People and Companies

Shepherd’s Hope Prescribes Compassion

In early 2010, Robert Siegrist, now 34, was leading a healthy and happy life.

For Uninsured and Underinsured Patients

By N. Ellen Callahan

In early 2010, Robert Siegrist, now 34, was leading a healthy and happy life. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a business administration degree and enjoyed spending time with his close-knit family. But later that year, Robert’s health began to rapidly decline and, unfortunately, after losing his job and subsequently his insurance, accessing healthcare seemed impossible. By 2013, the once strong, 160-lb. athlete had plummeted to a frail 123-lb., painful and jaundice existence. 

Kathy Foreman, Robert’s mother, knew she could steer her son toward finding the medical support that he so desperately needed  and without the burden of financial constraints. She had volunteer experience with Shepherd’s Hope, a faith-based nonprofit that provides free medical services, thanks to volunteer medical providers and lay personnel, to uninsured and underinsured Central Floridians at five health clinics.

“He was very sick,” Foreman tearfully recalled. “I had a hard time convincing him to come to Shepherd’s Hope. It took six months of pleading to get him to come to the Longwood clinic. I don’t know if it was ego or embarrassment; but, when he finally came, Shepherd’s Hope saved his life.”

Robert says he immediately felt comforted by the compassionate care of Shepherd’s Hope volunteer medical staff, especially that of Dr. Philip Styne, Medical Director of Digestive Health, Liver Services, and Clinical Informatics at Florida Hospital. In turn, Dr. Styne recognized the severity of Robert’s condition and, furthermore, his ability to foster Robert’s path to restored health. “He had failure of the pancreas,” declared Dr. Styne. “I knew if I could muster up the resources, we could really make a difference for him.”

Shortly after pinpointing the diagnosis, Dr. Styne did just that by calling upon Dr. Pablo Arnoletti, Chief of Surgical Oncology at Florida Hospital. “We reattached the pancreatic ducts to the intestines so that the pancreatic juice could drain. This relieved the pain and pressure, and helped Robert to absorb food better,” Dr. Arnoletti explained of the surgical intervention made possible through Florida Hospital’s partnership with Shepherd’s Hope.

On A Mission

In 1996, Dr. William Barnes, co-lead pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church recognized that many community members were in need of medical services but lacked healthcare insurance or the ability to afford treatment. As a result with volunteers, businesses, healthcare providers and faith partners, Shepherd’s Hope was founded to encompass all faiths and serve all faiths, which has since provided over 200,000 free primary and secondary care patient visits.

Reports indicate that even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, 1-in-4 Central Floridians remain uninsured. In fact, Shepherd’s Hope has experienced a 22{bfd614f294d07c51b84c8dad33a56885001f0ed7300088ac66752d3246377d5a} increase in patient visits and medical services, rising from 16,973 in 2012 to nearly 21,000 in 2014; a demand answered thanks to the dedication of 1,800 volunteers who donated 38,321 hours last year alone.

Shepherd’s Hope is and will remain an organization that benefits the healthcare economy of Central Florida. The average cost of an emergency department visit in Central Florida is $4,600; whereas the cost for a patient visit at a Shepherd’s Hope health center – which may include a physician exam, nursing assessment, diagnostic testing, pharmacy and case management services – is the equivalent of $77 (a cost absorbed by the organization not the patient thanks to contributions).   

Without the option of free care through Shepherd’s Hope, 26{bfd614f294d07c51b84c8dad33a56885001f0ed7300088ac66752d3246377d5a} of patients served (as self-reported in the 2014 patients survey), equating to 5,460, said they would otherwise be forced to seek medical care at an area emergency department. If these additional 5,460 patients’ visits were provided at an emergency department, the cost to the Central Florida healthcare system would be $25,116,000 ($4,600 per visit) vs. $420,420 ($77 per visit) at Shepherd’s Hope.

Representing the voice of the uninsured, Marni Stahlman – President/CEO of Shepherd’s Hope, has continually shared her hope which reflects the priority mission of Shepherd’s Hope that “Everyone deserves access to quality health care.”

Now, well into his recovery, Siegrist reflects, “I was unable to seek medical treatment initially because I lacked health insurance. So, I just didn’t know where to turn for the right resources. Since my mother was a volunteer at Shepherd’s Hope, she began to continually encourage me to go to one of the clinics. However, I resisted because I was scared and, honestly at the time, I didn’t realize how bad my health really was. Eventually the services I received at Shepherd’s Hope included tests and treatments that I had never heard of. My body had basically completely shut down and the surgery was truly lifesaving. I don’t like to think about what would have happened without it and without Shepherd’s Hope.”

Stahlman adds, “Robert’s testimony likely holds true for what many uninsured patients feel, including confusion on where to turn, fear, and perhaps denial regarding the need to access free and charitable care. Shepherd’s Hope, with the support of its business, faith and healthcare partners, offers primary and secondary care which is so important to those that are facing serious health battles, like Robert.”

“I am here today because of Shepherd’s Hope. I am so blessed,” Siegrist said. “I have hope because of Shepherd’s Hope.” To learn more about Shepherd’s Hope, visit ShepherdsHope.org or call (407) 876-6699.

Shepherd’s Hope has three primary fundraisers:

July 23-24, 2015     Celebrity Golf Classic

October 24, 2015     Famous Faces Masquerade Ball

April 2016     Call to Hope Breakfast

This article appears in the June 2015 issue of i4 Business.
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About the author

i4 Business

i4 Business magazine has become one of the most trusted voices for and about the Central Florida business community. Each month through our print and digital platforms, we provide access to meet, to learn from and to learn about some of the incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders who are shaping our region.

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