PORT TOWNSEND — At JC MASH, doctors and nurses see a bit of everything.
So said Dr. Kimber Rotchford, the doctor who co-founded this free clinic 28 years ago. Every Tuesday evening, he and his staff open the doors of the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St., to patients without an appointment and, in many cases, without the funds to pay a doctor.
Although JC MASH — Jefferson County Advocacy and Medical Services Headquarters — has a long history in Port Townsend, its new location at the community center is not well known, nurse Sarah Haight said.
Since moving in a few months ago, Haight has sought to spread the news at places including Dove House’s Recovery Cafe, Bayside Housing & Services and the Port Townsend Food Co-op.
Rotchford, Haight and nurse Christina Brinch check in patients from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday, in person if the patient is vaccinated and via a telemedicine call otherwise. The telephone number for information is 360-385-4268.
On a recent Tuesday, an elderly woman from Port Townsend and a middle-aged man from Quilcene were among Rotchford’s patients; both left saying they got what they needed from their consultation with the doctor. Another patient arrived around 7:30 p.m., the usual closing time, but Rotchford and his team stayed to see the person.
“There’s not one thing people come for,” Haight said.
“They’re having trouble sleeping, or they need a second opinion [on a diagnosis]. It’s really very diverse, and so is the population,” she said, adding that the JC MASH team sees retirees, people without insurance, and people who have insurance with deductibles and quotes. high shares.
Brinch, who handles the front desk, said freelancers also come to the clinic, as well as people who don’t have a primary care provider. In addition to medical care, JC MASH refers patients to other services across the county, including mental health care providers.
Funded by donations and grants from local foundations, JC MASH’s mission, stated on its new poster, is “to strengthen and expand the safety net of accessible medical care for all members of the Jefferson County community. “.
The poster, bearing the clinic’s new Banded Heart logo, adds that this care includes “free needs assessment, treatment and referrals in a comfortable and professional environment.”
Rotchford, who runs his private practice in addition to seeing his Tuesday evening patients, said it was a relief to be freed from insurance paperwork at JC MASH.
“Patients come, we talk, we make a plan. I don’t have to worry about all the administrative gibberish. It’s just taking care of people,” he said, “and it feels really good.”
There are Tuesdays when he is tired, admitted Rotchford, who has practiced medicine for more than four decades.
“I’m not Superman,” he said. But often sitting down and problem-solving with a clinic patient is energizing.
“I am accused,” he said at the end of the evening.
Rotchford and his staff agree: there are no stereotypes about JC MASH patients or their reasons for choosing the clinic.
“What’s surprising is that it’s not always because of financial barriers,” he said. He recently saw a woman who just couldn’t get along with her primary care provider and he felt like she had nowhere to go.
“Over 50% of the time it’s not about the money. It’s about the hassle. They may have mental health issues [or] substance use disorder,” Rotchford said, and even if someone has insurance, the deductible makes them fearful of what the bill will become.
Haight, who became a registered nurse in her 50s, is new to Jefferson County and relatively new to JC MASH, having joined the staff about a year ago. She is determined to inform more people about the services of the free clinic.
People receiving care at JC MASH “are so grateful,” Haight added.
“Our clinicians take time and they listen. For me, that’s huge.”
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]