ELLSWORTH — The Affordable Care Act hasn’t reduced the number of patients receiving care at the Ellsworth Free Medical Clinic.
“The Affordable Care Act did nothing for us,” said Dr. Marshall Smith, president of the clinic’s board, who saw patients for the most of the clinic’s 25 years. “We saw no change at all.”
Busy as ever, the clinic on Aug. 9 launched a capital campaign to build an endowment.
“Then we won’t have to go out and raise money every year for our expenses,” Smith said. “An anonymous donor has pledged a matching grant for up to $25,000.”
The campaign was launched at a party at Smith’s daughter’s house on Newbury Neck Road in Surry.
Smith said the gathering revealed misconceptions about the demographics of the clinic’s patients.
“They thought we were treating the really, really poor and drug addicts,” Smith said. The ones who are “really poor” qualify for MaineCare, he said.
“The ones we’re treating are the working poor,” the retired physician said. “Working two or three jobs and they aren’t making enough money to pay for health insurance but they make too much for MaineCare.”
“These are our neighbors, our friends, the people we go to church with, the people our children go to school with, the ones who help our visitors enjoy the area,” Smith said.
Despite its name, the clinic also sees patients who have insurance.
“We have patients that have insurance but their deductible is so high,” they can’t afford to be seen anywhere else, Smith said.
Another misconception is that the clinic only serves Ellsworth residents. The clinic actually serves anyone who makes an appointment regardless of residency.
Smith for two summers treated a woman from Ireland working in service on Mount Desert Island.
Smith said the board had considered changing the name of the clinic to make it more inclusive. However, because the clinic operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, changing the name would have entailed considerable expense, he said.
To donate, visit the clinic’s website at ellsworthfreeclinic.org and look at the phrase “how to help” in the top right corner of your screen.
The clinic is looking for physicians willing to volunteer their time.
“We see 1,000 patients a year and we could do more if we had more doctors,” Smith said. “We have the space.”
“Right now we have two doctors and a PA that are working three days a week,” Smith said.
Most patients are seen for diabetes and high blood pressure, he said.
The clinic is located inside the Mill Mall at 248 State St. For an appointment, call 667-7953.