Month after month for thirty-eight consecutive months we have witnessed increasing numbers of people turning to us for help, and month after month we tax ourselves more and more in an effort to serve everyone. In round numbers, we have experienced a fourfold increase in demand since we provided 3,000 appointments in 2011; this year we will provide 12,000 appointments. We spent $315,000 in 2011 to fund our work, and we will spend $970,000 to do so this year. In short, demand has increased dramatically and expenses have followed close alongside.
And we are not alone. A report released by the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics reveals that during the last two years the nation’s 1,200 Free and Charitable Clinics have seen a 40 percent increase in patient demand, despite the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, the report documents a 20 percent decrease in donations to charitable clinics.
At the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett, we have witnessed that same inverse trend. While our activities and expenses have increased, our income from donations has decreased. So far this year, we have received less than half the charitable contributions given to us last year.
So far this year, we have received less than half the charitable contributions given to us last year.
As of end of September, we have had to utilize $33,000 of our savings to pay expenses. We praise God for blessing us with surpluses in prior years, for we are spending that now to continue the good work we do. Other clinics suffer differently. For example, the Community Health Mission in Savannah, a non-profit clinic that has served its community for 18 years and provided its patients with more than 157,000 appointments, will cease operations at the end of October. Their closing is “in response to the changing face of healthcare in wake of disappearing funding,” according to their board chairman. Those within the network of Georgia’s safety-net clinics worry Community Health Mission will not be the only clinic caught in that wake.
I titled this post Leaning Toward Home because when I sat down to write it I was thinking of a too often used baseball analogy, that we have made it to third base (finished the third quarter) and are leaning toward home plate (facing the end of the fiscal year). I wondered if we’d slide onto home narrowly avoiding an out (a year end loss), or would we walk across the plate after an over the fence home run (a surge in end of year donations). But as I reached the point of crafting this paragraph, my thoughts suddenly shifted from baseball to the words of Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, “…straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” (3:13-14).
We, the staff and volunteers of the Good Samaritan Health Center, are leaning toward home; not a home plate, but God. We are straining forward to serve Him. We are ready to sprint in confidence He is faithful and will provide for our needs. We intend to serve as many people in 2015 as we will this year, and beyond that, in our new facility we will provide charitable healthcare to even more as well as finally provide a full-time charity dental clinic to attend to the oral health needs of the poor and uninsured. Like Paul, we are not counting on our own goodness and ability to win the prize, but we are trusting in Christ. Rather than retreat, rather than cut back during a season of declining contributions and consequently serve fewer people, we move forward relying on God’s faithful provision. We know it will come.
I ask you to sprint with us, to lean forward with the same confidence we have that God will provide for our mutual needs. You know what I am asking of you, and you know what you can give to support the work of this ministry. Please, pray about our circumstances, and be at peace with how you decide to respond to our needs. We are; thank God.