To the Editor:
As a primary-care provider with many uninsured and underinsured patients, Families First Health Center is challenged to help our patients obtain preventive services such as colonoscopies that must be provided by specialists.
Access to screenings that can prevent cancer, or detect it early, should not depend on a person’s insurance status or ability to pay. But because these screenings are expensive, uninsured patients sometimes go without them.
Fortunately, since 2011, Atlantic Digestive Specialists (formerly Gastroenterology Professional Association) and Portsmouth Regional Hospital have generously provided Families First patients with colonoscopies at no charge during National Colon Cancer Awareness Month in March. Dr. Roger Epstein has led the effort, coordinating the screenings and often providing services. We thank Dr. Epstein and his two colleagues who each donated their time to provide the screenings this year: Marylyn Grondin and Brian Hyett.
Portsmouth Regional Hospital donated use of their facility and the time of the staff in the endoscopy unit. This significant contribution comes on top of the $227,000 the hospital contributed directly to Families First in 2014, including $60,000 to support our dental programs. Also supporting the program were Dr. Sonya Schwaegerle and Dr. Darlene Knapp from Atlantic Pathology, P.A. and Quest Diagnostics, who donated pathology services, and Dan Gore and Salix Pharmaceutical, which donated the prep kits.
The 16 Families First patients and three patients referred from other practices who received these screenings this year all expressed their thanks for having this service available. We thank Atlantic Digestive Specialists, the hospital and the others who made this possible.
Helen B. Taft
Families First Health & Support Center