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by Patrick Cronin

Herald Sunday, December 20, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Herald Sunday and Seacoast Online.]

For the past seven years, a group of volunteer doctors, nurses and others have been heading to Hampton Beach each winter to provide free medical care for those in need.

Open on the first and third Tuesday nights of each month, September through May, volunteers have said this has been one of the busiest seasons the clinic has seen in years.

The small, but well-known clinic, located at 37 Ashworth Ave., sees an average of 15 to 30 people each Tuesday. The majority of the patients are without medical insurance. Most are beach residents, but some come from as far as Nashua and Massachusetts.

Often on these Tuesday nights, people wait in line along a back wall in the adjacent St. Vincent’s Kitchen to see Dr. Jay Kaminski, a private physician who has donated his services since the clinic’s inception.

“We get everything from someone who has a cold to others with chronic conditions such as hypertension,” said Michelle Kingsley, a social worker at the clinic.

The clinic offers free sexually transmitted disease tests and flu shots. Some people come each week to have their blood pressure checked.

“Many times we see someone who is seriously ill and we get them to the next step toward care,” Kingsley said.

For those referred to other doctors, clinic volunteers often set up patients with SeaCare, which provides insurance coverage for those who meet income requirements.

“For those who qualify, we try to get them on SeaCare so they can have a primary physician and access to medications at a reduced cost,” she said.

Abby Cooper, a former social worker at Hampton Academy, was the one that got the ball rolling in starting the free clinic.

“She saw a need for medical care for the uninsured from working with the children at the junior high,” Kingsley said. “The clinic was started to serve those families — adults and children.”

Cooper teamed up with Kingsley to open the clinic in January 1998 with the help of Bob Preston of Preston Real Estate, who donated the space to house the clinic at the beach.

“We started with a desk and an antique chair and a shower curtain for a curtain,” said registered nurse Sandy Lupoli.

Since then, volunteers have acquired furniture and equipment, and much has been donated.

And since they don’t charge for the services or medications, the nonprofit group relies heavily on donations.

One of the biggest donors has been Exeter Hospital, which has given chairs, a medical cart and an exam light. The hospital also provides a medical van each night the clinic is open containing another lab room for other volunteer doctors.

Tyco, Wheelabrator, CVS, Hoyt’s and the local Rotary Club have also donated supplies.

LabCorp of Hampton runs tests free of charge, while the Breast and Cervical Cancer Care Program in Concord provides free pap-smear testing and vouchers for mammograms.

But what is needed most are donations to the clinic’s prescription fund.

“We have a mission statement that states, It does no good to provide medical care and prescribe medications that people can’t afford,'” Kingsley said. “So anything that we prescribe, we pay for. We don’t bill anyone. Everything is free.”

The clinic spends between $7,000 and $10,000 on medications each year.

Those wishing to contribute to the clinic are asked to make their check out to Hampton Free Medical Clinic. Please send donations to the Hampton Free Medical Clinic, P.O. Box 625, Hampton, NH 03843.

The clinic, at 37 Ashworth Ave., Hampton Beach, is open from 6 to 8 p.m. the first and third Tuesday of each month.

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