MILWAUKEE - A Milwaukee clinic that has provided free medical care to low-income and uninsured patients for 24 years has closed.
The Greater Milwaukee Free Clinic opened at a time when almost one in six people under the age of 65 didn't have health insurance. It became a model for other free clinics, but patient volume dropped off recently from about 1,500 patient visits a year to about 600.
Insurance coverage has expanded since the clinic's opening under former Gov. Tommy Thompson's BadgerCare program and the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, community health centers that treat uninsured patients on a sliding fee scale have popped up, along with other free clinics.
The clinic shuttered after facing years of difficulties persuading hospitals to see referred patients and financial challenges from lacking steady financial support, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The clinic once had a pool of about 50 physicians who volunteered at the clinic, but many have retired. The clinic had just 10 volunteer physicians before closing.
"You can't quantify what we've done," said Kathy Schneider, who founded and managed the clinic.
Schneider, who was devoted to the clinic despite it often being unable to pay her salary, said the facility couldn't have existed without the physicians and nurses who volunteered even after working full days. They helped treat a total of 42,000 patient visits over the years.
"This has been an amazing effort to be part of," she said.
The clinic plans to donate its furniture, but still isn't sure what it'll do with patients' medical records.