Medical Center joining Project Access initiative

By Kristen Holland Shear

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In a special message delivered in February, Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern, laid out strategic priorities for the medical center — among them a commitment to developing “programs focused on the health care issues of the underserved — both global and within our own community/country.”

To that end, UT Southwestern has joined an initiative called Project Access Dallas, a program to provide health care to the county’s working poor residents.

The initiative, developed and launched in 2002 by the Dallas County Medical Society, is a network of physicians, hospitals, community charity health clinics and additional support organizations.

Dr. Bruce Meyer, vice president for medical affairs at UT Southwestern, said the medical center will provide specialty physicians who will consult with a patient’s primary care physician. He anticipates that most of the referrals will be for UT Southwestern specialists in heart/lung and vascular care, dermatology, neurology and pulmonary treatment.

“As part of our consultations, we’re also providing medical testing, such as imaging and laboratory services, for Project Access patients,” Dr. Meyer said.

Dr. Meyer said the medical center will contribute $1 million in faculty practice and resources of UT Southwestern University Hospitals and Clinics — all part of its larger commitment to the community.

Project Access patients must be uninsured, meet specific income guidelines and live in Dallas County. In addition, either the patient or a spouse must work at least 20 hours a week.

Once accepted, patients are assigned a primary care physician, receive $750 a year in pharmacy benefits and gain access to specialty care, labs, care coordination, inpatient hospital care and ancillary procedures. They generally pay $5 for medications and are asked to pay $5 for each medical visit.

“This is one more example of how we are committed to the care of all patients in our community, regardless of their ability to pay,” Dr. Meyer said. “The truth is that we are the doctors who staff Parkland; we are the doctors who staff Children’s. This is just another vehicle by which we’re caring for all the patients in our community.”

Through the years, Project Access has grown to include more than 700 physicians, 15 hospitals, 10 diagnostic service organizations, nine charity health clinics, two national laboratory services and more than 40,000 pharmacies.

The program currently assists more than 1,100 patients, but organizers hope to expand it to serve around 5,000 within five years. Project Access backers include Children’s Medical Center Dallas and Parkland Health & Hospital System.

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