"Prayer is the key to the day and the lock of the night."
It is no secret that the health care system in America has many gaping holes that swallow large portions of its citizens.
Many hard-working people in the Grand Lake area have been caught in the cycle.
So every Thursday evening for the past seven and a half years, at Grove’s First Baptist Church, the Christian Medical Clinic has served thousands of this community’s uninsured residents—30 to 70 each week—with myriad health care needs.
Volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, pastors, accountants, pharmacists, social workers and others converge weekly to help citizens who need medicine, a rotten tooth pulled or a back adjusted.
Peoples’ needs are prayed for and anyone eligible for patient assistance receives aid in qualifying and signing up.
Individuals 19 years and older regularly begin registering for help at 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays—first-come first-served—and patients are then seen by appropriate volunteer experts at 6 p.m.
Dr. Zachary Bechtol, a volunteer since the clinic opened, is passionate about people with untreated diseases and people suffering from preventable illnesses who do not medical attention. He describes it as a travesty.
He explained, “The Christian Medical Clinic has been a great place to see the community’s goodwill at work. These are our people in our community who need our services, and we simply must step up to the plate and help them at their point of need.”
Today, though, the CMC is in jeopardy.
Dr. Rollin Bland, the anchor medical practice for the CMC from its inception in 2001 is moving his practice to Langley in a few weeks. He will no longer be able to offer personal service at the clinic or provide the network of ongoing support from his medical practice necessary to its function.
And Bland’s Office Manager, Cathi Spencer—the ‘heart and soul’ of the clinic—will be moving too.
In addition to generating the original vision for the CMC, she has been the coordinating entity for the entire ministry. Attending every clinic, she maintains medical records, communicates with patients, coordinates with other physicians, pharmacies, INTEGRIS Grove and RX Oklahoma, and orders all medications. She maintains close contact with the ministry’s accountant and spends a minimum of 8-10 hours each week juggling numerous details that make the system work.
In a letter to the ministry community, Randy Hamill, Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church and Vice Chairman of the Board for the CMC outlines the board’s position on the situation:
The Christian Medical Clinic Board of Directors is committed to continuing this outreach ministry in our community, and to making the changes necessary to move forward. We’re also committed to remaining a "Christian" clinic, rather than receiving grants to become a "community" clinic. The spiritual component is central to our identity and mission, and integral to all we do.
A letter from CMC Board member Rev. James Wilder, Senior Pastor at Grove’s First Baptist Church, confirmed his congregation’s commitment to continue providing a place for the clinic to take place. And commitments have been made by physicians Bechtol, Tidwell, and David to continue their individual volunteer rotations at the clinic, and coordinate what is necessary for the function of the clinic between sessions. Though fully supportive of the mission, none of their practices are able to absorb the full load of administrative responsibilities that have been provided by Cathi and the other members of Bland’s medical practice. We’re confident that when the need is presented that other physicians, dentists, chiropractors, nurses and non-medical volunteers will commit to the clinic’s future.
The needs for CMC include a new clinic administrator—coordinating person(s)—Medical Assistant, Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse, or someone with medical office experience would be helpful but not required, to serve the roles currently filled by Cathi Spencer at least 8-10 hours a week at Thursday clinic and various points throughout the week as follow-up, and in preparation for clinic sessions. Some medical experience, administrative skills, relational skills and a heart for Christian ministry—particularly CMC—will be crucial. Compensation, if desired, may be discussed and negotiated. Contact Cathi Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 786-4448. Dr. Bland and Cathi are committed to doing all they can to make the transition smooth, and will be available some for phone consultation after they relocate.
In addition to clinic administrator, the following volunteers are needed to operate the Thursday clinic smoothly: Physicians, mid-level practitioners, dentists, dental assistants, chiropractors, nurses and clerical staff.
Other ways of lending support for the clinic include making sandwiches, assisting with mailings and helping with special events. Financial contributions are always welcome, as the CMC operates on private donations from local residents, churches and organizations with no government assistance or subsidies.
“The community of Grove didn’t look to a government agency to fix the problem,” Bechtol reported, “the CMC brings a diverse group together to work for the common good of helping people.”
He added that time and/or resources volunteered to the clinic result in immediate benefits seen on the faces of the patients.