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Care for uninsured: Aunt Martha’s clinic opens inside St. Joe’s

Andrew Santos MissiServices Executive Director Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center blesses room with holy water during gropening Aunt Martha's Health

Andrew Santos, Mission Services Executive Director, Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center, blesses the room with holy water during the grand opening of Aunt Martha's Health Center at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois, Monday, February 25, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 27, 2013 6:18AM



Affordable options for health care are expanding in Joliet.

Aunt Martha’s Health Services on Monday celebrated its newest clinic for uninsured and under-insured patients — inside Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

“Rare” was a word used repeatedly to describe the unique arrangement between Aunt Martha’s and Presence Saint Joseph, which gives uninsured patients an economical alternative to showing up at the emergency room for colds, flus and other primary-care needs.

“This is a commitment that many hospitals have not and will not make,” said Aunt Martha’s Chief Executive Officer Raul Garza. Such clinics, Garza said, “are unfortunately rare, but they are absolutely necessary.”

Presence Saint Joseph Chief Executive Officer Beth Hughes said the clinic-inside-the-hospital “is the culmination of talks that began long ago when we sought to address a key flaw in America’s health care system.”

Hughes and Garza spoke at a ceremony celebrating the 4,500-square-foot clinic, which includes seven exam rooms and a lab used for primary care, obstetric and gynecological services. The clinic opened in January.

The clinic should help both patients and the hospital.

Patients without insurance or with too little insurance to normally afford health care can get treatment at the clinic. Presence Saint Joseph can refer patients, who otherwise might show up at the emergency room for lack of a doctor, to the clinic.

Hughes said patients who come to the emergency room will continue to get treatment for such primary-care health problems as colds, coughs and fevers. But the hospital will try to set them up for a second visit to Aunt Martha’s. Over time, she said, patients will begin making Aunt Martha’s their first stop for primary care.

While the arrangement may seem like a natural one, Lyndean Brick, chair of the hospital board, said, “This is probably only the second FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center) located in a Catholic hospital in the United States. And, there are only a few located in hospitals elsewhere.”

This is the third such facility for Aunt Martha’s in Joliet. The special status allows Aunt Martha’s to tap into federal assistance that lowers the costs of health care for uninsured and under-insured patients.

Aunt Martha’s, an Olympia Fields-based health and social services organization, in the fall took over two health centers previously run by the University of St. Francis in downtown Joliet and on the university campus.

In April, Aunt Martha’s plans to open a newly built, 20,000-square-foot clinic on the old Silver Cross Hospital campus.

Aunt Martha’s has 18 federally qualified clinics in Illinois.



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