The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

State gives accreditation to local free clinic

Organization provides free health care services to uninsured in Charlottesville, operates through volunteers and fundraising

The Charlottesville Free Clinic recently received state accreditation, bringing official recognition to an organization which has worked to provide free health care to uninsured individuals in Charlottesville since 1991.

The process of obtaining accreditation took about two years, CFC Executive Director Erika Viccellio said, and included more than 200 specific requirements. These ranged from medical processes involving quality of care to administrative tasks such as distributing patient surveys.

"To be able to meet all of the requirements ... really required a high level of diligence and attention to all aspects of our organization," Viccellio said. "This [accreditation] really holds us accountable to a new measure of excellence in every area, in all work that we do."

The clinic provides primary and specialty medical care as well as on-site pharmacy services. Because the clinic does not charge patients for its services, it relies heavily on community donations and fundraising, Viccellio said. Each year the clinic raises a budget of about $1 million for patient care. Maintaining a volunteer staff of about 500 people, 150 of which are medical providers, helps to keep costs relatively low.

"It is all about just providing the best care to patients who need our services," Viccellio said.

Dr. Mohan Nadkarni, an associate professor of internal medicine, helped found the clinic 20 years ago after observing patients suffer from treatable conditions for prolonged periods of time, usually because they did not have health insurance.

"It's grown tremendously since that time," Nadkarni said. "We're highly organized, have increased our services provided and we're really seen as part of the health care system."

Patients cannot have health care insurance to be eligible for clinic treatment, and because the University requires all of its students to be insured, the clinic does not treat them. Many patients of the clinic, however, are recent college graduates in the 19-to-26 year-old age range who have lost their health insurance and cannot afford to purchase their own packages, Viccellio said. Last year, the clinic treated 2,838 individual patients.

With the passage of President Obama's health care bill last year, the clinic could face changes in the future. But at least 13 million people will remain without insurance under Obama's plan, so the clinic will still play an important role in the community, Nadkarni said.

"[Preparing for change is] something we're spending a lot of time on because we want to be in the position to meet the community's unmet health care needs," Viccellio said. "We're going to keep doing what we've always done, which is to work hard and respond to the community's health care needs"

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