By Jessicah Lawrence
Free medical services for those without health insurance and on low income are now available at a clinic in the community.
Bluffton-Jasper Volunteers in Medicine is unveiling its new Ridgeland medical clinic Thursday with an open house starting at 5:30 p.m. The facility is at 11332 N. Jacob Smart Blvd., and will provide primary care services. The Bluffton location continues to offer gynecological services, cardiology, endocrinology, diabetic care and nutrition.
About one-third of the patients who visit the Bluffton-Jasper Volunteers in Medicine clinic in Bluffton off Burnt Church Road are Jasper County residents, calling for a facility closer to home for their patients.
The Ridgeland clinic was completely remodeled by the nonprofit organization as it was only an open space with black-painted walls. Now it has transformed into four exam rooms with one dedicated for eye exams, which should be available for patients by mid-summer. The artwork on display throughout the building was donated from a Charleston-based artist, Deane Bowers, who was intially interested in teaming up with the organization to help with a fundraising project. The artwork is made from all repurposed items such as nails, screws and even sticks.
Plans for the Ridgeland medical clinic began in December 2014. They were spearheaded by Lisa Hayes, a Liberty fellow and part of the Aspen Institute. Along with Jasper leaders and volunteers, Hayes created a strategic plan to facilitate the development of the Ridgeland facility.
Through the Lion Clubs in Hilton Head, Beaufort and Sun City, the clinic will also provide an ophthalmology exam room. Each Lions Club donated $5,000 toward the project to outfit the eye exam room. The services will be led by Dr. James Kondor and will be available to patients at the Bluffton clinic as well.
“Currently, a third of our patients come from Jasper County and of that a large percentage are from Ridgeland,” said Pam Toney, executive director of the Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine. “Our patients find it difficult to get our Bluffton clinic, so this will help with transportation.”
The completion of the eye exam room and services plan to be available to patients by the end of the summer.
“This is especially important for our diabetic patients because at the moment, we have nowhere to send them,” Toney said.
Toney said preparing the Ridgeland clinic has been a community effort affiliated with ACCESS Health of the Lowcountry Med-I-Assist and Pregnancy Center of the Lowcountry.
Bluffton Jasper Volunteers in Medicine received a $77,500 grant for the clinic’s first year operation and remodeling from the Palmetto Electric Trust.
“This is a dream come true,” Toney said.
As the nurse manager Janet Wright said it is an exciting time to provide services to so many patients who struggled to travel to Bluffton for healthcare.
“It is such a need out here that I don’t think people recognized. Plus we’ve never provided eye exams so that is an added service we can provide by opening this clinic,” Wright said. “We can’t ask for anything better.”
There will be one primary care physicain onsite as well as two physician assistants and an administrative team.