The Salvus Center Meets Medical Needs of Sumner’s Workers
By: Hollie Deese
Salvus Center is a clinic that provides medical and dental care to the working un-insured in Sumner County, offering physical examinations, treatments, lab work, imaging procedures, and dental cleaning, extractions and fillings.
To be a patient at Salvus you need to live or work in Sumner County and not have medical insurance, TennCare or Medicare, or be enrolled in school or college for a minimum of twelve credit hours a semester. Salvus works with patients on a sliding scale for payment.
Jennifer Flanagan is the new president and CEO of Salvus, and says many of the patients they see are between the ages of nineteen and sixty-one when they don’t qualify for TennCare or Medicare.
“We have the large group in the middle that may not be able to qualify for health insurance,” Jennifer says. “Their jobs, if they work hourly or part-time, they aren’t able or even have an option for health insurance. Maybe the marketplace doesn’t work for them. They can come here. We’re really that primary health facility for them.”
Jennifer says the focus at Salvus is on the patient’s wholeness, wellness and their well-being.
“So if we can have someone who has a cough come in at the beginning and get treatment, keeping it from progressing to something worse, is how we can keep people from feeling that the only recourse that they have is the emergency room,” she says. “Of course, if we have patients in an emergency situation, that’s the first place we send them. But we don’t want them thinking they don’t have an alternative because they can’t afford it. People are working hard to maintain their health, to maintain their quality and standard of living, to maintain their families.”
And Jennifer says the need in Sumner County is “tremendous.” As of this year more than 50,000 patients have been served by Salvus since it was founded in 2005.
“We’re taking care of more than 1,000 patients a quarter,” says Jennifer. “We took care of just under 3,000 patients last year, and just under 4,000 visits. And as the population grows, and as the uncertainty with health care occurs for the working un-insured, that’s going to increase.”
Challenges are ahead for safety net clinics like Salvus who receive funding for patients that are at or just above the poverty level, to help offset their substantially-reduced costs. Safety net funding is put into the state legislature as a budget line item, and prior to this year there was funding allocated on a per-patient basis, and whatever was left would roll over to the next year.
Now the model has changed where reimbursements are to be a percentage of patients seen instead of per-patient. And that can reduce the number of patients Salvus would be able to see.
Salvus works with more than 200 medical specialists in the community who partner with them in various ways. Lifepoint, Sumner Regional Medical Center and TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center are their hospital partners, as well as the new ER in Portland, working with them to make lab fees, x-rays and procedures affordable and available.
Dr. Jeremiah Judkins with TriStar Hendersonville is the Medical Director for Salvus and Dr. Geoffrey Lifferth at the ER at Sumner Regional is the Chief of Staff.
“That synergy between the hospitals and our patients, all the way around, it’s treating patients with dignity,” Jennifer says.
At the moment, Salvus only works with the un-insured, though they are looking at the possibility of being able to help the under-insured as well. Someone is in office three days a week, and can even help patients explore whether they can be insured on the health insurance marketplace.
“We’re a faith-based organization, and we’re looking at the whole person,” she says. “When you have people who already have economic challenges, or might have different challenges at 200-300 percent of the poverty level, we’re here for the whole person. We’ll pray with our patients, for good health. We spend a little more time in our appointments. We are not a replacement for insurance. We’re just here to help those adults who are in that gap.”