BRUNSWICK COUNTY (WWAY) – A local clinic run by volunteers is working to keep their patients and their community safe in the fight against COVID-19.
Studies show that people living in rural communities are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as those living in metropolitan areas. The New Hope Clinic offers free medical care, tests, vaccines and, yes, hope to anyone living below 150% of the poverty line in Brunswick County.
The New Hope Clinic serves between 500 and 600 residents of Brunswick County living below the poverty line and unable to afford health care. Dr. James Boston worked with the clinic for more than two decades, treating chronic illnesses of the uninsured until they were eligible for Medicare at age 65.
“If you have uncontrolled diabetes at 65, you can be on dialysis, you can be blind, you can have lost your limbs,” he said. “It is therefore important that those people who do not have access to health care have health care. “
The non-profit clinic is run by six staff members and over 100 medical volunteers who return because they care about their patients. During her years as CEO, Sheila Roberts says she has seen doctors and patients form special bonds here. For the most part, it is their only source of care.
“It’s really telling for some people who haven’t had certain experiences in life,” she said. “You just want to bring everyone home with you. “
Already a staple of health care in Brunswick County, when the pandemic hit, the New Hope Clinic was one of the first free clinics in North Carolina to get vaccinated. Boston remembers its patients being hesitant. During his years in the clinic, some were more willing to listen to him than other providers.
According to Boston, “Some people will trust above all if they have seen me for about a year, they might have some trust in what I’m trying to explain to them. But it is a process.
Feeling a responsibility to the community in which they volunteered, the staff spent endless hours educating and talking with the locals. They finally vaccinated more than 2,000 people in early 2021.
“From February to May, with a huge one, we called them Sheila’s Army,” said New Hope Pharmacy Director Hailey Murray, “but with lots of volunteers, we ran vaccination clinics on the car park.”
And although the pandemic has dried up many resources the nonprofit usually relied on and reduced the number of volunteers able to help, Murray said those who can…. do. Many continue to help in addition to their full-time health care jobs.
“Because we thought it was the right thing to do,” she explained. “And I think a lot of us during the pandemic had to do something to feel like we were helping instead ofto wring our hands. I feel very strongly that I need to be of service in my community. And that’s a great way for me to do it.