Catholic Charities' Free Health Care Center work rewarding for doctors, nurses
By Deborah Deasy
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 8:29 p.m.
Dr. Michael Govi of Hampton doesn't get a paid to work at Catholic Charities' Free Health Care Center, but he would recommend the clientele to any physician.
“The patients there are extraordinarily appreciative. So you really feel you're helping out,” said Govi, a father of three and family practitioner based at UPMC St. Margaret hospital, near Aspinwall.
Govi also recommends the free clinic's gratifying work environment.
“It's back to the basics of medicine and taking care of people ... and the people that work there are fantastic,” Govi said. “It's just a great environment to be in. Everyone feels like they're pitching in and helping.”
On the first Tuesday morning of each month, Govi sees a handful of people, ages 18 to 64, who don't have health insurance, perhaps because they work two part-time jobs. A number of the people have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Govi, a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, joined the center's approximately 75 volunteer physicians in January 2008. He's among about 160 volunteers, including nurses, dentists, dental technicians and others, who work at the Free Health Care Center, which opened in November 2007.
The center operates on several floors of the Victory Building at Ninth Street and Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
“You know when you hear ‘free clinic,' you think you're going to some basement, and it's going to be dingy and horrible. But that place looks like the Mayo clinic to me. It's run so well,” said Barbara Bean of Franklin Park, a registered nurse who also volunteers at the clinic.
“When people from other places come in they ask, ‘Why is everyone so happy?' It's because we all want to be there,” said Bean, who has a daughter in medical school.
Last year, the center served 2,200 medical and dental patients.
“Quite often, they've just hit a hard wall ... They might be working more than one job at a time, and as you know, with part-time jobs, you don't get any insurance coverage,” said Bean, who also serves on the health center's board of directors.
“They may have a lot of children at home. They may have parents that they're taking care of,” Bean said about the center's patients. “These are my heroes, to be honest with you.”
Registered nurse Dori Monahan of Hampton, another mother with college-age children, also donates her time and talents at the center.
“I love it. The people are so professional and so nice and so caring,” said Monahan, who also admires the center's patients. “They realize that their health is important, so they seek out a way to get their health care. They make it a priority. They take an active role in their care.”
Annette Fetchko, center administrator, said volunteers such as Govi, Bean and Monahan donated $1.6 million worth of service hours to the center's $2.6 million 2013 operating budget.
“What I do there is just a small part of what they're doing,” said Govi, whose wife, Stacy, is a certified public accountant.
The center currently seeks a volunteer neurologist and dermatologist, plus more gynecologists to handle the center's increasing demand for women's health services.
The clinic also seeks golfers and nongolfers to support the fifth annual Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center Golf Classic on Sept. 9 at Longue Vue Club in Penn Hills. Participation levels include a cocktail reception and dinner for $125 per person.
Govi, a golfer, personally hopes to win the event's top prize — a 2014 Masters Golf Tournament getaway. “My boys are big golfers, so we bought a ticket,” he said.
Only 500 tickets are available — for $250 per ticket, or $1,000 for five tickets — for a drawing during the golf outing to give away the Masters Tournament getaway, The prize includes two rooms for four nights at the Marriott Augusta, daily breakfasts, admission to Wednesday-through-Sunday rounds of the tournament, transportation from the Marriott Augusta to the Augusta National Golf Club and a welcome dinner.
The Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center is at 212 Ninth Street in Pittsburgh.
For information on the golf outing, tickets for Masters Golf Tournament drawing or volunteering at the center, or make an appointment for medical or dental services, call 412-456-6999.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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