Free Clinic Helps Tulsans Who Need Health Care

Thursday, July 16th 2009, 5:44 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Terry Hood, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Another plan in the U.S. Senate would require everyone to get health insurance.  The bill calls for the government to help pay the premiums for certain individuals and families.  More than 18% of those living in Tulsa County do not have health insurance.  That number is expected to grow as more layoffs happen.  So how do they get medical attention?

Lynn Wilson is a regular patient at the Bedlam Free Clinic. 

"I don't feel bad coming here because without this I would die," said Lynn Wilson of Tulsa.

The 63-year-old Tulsa resident is on Social Security, works part-time, and doesn't have health insurance.

"I can't afford even just $100 a month for insurance, I can't afford it," said Lynn Wilson.

The Bedlam Clinic is operated through OU-Tulsa.  It provides medical treatment to more than 14,000 uninsured or under-insured patients in Tulsa County.

"Most of our patients have high blood pressure or diabetes or thyroid problems," said Dr. Janelle Whitt with OU Community Clinics.

Dr. Janelle Whitt says free clinics take the pressure off emergency rooms, which often get overloaded by patients without insurance.  While she doesn't support a universal health care system, Dr. Whitt is in favor of a government sponsored health insurance plan.  She says it's important everyone receives proper medical attention.

"One of the fall backs of being ill without insurance is you work as long as you can and then if you get too sick you can't go to work and then it becomes a vicious cycle of getting sick and not going to work and getting further behind," said Dr. Janelle Whitt with OU Community Clinics.

Ike Morgan is another county resident without health insurance.

"Where I work, they don't pay enough hourly to buy insurance," said Ike Morgan of Sand Springs.

He says something must be done to help those in the same situation.

Critics are worried about the escalating cost of a government plan and concerned that those who can afford health care would be footing the bill for those who cannot.  But, Wilson says those critics need to understand, they could one day be in her shoes.

"It's not just a poor thing.  It's everywhere," said Lynn Wilson of Tulsa.

OU Community Clinics hosts a number of free clinics around the Tulsa area.  To find the one closest to you call 619-4400.