This is Our Family Business

by Keith Steffen , OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

In the best of family businesses, you take care of all members of that family no matter what their circumstances or station in life.

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center could be considered the ultimate in family businesses. The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis base their entire foundation on treating all with the greatest care and love, every patient, every time, regardless of their circumstances.

It was this guiding principle that led them to start a hospital in Peoria 133 years ago and expand it to two clinics that exist to this day.

In 1942, the Community Clinic was started primarily to provide healthcare to the poor and to war widows who lost their husbands during World War II. The clinic accepts those who are eligible under federal poverty guidelines, have no other benefits, do not qualify for Medicare, are unemployed or those who would be considered the “working poor.” Its nearly 400 patients are able to get free medications, such as insulin, thanks to grant programs and the Sisters providing thousands of medications each year.

Up until the late 1990s, Saint Francis, in conjunction with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP), offered several clinics throughout the area that served as teaching programs for medical residents to hone their skills. In 1999, these various clinics were consolidated into one location in the Allied Agencies building on East Armstrong Avenue under the umbrella of the Sister's Clinic.

Both the Community Clinic and Sister's Clinic are served by one staff, which allows us to better use our healthcare resources, lower the cost of care, decompress our emergency department and continue to provide teaching opportunities for 80 residents completing their training in one of four residencies through UICOMP—pediatrics, internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology.

The two clinics handle about 2,500 patient visits a month, with the Sisters underwriting nearly $6.5 million in care each year. Approximately 60 employees work at the clinics, many of them for 15 or more years. These are the people who truly live the Sisters' mission, caring for people who might not otherwise get the healthcare they need.

It can be a difficult and demanding clientele, who, 25 percent of the time, don't show for appointments because they don't have the means to get there.

Cindy Traver, the manager of the clinics, has been a nurse in various units at Saint Francis for 34 years. "We see everybody. This is why the Sisters started this hospital. We would love to be able to help everybody, but sometimes we can't. These people often have no family support, no money and no self esteem. It's difficult to live in poverty."

Ask Cindy if there are patients who stay with her, and she recounts two stories. One is a young lady who was mentally challenged. She had given birth and struggled to care for her child, but that didn't stop her from riding her bicycle to the hospital to make $5 payments on her account when she could—not because she had to, but because she wanted to. The other is an older woman who had been coming to the clinic for years, often with a difficult demeanor toward staff. Cindy somehow managed to get through the tough exterior, but she never knew if the woman listened. After not seeing this patient for several years, and wondering what had become of her, the woman returned to the clinic one day. Cindy went up to her and asked how she was. The woman, with the same feisty tone, said to Cindy, "I remember you. You saved my life." How can you not be changed or affected by that?

Rick Thomas, the executive director of ambulatory services who oversees the clinics' operation, says the people who work there inspire him. "There are no judgments made; we simply treat everyone as a human being. It's a wonderful service."

A family business at its most basic level. It's what The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis strive for on a daily basis. Every patient. Every time. iBi  

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