Providing access to affordable dental care in Southern Virginia
Mecklenburg, Virginia and its surrounding counties have a higher-than-state-average percentage of low income or uninsured families. These residents often don’t have access to dental care, or have issues paying for services.
Expanding dental care availability while training local students
In 2018, Microsoft supplied the Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) Foundation with $50,000 to support the creation and operation of a dental clinic within the hospital in South Hill, Virginia. The clinic will serve both adults and children who are often uninsured, underinsured, or part of at-risk populations. In fact, the CMH Foundation underwrites about 80 percent of billables at the hospital, given many people’s lack of ability to pay. The dental clinic plans to partner with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond to provide training for dental students and endodontic and oral surgery residents. This gives necessary preparation and also exposes students and residents to treating patients in rural communities.
In addition to dental services, the hospital will continue to offer on-site community health education programs and take part in community health education initiatives. Dental-specific services provided include exams, cleaning, x-rays, dentures, root canals, bridges, endodontics, extractions, cosmetic dentistry, and dental surgery.
Improving the overall health of the local community
Because the majority of patients at Community Memorial Hospital are on Medicare/Medicaid or indigent, this clinic will serve a population that often struggles to find or pay for dental care. Since the clinic’s official opening on November 26, 2018, it has surpassed its goals for both number of unique patients seen (by 41 percent), and number of patient visits (by 61 percent). These numbers were achieved with only one dentist and one hygienist; adding a second dentist and second hygienist in 2020 will help the clinic to serve even more patients. Once the clinic is fully established over the next three to five years, the goal is to serve more than 6,000 patient visits per year.
The VCU Dental School, whose students will work and train in the clinic, will also help recruit dentists to serve rural areas in the future. Presently, it’s difficult for local residents to receive dental care without traveling to larger cities like Richmond, Virginia, as there are no other dentists in the area that accept indigent or Medicaid patients.
Maximizing impact with local partnerships
Thirty-eight local organizations participated in the clinic creation in various capacities, including Dominion Energy, Mecklenburg Electric Co-op, and the Chambers of Commerce from South Hill, Lawrenceville, Chase City, and Clarksville. Additionally, Mid-Atlantic Broadband agreed to match Microsoft’s donation up to $25,000. Due to these contributions, the clinic now offers breakthrough technology that previously was unavailable in the community.