One of the many free and charitable clinics that Allegany Franciscan Ministries supports is La Esperanza, which currently operates out of a renovated bus as a mobile clinic. La Esperanza provides free medical and health care to community members who would otherwise not have access to care. The mobile clinic, thanks to a unique collaboration between Catholic Charities and St. Joseph’s Hospital, cares for more than 2000 people each year while parked at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Mission in Wimauma.
Free and charitable clinics like La Esperanza offer a cost-effective solution that provides access to care for the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals. Clinics are most often located within the community to ensure they are easily accessible, and to remove barriers to accessing traditional healthcare. La Esperanza provides resources, educational classes and direct care through the gracious support of cadre of volunteer healthcare professionals.
Currently, La Esperanza cannot meet the needs of the Wimauma community, with services taking place in a small, old mobile facility, and cannot provide care in the dignity that all persons deserve. To ensure every member of the community thrives and achieves optimal health, and to offer a medical home to community members, La Esperanza has been looking for a permanent, safe, and accessible physical location. A county-owned former Fire House has been identified as an ideal location for the clinic.
On April 23, 2018, over 130 community members and stakeholders gathered at an Open House and Public Comment meeting that was held by Hillsborough County as an opportunity for the public to share their concerns and ideas about the repurposing of the old Fire Station in Wimauma into the permanent home of the La Esperanza Clinic. While some neighbors and residents voiced opposition to the use of the Fire House as the new home of the clinic, the majority of attendees were in support, sporting blue caps and bright yellow stickers declaring “I support La Esperanza Clinic”!
Attendees received a presentation by Mark Dufva, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and Sister Sara Proctor, Director of La Esperanza Clinic, and then had an opportunity to submit written comments, to have their comments videotaped, and to meet one-on-one with representatives from the county, law enforcement, and the clinic.
The positive presence at the Open House was due in part to the efforts of Allegany’s regional VP Cheri Wright-Jones, and the partnerships developed through the Common Good Initiative. Most of the members of the Council for the Common Good, the Fellows from the Fellowship for the Common Good, and the Wimauma Catholic Volunteers in Florida, participated in the meeting, and in encouraging others to attend.
La Esperanza Clinic is critical to the health of Wimaumans; their approach is vital to accomplishing at least three important outcomes related to health for the community:
Reduced morbidity and mortality. Numerous research studies show that patients with limited access to primary care have higher rates of morbidity and mortality.
Improved patient care. Safety-net clinics ensure patients who may not have access to high-quality primary receive the care they need to stay healthy or manage their conditions, helping ensure quality care for all.
Alleviated pressure on emergency departments. Patients with a medical home or access to health care are less likely to put off care until it reaches emergency level, and don’t need to use the ER for non-emergent health problems.
Allegany is a long standing partner of free and charitable clinics in the Tampa Bay area, and the initial funder of the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. The mission of Allegany Franciscan Ministries, to serve together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming healing presence within our communities, compels Allegany to enthusiastically support this health initiative in Wimauma.
Allegany Franciscan Ministries launched the Common Good Initiative in 2014 to work with people in Wimauma to build a healthier, safer, and more connected community where everyone thrives. Allegany anticipates supporting the community at least through 2022, and has already invested more than $3 million in support of community-identified priorities and community activities in Wimauma. As part of the initiative, residents and stakeholders identified the most important priorities for Wimauma. These priorities are:
- All residents will have access to economic opportunities.
- All youth and children will grow up in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.
- Organizations and individuals in Wimauma will have the connections and capacity to achieve their missions and sustain the progress of the Common Good Initiative.
For more information about the Common Good Initiative, go to www.afmfl.org.
NOTE: Just prior to this publication, La Esperanza and its partners learned that the firehouse will no longer be an option. Still determined to provide vital access to healthcare to Wimaumians, the clinic is now searching for another location for its permanent home.