WINTER GARDEN — Since the recent sale of its building at 1210 E. Plant St. to Toowoomba as a determined strategic move of liquidating assets, the West Orange Health Alliance has been underway in its process of accepting applicants to receive investment from the WOHA.
To invest more directly into health care access for the underserved population of West Orange County, the WOHA began requesting proposals from qualified nonprofits in early July, with a postmark deadline of Aug. 1. Applicants needed to share the WOHA’s goals of offering medical, dental or basic health services to underserved people in the area.
After review of all applications, officials from the WOHA will notify candidates of their selection by Sept. 15. WOHA officials anticipate awards of $5,000 to $500,000 by the end of the year.
At some point in September or later, selected candidates will be able to make presentations to the WOHA regarding why that organization should get a certain amount of funding, said Mike Yoakum, chairman of the WOHA.
“We have one that I know we’re interested in, and that’s been sort of an issue through the whole middle of this deal, and that is Shepherd’s Hope,” Yoakum said. “The (West Orange) Healthcare District had kind of made an arrangement with them in advance.”
Shepherd’s Hope was one of WOHA’s original caregivers and, thus, has had a relationship with WOHA from the start, Yoakum said.
Problems arose when the tenant at the East Plant Street building had concerns with Shepherd’s Hope offering the same services as it at night — free, he said.
“It wasn’t really our anxiety — we didn’t really care about that, but they sure did,” Yoakum said. “They drew a line in the sand, saying, ‘They can’t be here doing this, or we’re gone,’ and they were pretty much the cornerstone of what we were doing.”
Shepherd’s Hope stuck around for a while, offering educational programs, such as one based on hypertension, for a year or two, he said. But even that line was too much for the tenant.
“They’re very much what we’re about, which is primary medical care to the poor, those who need it,” Yoakum said.
In places without opportunities similar to Shepherd’s Hope, many are forced to go to emergency rooms for basic primary health care, the most expensive way to do so, he said.
“Of course it was causing Health Central (Hospital) serious problems, because they have to offer the service whether it can be paid for or not,” Yoakum said. “It was just a disaster. So this brainchild arose that — if we could come up with a place where they could get their primary health care at a reasonable rate for the delivery system, then it would free up the ER to really be an ER and not full of people with things that ought to be treated by a regular doctor in a clinic or something like that.”
This would save hospitals money and move health care to where it should be, he said.
Yoakum also suggested extending or changing hours of physicians’ offices to include weekends or nights.
“The working poor can’t go to the doctor at 1:30 or 2 (p.m.),” he said. “They can come in the evening.”
Some people affiliated with the WOHA had such experiences, such as Dan Petro, who never saw a doctor before he was 11 years old, Yoakum said.
But Yoakum said he and the WOHA feel they are at a point to help at least some people obtain that health care, and they are excited to have other applicants, too.
“We feel like — at last — we’re at a position where something that we’re doing isn’t managing what the cost of air conditioning is and stuff like that,” he said. “We all felt like, ‘Why do we own a building? We don’t want to be landlords. We want to see health care happen.’ Thankfully, it looks like we’ll be moving in that direction.”
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].