REWRITTEN HEADLINE: The States Large Gaps in Healthcare Access Have Grown Wider Since the COVID-19 Disaster, Austin Chronicle, June 4, 2021
E.J. O’Neal, a part-time security officer in Dallas, never expected that he would receive quality healthcare without insurance. Much to his surprise, an encounter with Watermark Health resourced him with not only quality healthcare access but also a group of people who cared deeply for him.
One visit led to an ongoing connection with low-cost, long-term solutions for his overall health.
In early 2021, the Watermark Urgent Care Mobile Clinic became a weekly mission partner onsite with OurCalling, a nonprofit that disciples friends facing homelessness in Dallas County.
O’Neal learned about Watermark Health when he saw the Mobile Clinic on site every Thursday while contracted to work security at OurCalling.
“When they (the Mobile Clinic team) first started coming, I didn’t understand what it was. When I learned that they helped with healthcare, I stopped by one day during work and asked if they could check my blood pressure.”
After the staff checked O’Neal’s blood pressure two weeks in a row, they referred him to Watermark Health’s Plano Clinic, which offers dedicate hypertension services weekly. In the last year, there were over 135 patient visits served through the hypertension clinic.
“I knew I had to do something, but I was nervous about going to another location,” said O’Neal.
“I didn’t grow up going to the doctor. When I was younger, I thought I was bulletproof. Now I’m a grandfather, and that motivated me to go.”
When O’Neal visited the Plano Clinic, he continue to be surprised by the quality of care he received.
“It was different. I expected to walk in, take a number, sit down, and be seen by people who don’t care about what they do. It was totally the opposite. They actually had a conversation with me. They genuinely cared about me and my health.”
“Amy (the medical provider who launched the hypertension clinic in late 2020) is a no-nonsense person. She cared for me by being real with me and telling me how critical managing my situation was. She took the time to help me learn about my condition. She made me feel more comfortable and confident about taking steps to better my health.”
“When Amy referred me to a long-term primary care doctor, I was a little nervous because I was comfortable with how I was cared for by the staff at Watermark, and I thought I was starting all over to find another doctor.”
But it wasn’t starting over for O’Neal; it was taking the next step. At Watermark Health every patient is connected during their visit with one next step they can take in their health journey.
Whether it be calling primary care or getting plugged into a relevant ministry at the local church, patients always leave with at least one tangible way they can continue to build a healthy lifestyle. For Watermark Health, it’s seen as a key portion of their mission and a crucial service for the community. The American healthcare system is notoriously difficult to navigate, especially for the uninsured, and the urgent care clinics help alleviate that burden by giving each patient a clear next step.
“After that visit, I was back at work, and Whitney (the mobile clinic charge nurse) asked if I’d called to get into primary care. I hadn’t, and she was persistent to keep asking me. She wasn’t overbearing; I could tell she was asking because she cared. She never gave up.”
The encouragement from the staff helped O’Neal have the confidence to take his next best step. “I finally called and got connected with a new doctor and am doing well. I know when I wake up that I can have a good day, and I’m not going to be groggy.”
One of the goals of the hypertension clinic is to increase patients’ health awareness. Before this year, O’Neal said he’d always taken a passive approach to health. After his experience with Watermark Health, he has a different perspective.
“God gave us common sense to take care of ourselves, and with His help, that’s what we should do.”
Even without insurance, O’Neal has learned how to be confident in finding ways to care for his health actively. These actions create space for him to serve others at OurCalling and be present with his family on his days off.
“Watermark Health has been a Godsend; not only do they help you out at the moment, but they also help you realize how important you are as a person and how your health matters.”