Nearly every Saturday morning, volunteer physicians, nurses, interpreters, and administrative support staff arrive at the Salvation Army Church and Community Center to set up and operate Renton RotaCare, a free clinic for families and individuals who are unable to obtain health insurance but are in need of non-emergent care. In less than an hour, the classrooms and lobby spaces of the church are transformed in to a field-based care site ready to serve the community.
RotaCare, supported by Valley Medical Center, Renton Rotary, Renton Salvation Army, and Renton Technical College, is one of three Rotary-sponsored clinics in King County and is part of a larger, national RotaCare effort. “Witnessing the health disparities and lack of acces for basic care for the uninsured residents of South King County, I approached the Renton Rotary with a proposal to start a RotaCare clinic in Renton, and in 2003 we began seeing our first patients,” says Dr. Bob Thompson, a Valley physician, the Clinic’s Medical Director, and one of its founders.
Since it’s inception, Valley has supported Renton RotaCare through volunteer staffing, providing free lab and imaging services, donating medical supplies, and providing financial support for free or low-cost prescriptions.
“In the nearly fourteen years of our existence, we can honestly say that we have saved the lives of seven patients who may well have died had they not come to the clinic for help. In total, we have served over 7,500 patients—many of whom would ultimately have gone to the emergency room as their health deteriorated,” says Judge Robert McBeth, an administrator at the Clinic and one of its founders.
David Sweiger, MD, a family medicine physician at Valley’s Lake Sawyer Clinic has volunteered with Renton RotaCare for more than a decade. “I find it very rewarding to offer help to people who are currently unable to get health insurance for one reason or another. Many of these people have chronic medical problems, such as diabetes, and through free labs and basic x-rays at the hospital it is possible to help many of these people out.”
Betsy Kirichenko, LPN, has volunteered at the Clinic since 2011. A former clinic nurse, Betsy enjoys RotaCare because it gives her the opportunity to work in direct patient care, which she does not do in her current job (Betsy is Valley’s Community Outreach Coordinator). But it’s perhaps a more personal driver that makes volunteering at RotaCare special: “I remember what it was like to be without health insurance and having very few options when I had a medical need,” she says, “The opportunity to provide care to people who may not have access otherwise is a fulfilling way to give back to the community. ”
Renton RotaCare is located at the Salvation Army Church and Community Center 720 S. Tobin Ave., Renton. It operates most Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m. If you’d like to support Renton RotaCare, you can make a donation to the Renton Rotary RotaCare Fund through the Renton Community Foundation. If you are interested in volunteering for RotaCare, e-mail Lisa Dyrdahl, Valley’s Employee Health Coordinator at Lisa_Dyrdahl@valleymed.org.
Pictured: Betsy Kirichenko, LPN, checks a patient’s blood pressure.