Medical Missionary Brings Free Health and Dental Clinic to Utica
International medical mission doctor makes it her new life mission to bring free health and dental care to local homeless and low-income families.
While transporting thousands of dollars in medicine to Haiti during a medical mission, Doctor Kim Getzinger, and a group of local doctors and dentists, realized the need for free health care was great at home, too.
Gettzinger said there are 127,000 people in Macomb County who are living at or below 200 percent poverty levels, and of those people, less than 25 percent receive health care.
“Through going on these missions, we thought, if we’re going half way around the world, we could also do it here,” she said.
That’s when the idea came to Getzinger, an Emergency Room doctor at Beaumont and her husband, Jef, a family practice doctor who owns Shelby Township-based Schoenherr Family Practice, to open a free medical and dental clinic at their church, Trinity Lutheran in Utica. The doctor duo recruited the help of Shelby-based Robert Antolak, the Gentile Dentist, who has also done several mission trips with the Getzingers.
Beginning on May 20, on the first and third of every Sunday, between 1 and 4 p.m., the doctors will be on hand to treat medical and dental patients for free.
Patients must be between the ages of 16 and 64, which are the ages where uninsured people in America cannot receive Medicaid or Medicare.
For the past ten years, Trinity Lutheran has hosted SSS, which stands for supper, sack lunch and showers for more than 100 homeless and low-income people every Sunday. According to the church 25 percent of the guests who come are homeless.
“Now it’s coinciding. We already have 120 people coming into the church that need the help each Sunday,” said Getzinger.
The doctors will treat all non-emergency patients. Getzinger said while working at Beaumont Hospital, she often treats people in the ER room that do not need to be there, they just need a family doctor.
“I work in the ER, so that’s where people go for primary care when they can’t afford a doctor. ERs can’t turn people away. It’s the law,” she said.
Getzinger said she has received support from Beaumont because the hospitals see that free health clinics may relieve the strains of the ER’s resources.
Trinity Medical Clinic doctors are raising funds and will have a limited supply of medication to dole out. Most prescriptions written will be for free medicine that can be found at Meijer. Getzinger added there are a number of prescriptions that can be purchased at Walmart and Meijer for less than $4.
Also, Getzinger said the doctors will not be prescribing any narcotics.
The free clinic will be modeled after the Cabrini Health clinic in Detroit. Getzinger has been working closely with Sister Mary Ellen Howard, who runs the Cabrini clinic, to learn how the clinic has been successfully treating patients for free for more than 60 years.
Trinity Lutheran’s location is ideal for the clinic because there are no other free clinics within 10 miles of Utica, and the church is on the SMART Bus line.
Getzinger, who is a mother of three children at Trinity Lutheran School, a full-time doctor and preparing for an upcoming mission trip to Haiti, said she’s determined to open this clinic because she feels it’s her duty as a doctor and human to give back.
“My belief is -- if you can help, you should -- if you have the means to help others. I think people owe it to their community,” she said.