If you build it, they will come. At least that's what Dr. Jim Williams thought when he opened Clínica Colorado - an independent nonprofit low-cost clinic for people without insurance - in June. After all, there are 1.3 million people without adequate health insurance in Colorado. Within the Latino population, more than half lack health insurance, he said, citing several studies.
"I think the Latino population is very close-knit and very aware in the Metro area, so I kind of thought, if I take care of two Latinos and they go back into their community and say, 'Hey, we got a place,' then everyone would come flocking," Williams said of his Westminster clinic."It hasn't happened."
While the clinic is outpacing the numbers they had predicted in terms of patients they would see each month, it still has not reached capacity, something Williams said he doesn't understand considering that many similar clinics are so busy that they often have up to a two-month waiting list.
"If you call today for a well-woman exam, we could get you in today or tomorrow. Certainly within a week we'll get you in," he said. "We're trying to spread the word that we're here so that we get more patients."
Williams, an easygoing man who says he has a soft spot in his heart for Latinos and the Spanish language, has been a doctor for over 30 years - most of them in private practice in Lakewood.
A few years back, he decided to try something new, and after a short and unsuccessful stint in urgent care, he started volunteering at Clínica Tepeyac. Eventually he became the clinic's medical director, during which time he tripled the clinic's number of monthly patients, he said.
After four years and changes in the board of directors of Clínica Tepeyac, he decided it was "time for a change," and since he knew there was a huge need for more clinics for the uninsured, he called it quits and decided to open his own.
It all happened very quickly. Clínica Colorado got nonprofit status in March and with about $34,000 worth of donated medical equipment and several monetary contributions from individuals, it opened its doors on June 1.
"When we realized he had left, we decided to follow him," said Miguel Oaxaca, whose wife and three children have been patients of Williams since he volunteered his time at Clínica Tepeyac. "He's a very good doctor. We like how he has managed our health issues."
Clínica Colorado - located one block west of St. Anthony North Hospital - currently has four working exam rooms, each decorated with photos of Latin American landscapes, as well as a room for simple procedures such as putting on casts and removing warts.
On the wall in the hallway outside the exam rooms hangs a very large map of Mexico and Central America, which has become a source of conversation between Williams and his patients, he said.
On that same side of the building, there's a lab for blood work, which is available to patients for $18.
On the other side of the building, which is about 6,000 square feet total, are administrative offices and two additional exam rooms, which Williams hopes to start using as soon as he gets more patients. For now, he is the only full-time doctor, with two more and a physical therapist who volunteer regularly. His full-time staff includes two medical assistants and an office manager.
The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and charges $25 per visit - although patients won't be turned back if they can't afford that fee. The clinic also accepts children with Medicaid.
Pap smears are $26. Starting in January, through an agreement with St. Joseph Hospital, women will be able to get a free mammogram when their "mammovan" visits once a month.
"I always felt it was my responsibility to help the patient all the way through their medical problem," Williams said. "So if a lady has a need for gallbladder surgery, I will work with that patient to get it arranged at a discounted fee so she can get it done."
He added that various hospitals and doctors have agreed to take care of these type of patients on a discounted basis and that Clínica Colorado will help arrange for that care.
In fact, just two weeks ago, Williams said a woman from Mexico walked into his clinic asking for help with her baby who has Down's Syndrome, which as a family practitioner he's not equipped to handle. After a few phone calls, he was able to get the baby into Children's Hospital's special clinic for children with that condition.
"I can't just say, 'Here's a number to Children's Hospital. Go out there and see what you can get,'" Williams said. "I feel that's my responsibility as a family practitioner, and I feel that's how this clinic is different."
Williams knows, however, that to be able to continue offering these services he needs to get not only more patients but also more funding at a time when most nonprofits are struggling due to the economy.
"I'm absolutely hopeful that there'll be enough funding to keep us going," said Williams, who hasn't gotten paid since he opened the clinic. "A lot of good people have given what they can. I'm trying to stay positive."
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