The Window. “For every hour they volunteer, they get $10 off their bill.”
The clinic then gets money because it gets a tax write-off for the volunteer work.
Not only does this program help patients pay for care, but it’s having an impact on the community.
“Our community is in great need,” says Doug Hernley, general manager of Depot MCC Thrift Shops in Goshen. “Unemployment’s been high in our area. A lot of people have been out of work, and they find that they are struggling to pay for something like a medical bill that others who can pay for that take for granted. So to be able to offer that and to offer it to the community to come out and help those people by doing some volunteer work, that’s the knitted impact it has on the community.”
This system is another way the clinic engages patients like Quintana into owning their health care. She says without the support from Maple City during her pregnancies, her 3-year-old daughter and 1 1/2-year-old son would not be healthy today.
She received counseling to cope with the stress of motherhood and now works with a nutritionist to manage her weight. And because she’s paying on a sliding scale, she doesn’t feel like she’s receiving a free handout.
“They help me and they give me a lot of chances and opportunities to pay my bills on time and not to worry that I’m not going to come here with my kids,” Quintana says.
Quintana is working on her GED and hopes to become a delivery room nurse.