The Bridge Clinic offers care to uninsured

The Rock River Times interviewed Dr. John Rudzinski, a physician at The Bridge Clinic, operated by First Presbyterian Church at 406 N. Main St., Rockford. The clinic is a cooperative effort between physicians and student health care workers in the greater Rockford area to provide care to the uninsured population of northern Illinois.

TRRT: When was the clinic started, and by whom?

Dr. Rudzinski: It was started in January 2009 by a group of people — myself, Dr. Annette Olin, Dr. Nadeem Sidiqui, Rev. Bob Hildebrand, Bob Langford (church representative), Michelle Strand-Dorsey (social worker) and Nurse Nicky Bennett.

TRRT: How many medical staff are on duty? What are the hours?

Dr. Rudzinski: Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays. Staff on duty are a nurse, a volunteer from the community, and a doctor or a nurse practitioner from the University of Illinois College of Medicine. We have two exam rooms. We might see 12-16 patients in four hours.

TRRT: What types of illnesses do people come to the clinic to get treatment for?

Dr. Rudzinski: The majority — the single biggest issue is hypertension. We try to use the $4 prescription medicines that are available at essentially all the major pharmacies, ranging from Schnuck’s to Wal-Mart, Target or whatever. We try to stabilize the people. They may have been taking a very expensive blood pressure medication, and if we can switch them to something that they can afford, it can be a lifesaving thing.

When we started, we had people from the community trying to help the people most at risk. We work with Crusader Clinic. We’re not trying to supplant Crusader Clinic or other clinics in the community. We’re just trying to be a stopgap measure for those people who don’t know what’s going on in the community. They were working, they lost their job, they lost their insurance. They’re not eligible for Medicare. They don’t know how to afford medical care. We help them to the extent we can.

We don’t want people over 65 because they’ve got Medicare, and we don’t take children because children are eligible for programs in the state of Illinois. We’re looking for those people who are most at risk, in their 40s, 50s or early 60s. They’re the people who will have a hard time getting into [regular care facilities]. We are especially targeting people who’ve lost their jobs or lost their insurance and can’t get to their regular doctors. They’re not sure what to do. We’re trying to bridge them over until they can get to someone else.

TRRT: If something looks serious, what type of referrals can you make, given the limited income of the patients?

Dr. Rudzinski: We had a guy come in who was very ill. He was having breathing difficulty, so we drove him over to the emergency room, and he got admitted to the hospital. He was very ill. In the worst case, we call 911. If they have too much of a disease process, we try to refer them to Crusader Clinic or help them in any way we can.

Since its inception in 2009, the clinic has had a robust student participation with 70 percent of UIC-Rockford’s graduating medical school class having participated in the clinic’s programs.

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From the Sept. 14-20, 2011, issue

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