Guest Editorial

Thirty years ago, business leaders and healthcare professionals envisioned an organization that would provide high-quality care to people who were locked out of the healthcare system due to lack of insurance. Over the past 30 years, the Free Clinic’s patients’ needs have become more complex, the healthcare landscape has continued to morph, and our community and world faced the first global pandemic in nearly a century.

Since the Clinic opened in 1993, we have cared for over 16,000 patients, dispensed 880,000+ prescriptions, and provided over $325 million of healthcare services to our neighbors in need.

The Moss Free Clinic remains distinctive in its ability to provide its patients with a comprehensive and integrated healthcare home. Our partners value not just our role in providing and coordinating medical care, but how we help our patients access the specialists they need, navigate the social safety net more broadly, and manage their own health – all in a way that removes costs as a barrier.

Even after Medicaid expansion, 8% of Virginians remain uninsured. In our region, that equates to over 32,000 people, more than three times the number of people the local safety net clinics are currently serving.

The Free Clinic has been a fortunate and grateful recipient of funding through the Mary Washington Hospital Foundation for many years. This support has enabled the Clinic to expand services to a growing number of uninsured and under-served persons.

The vast majority of funding from MWHF has been raised from the community, through fundraising events designed specifically to benefit the Clinic (not from the hospital’s revenues).

Through the Mary Washington Hospital Foundation, the Clinic has been the beneficiary of 2 golf tournaments and 2 polo matches. “Roastin’ at the Rivah”, an oyster roast benefitting the Clinic, was an annual event for ten years. The Clinic also received grant funding for several years from the Frank C. Pratt Fund (a fund established in 1969 by John Lee Pratt for charitable purposes of the Mary Washington Hospital Foundation).

The “Ensuring Access: A Campaign for the Moss Free Clinic”, a community-wide capital campaign created in 2004 in partnership with the Clinic’s board of directors, raised over $10 million to build our facility and to provide operational support. The investment of campaign funds was managed by the hospital foundation.

In addition to financial support, MWHC provided the Clinic’s facilities (first on Fall Hill Avenue and then on Hunter Street) rent-free for the first 13 years of the Clinic’s operation. Until this past year, they donated our telephone system and information services support, as well as provided accounting and payroll services.

MWHC proposed to “take over” Clinic operations in 2019. Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, talks resumed in 2021. In the succeeding months, the Clinic’s board presented a series of questions to MWHC leadership to ascertain what such a take-over would look like.

Ultimately, the Clinic’s board made the decision to maintain its independent nonprofit status, because:

  • MWHC would not assure the Clinic’s board that vital services like dental and pharmacy would continue under their ownership.
  • Volunteer health care professionals indicated that they would not continue volunteering if the Clinic was operated by MWHC.
  • MWHC ownership would change the community-driven mission of the Clinic.

Today, we are facing an unprecedented decline in support from our local hospital system. Services that had been provided pro bono to us for nearly 3 decades have been withdrawn. Internet, telephone, and IT support, as well as accounting and payroll services, have been discontinued and we now find ourselves in the position of needing to secure and pay for these vital resources on our own. On top of that, the lease for the facility that we’ve occupied for the past 17 years — and that was built as a result of a capital campaign specifically for the Moss Free Clinic — is being changed and now requires an additional monthly outlay of over $5,000 due to the new “triple net lease” being enforced beginning in 2024. The current lease is for one year, rather than for 5 years as in previous leases.

All of these new expenses result in a budget increase exceeding $200,000 this year.

These added costs (which were not revealed to us during the negotiations) threaten our ability to deliver essential healthcare to those who depend on our services. The well-being of the most vulnerable members of our community hangs in the balance, and we are seeking the help of our community to bridge the gap. 

At the Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic, our commitment to providing essential healthcare services to our community remains unwavering. However, we are currently facing a situation that demands immediate attention and our community’s generous support.  

Sincerely,

Board of Directors
Fredericksburg Area Regional Health Council