While organizations and communities work to increase access to healthcare for vulnerable populations nationwide, new survey data from the Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (VAFCC) reveals that their 60 member organizations are navigating staffing challenges with patient demand increasing across the state.
The survey, which included responses from 50 member clinics in November, revealed 76% of clinics are seeing an uptick in patient demand compared to the previous year. Clinics reported rising needs in all services lines including dental, medical, behavioral health and pharmaceutical. COVID-19 related testing and vaccinations are becoming the most requested services.
While patient demand is on the rise, many clinics are experiencing workforce challenges that are impacting operational capacity. Forty percent of clinics report paid staffing shortages and lack of volunteers are limiting capacity.
The findings come as COVID-19 cases in Virginia have risen almost 80 percent, the highest figure since mid-October.
“During these challenging times when the need for accessible healthcare has never been more apparent, free and charitable clinics are caring for vulnerable Virginians,” said Rufus Phillips, VAFCC CEO. “Clinics have never slowed down since the start of the pandemic and they remain committed to providing quality and innovative care, regardless of a person’s ability to pay. We expect the demand for care at clinics to only increase in the coming months. The additional burdens are straining the limited resources of clinics.”
Clinics need a mix of volunteer provider positions including nurse practitioners, physicians, nurses, dentists and dental hygienists. The VAFCC encourages interested providers to visit its Volunteer Opportunity Board & Directory to connect quickly and efficiently to current volunteer needs.
“With just a couple clicks, providers across the state can review current needs or add their name to a directory of interested volunteers for free clinics to contact for future opportunities,” said Rebecca Butler, VAFCC Vice President for Marketing, Communications & Development. “If you’re a medical professional and would like to volunteer your time, we urge you to connect with a local clinic.”
Free and charitable clinics provided safe and accessible health services to more than 74,000 vulnerable Virginians in 2020. VAFCC manages freeclinicscare.org to connect patients with a range of healthcare services at nearby clinics.