Recent reports have shown that the emergency room of Rockingham Memorial Hospital is the seventh busiest in the state, seeing more than 70,000 people per year.
For a town the size of Harrisonburg, 70,000 patients, so doctors at RMH decided there needed to be a filter for those who were using the emergency room for non-emergencies.
The first task in this project was finding out why there are so many people visiting the emergency room at RMH. Doctors discovered that because emergency rooms never turn patients away based on insurance, low income families were turning there for help.
So RMH, JMU and other organizations put together the Harrisonburg Community Health Center, which will open it's doors Monday. For those without health insurance, the clinic offers a sliding fee scale based on household income to determine costs.
The doctors are hoping that by providing this clinic, some of the strain on the emergency room will be removed and low income children can get primary care.
"This is for a number of groups that have had difficulty getting access to primary health care right now, at least because it's not affordable perhaps. That may be because their low income, or because they can't afford to purchase insurance," says Dr. David Cockley, a Health Service professor at JMU.
Although recent headlines have suggested that the clinic will only serve low income immigrants, they want to clarify that it will be open to all residents. Also, in order to provide better care for non-English speakers, organizers made an effort to cross language barriers by having some staff fluent in Russian and Spanish.