CLINTON — Twenty-one foreign physicians and other health-care professionals from Afghanistan to Vietnam visited a clinic Thursday that serves an indigent, rural population that lacks easy access to health-care facilities.
Ginger Hunt, chief executive officer of Primary Care Providers for a Healthy Feliciana, explained how the nonprofit organization operates RKM Primary Care out of a 19,960-square-foot building in Clinton, as well as four East Feliciana Parish school health clinics and a small clinic in West Baton Rouge.
RKM is a “federally qualified health center,” which federal health officials define as a “safety net” provider that enhances the delivery of health-care services in underserved communities. The initials are those of Dr. Richard K. Munson, who donated a building when the clinic opened in 1999.
Hunt said that patients not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or insurance are charged according to a sliding scale based on income. The indigent patients are the best at paying for their services, even if they pay only a little at a time, she said.
“This is not a free clinic. We never touted it as a free clinic. It was always pay for your service, because you value, in life, what you pay for,” she said.
“We see in Louisiana some of the most-unhealthy people in the United States,” Hunt told the visitors, mainly because of lifestyles and a lack of primary- care providers.
Mona Faea Asiri, a quality management specialist at a Saudi Arabian medical facility, asked about the disease-prevention services the clinic offers, and Hunt said the school clinics play a large role in that area.
The school workers see large numbers of children and monitor those with chronic illnesses, such as asthma.
The main clinic offers flu shots and programs on smoking cessation, weight loss and diabetes prevention and management.
Clinical Director Darie Gilliam explained to Dr. Majda Aghoutane, of Morocco, how RKM participates with the federal Centers for Disease Control and the state Office of Public Health to monitor outbreaks of communicable diseases, including a type of staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics.
Learning that 19 percent of the children in East Feliciana Parish are considered obese, a district health services director from Ghana suggested a program to encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables, and for people to raise community gardens.
Three U.S. State Department officials accompanied the visitors. One of them, Barry Lewis, said the group has visited other facilities in Denver, Washington, D.C., one of three locations in the Midwest and New Orleans.
The program has several goals, including promoting international cooperation on preventing, treating and managing chronic, noncommunicable diseases and examining state and local efforts at preventative screening and wellness programs.