Free care still offered at Poverello and Amaus Dental

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Amaus Medical Services at Cathedral, which offered free care to people who were uninsured, closed at the beginning of October. Other ministries in the diocese, however, still offer free medical and dental care to people in need.

The Amaus medical clinic in the Curley Building in Syracuse had opened about 12 years ago. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Rector Msgr. Neal Quartier said the clinic’s patients included people who needed physicals for school or work; the elderly afflicted with diabetes; those who needed flu shots; and those with limited means who were between retirement and Medicare eligibility.

Msgr. Quartier said the clinic opened at the Cathedral’s emergency-services office and moved to the clinic setting in the Curley Building.

It might take a few months, he said, but he is in the process of looking at all the possibilities for reopening the clinic by collaborating with other clinics or hospitals: “Great space there; hoping to do something with it and still provide health services.”

Amaus Medical Services’ founding medical director, Dr. Lynn-Beth Satterly, said she brought in about $600,000 in grants to fund the clinic. Other funding came from donations by benefactors and local faith communities; Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville and other churches donated tithes sometimes and supplies, she said. Support also came from local hospitals and local medical practices.

Dr. Satterly said it became difficult to do the clinic’s administrative work and risk management while holding a fulltime-faculty job as a professor of practice in the physician-assistant program at Le Moyne College; running the Amaus clinic was a fulltime job in itself.

“The patients were wonderful to take care of,” she said, adding: “It was my privilege to take care of them.” And she remains grateful that the people of the Cathedral supported the ministry.

Local doctors donated service, and a radiology group provided free care. Caring for patients were a mix of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and, at one point, two physician assistants.

At the height of its busyness, the clinic offered sessions three days a week; most recently it was open once a week for adults and once a week for pediatrics.

From about 2007 to 2011, Dr. Satterly said, the clinic saw from 980 to 1,000 patients a year but the numbers steadily declined; last year it saw about 400 people. The Curley Building is a beautiful space, she said, but parking was not available on site.

Open at 808-812 N. Salina St. in Syracuse is the Poverello Health Center (315-423-9961), which “provides free health services to those in need who have no other alternatives or financial resources for medical care.”

It’s possible that Poverello has already seen two or three patients who formerly received care at the Amaus medical clinic, said Sister James Peter Ridgeo, Poverello’s coordinator of medical services.

Offered on Monday and Wednesday evenings are services including physical examinations, diabetic teaching, social-service counseling, and hypertension monitoring.

Poverello, which opened in March 2000, operates under the auspices of Franciscan Northside Ministries at Franciscan Church of the Assumption.

Sister James Peter said the clinic waited three weeks for its first patient, a man named John who had an ear infection.

Sister Dolores Bush, Sister James Peter, and a physician provided medical care to the man, who said he would tell his friends about the clinic. “And that’s how it started,” Sister James Peter said.

In its early days Poverello saw 30 to 40 patients per night; now it sees eight to 20 patients depending on the night.

Helping are about 22 doctors; they don’t come to every clinic; some volunteer every month or every other month. Also helping are about 30 registered nurses and about 16 nurse practitioners.

Offering care every two or three months are a cardiologist, a pulmonologist, a podiatrist, a pediatrician, an optometrist, and two endocrinologists.

Remaining open (since August 2014) is Amaus Dental Services, which offers free care in the Curley Building (259 E. Onondaga St.) to people who are uninsured, homeless, or unemployed (by appointment only, 315-802-6741).

“Heck yes we’re staying open,” said Dr. David Dasher, the dental director. Offered are X-rays, cleanings, fillings, and extractions.

In its more than five years of operation, the clinic is approaching 1,000 patients, and most of them have been seen more than once, he said. On Valentine’s Day 2017, the dental office opened anew in an expanded area of the Curley Building.

So far this year Amaus has supplied $150,000 worth of dental care, Dr. Dasher said. He projects that amount to rise to about $170,000 by the end of the year. That compares to last year’s $143,000.

The dental office is open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, all day Wednesday, and three out of four Fridays in the morning. New patients should come on Wednesdays, then follow up with other appointments.

On board are seven dentists; some give one day a week, some half a day a month. Dr. Dasher is negotiating with an eighth dentist to join in the new year. Also on board are four hygienists, with a new one starting in the new year; four dental assistants; and about 10 administrative workers. Amaus held an open house Oct. 13 and more volunteers are in training.

Hoping to get even bigger, the dental office has sent out a special mailing to all dentists in Onondaga County, Dr. Dasher said.

“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.

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