Women's Health

Grassroots Efforts Ensure That Women's Clinic Continues To Provide Health Care

n San Francisco, a free health clinic run by and for women was raised from the ashes after clinicians and volunteers rallied for community, political and financial support to resurrect a facility closed because of budget problems. 

“There was a void when Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic’s Women’s Needs Center shut down after providing low-income women with services for 30 years,” said Fran Jemmott, TCWF program director. “I was impressed with the grassroots efforts that resulted in the clinic reopening after only six months.”

The Women’s Community Clinic (WCC) was launched as an independent entity — under the fiscal sponsorship of The Tides Center — in the same space previously occupied by the Women’s Needs Center. After only three years in operation, the WCC provides 3,000 client visits a year.

“We try to schedule our clinic shifts when it is easiest for our clients to come in,” said Carlina Hansen, WCC director. “We offer evening hours and are trying to open our doors on Saturdays as often as possible.”

TCWF provided WCC with a two-year, $80,000 grant for core operating support to help sustain and stabilize the clinic, as it continues to provide free health care while addressing an increased need for its services.

Currently, San Francisco has 65,000 uninsured women. The California Behavioral Risk Factor Survey found that uninsured women are less likely to have a pap smear, mammogram, routine checkup or blood pressure screening, putting them at greater risk for many cancers and other health problems. The WCC is one of the few places where women can go in San Francisco for free health care, and 90 percent of those served are below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

“The WCC is really still in its formative years and facing the same reduced availability of public and private funding that most nonprofit organizations are grappling with at this time,” said TCWF’s Jemmott. “Core support is important to clinics that typically wait for reimbursement for their services from government funding sources and then wonder how they will pay their rent and phone bill in the meantime.”

WCC serves women and girls ages 12 and over — from first pelvic exams to post-menopausal care. All clients receive 10-40 minutes of health education related to their specific health concerns and other issues that come up during the course of their visit. The clinic’s most frequently requested services are diagnosis and treatment of gynecological concerns, screening for sexually transmitted infections and routine annual exams. WCC also offers acupuncture, homeopathy and a clothing service, and provides bus and cab vouchers to help clients who need transportation assistance get to their appointments.

“We strive to be a warm and welcoming place, and part of creating that special environment is the outreach we conduct in the city’s most underserved neighborhoods with health educators and advocates that are reflective of the people we serve and sensitive to their concerns,” said WCC’s Hansen. “The Women’s Community Clinic is the only free women’s clinic in San Francisco.”

Summer 2002


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