By Michael Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Tree of Life/Arbol de la Vida free clinic will open its doors for the second time Saturday.
“We’re still spreading the word,” said Dr. Joe Bailey, who with the help of a board of volunteers organized the free clinic that began in January.
The monthly clinic – which is held the third Saturday of the month at Dr. Mark Shepherd’s 670 Crossover Road clinic – provides free basic medical care for those without private health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
It has no residency, income or employment requirements.
On Saturday, the clinic hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. All patients will be seen before the clinic closes for the afternoon, Bailey said. A pool of more than 50 medical and lay volunteers give their time and talent to make the clinic happen.
The first clinic in January served 100 patients; organizers expect that many or more Saturday.
“You hate to think that many people didn’t have access to medical care,” said Bailey, who lives in Tupelo but practices in Amory.
However, judging from the volume of calls to his office and home as well as county health departments, he said the patients who came to the first clinic are only a small part of those who need help.
The clinic has received additional charitable donations and its charity pharmacy license, making it simpler to provide free medications to its patients.
“Our only expenses right now are medications and charts,” Bailey said. “We have a bit of a cushion for the next few months.”
However, the clinic, which uses the model Bailey and others have used on medical mission trips abroad, doesn’t have the means to offer X-rays, vaccinations or laboratory testing.
Patients with health problems beyond the clinic’s scope will be referred to other sources, such as emergency departments.
Eventually, the clinic organizers would like to build a foundation that would allow more frequent clinics, broader services and perhaps satellite clinics.
“It is our hope to have a permanent clinic,” Bailey said. “But we’ve got to walk before we can run. We hope this morphs into comprehensive services.”