Free clinics providing medical care to laid-off Floridians during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 5:41 AM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 02:57:03-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Non-profit organizations and free clinics across the Tampa Bay area are stepping up to provide free medical care to families who have lost jobs and healthcare coverage in COVID-19 layoffs.

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic provides care for people ages 18-64 who don't have health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid and also do not qualify for county-subsidized health coverage.

"It's hard," said Shaina Bent, who serves as the chief operating officer for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. "And that's again a lot of those families who've never before needed services, never before needed to ask for help and have always had their primary care doctors.

Bent said many people are unsure of what the next step is when they lose medical coverage due to job loss.

"Because they've always had insurance, but when they lose that, it's a scary time," she said. "So we try and be that organization that is there for them."

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic is bringing in additional volunteer nurses, doctors and healthcare workers to help cope with the anticipated demand in the next few months. They also operate a dental clinic.

"It hasn't hit there yet, but we can see it," Bent said. "We know from the phone calls that in a month from now, three months from now, that's coming and that when people start to get sick, that's when it's going to hit."

The St. Pete Free Clinic is also implementing telehealth options to try and reduce potential exposure to COVID-19 for both patients as well as healthcare workers.