Health fair offers patients another option

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2008

For people with no or limited health care coverage, a visit to the doctor can put a major dent in a their bank account. But the expense really adds up when the doctor orders preventative screenings, blood work and other tests.

Normally a patient would have to pay $186.31 for a full blood chemistry profile at Central Peninsula Hospital. He or she would have to pay $57.24 for a thyroid test and a prostate screening would cost $69.70. In order to give central peninsula residents another less expensive option, the hospital will offer $40 blood profiles, $30 thyroid screenings and $25 prostate screenings at its health fair on April 5. The fair will also include a myriad of free screenings ranging from hearing to dementia to children's vision and information about the various health and wellness vendors in the Kenai-Soldotna area. The fair will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Soldotna High School.

"It's a good inexpensive way (for people) to get an overall picture of their health," said Camille Sorensen, the hospital's marketing specialist. "That doesn't even count the office visit."

Rather than wait for a doctor to order blood work or a thyroid test, patients will be able to bring their results to the practitioner. Dr. Curt Buchholz, the hospital's medical lab director and the peninsula's local pathologist, will look over the lab results and flag them if anything shows up abnormal.

Michelle McKay, staff development coordinator, said it would take approximately two to three weeks for the results from the blood panel to be available. They'll be mailed directly to patients, she said.

"A lot of people use the health fair as a substitute for an annual physician's visit because they don't have health insurance," she said, adding it's for the patient to decide whether or not to share their lab results with their doctor. "At the very end they have an opportunity to talk to a registered nurse."

The hospital has held a health fair for approximately six years, McKay said. When it started, there were 123 participants who went through the health fair. McKay has been planning the fair since November, recruiting members of the hospital's various departments as well as students from Kenai Peninsula College's paramedic and nursing program, and is expecting up to 400 people to show.

McKay and Sorensen said people should arrive at the health fair early if they expect to have blood work done. They also said folks who want get their blood work done should not eat or drink anything besides water for 12 hours before the test. Diabetes patients should not fast. The blood panel is good for checking how the liver and kidneys are functioning and thyroid and prostate screenings check for cancer. If something turns up abnormal, Sorensen said the hospital carries a list of both general practitioners and specialists, but gives patients recommendations on who to see.

"If they did them all (at the health fair) they would save at least $300 if not more," Sorensen said, "not counting an office visit which could be a couple hundred (dollars) more."

If they don't have medicare or medicaid or Denali Kid Care for children, many patients without significant health care coverage must pay for their needs out of pocket if they go to the public health clinic, McKay said. Even though their care might be somewhat discounted at a walk-in clinic, she said the provider isn't getting the patient's medical history. A primary care physician knows a patient's background and living situation. If fair participants don't have a primary care physician, the event will give them a starting point, McKay said.

"If they don't have a primary care physician they will need to be referred (to one) to seek care," she said. "The hospital's really proud to be able to do (the health fair). It requires a lot of work and volunteer effort. It's something we believe in."

The fair will be located in the commons and gym at Soldotna High School. For more information, call 714-4775

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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