Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine Expands Free Primary Care for Low-Income Residents

PALM SPRINGS – Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine (CVVIM), the Coachella Valley’s only free healthcare clinic, has opened an office in the Las Palmas Medical Plaza in Palm Springs, expanding its primary care services to better reach the West Valley.

CVVIM will begin seeing patients today, July 19 at its 1,300-square-foot office at 555 East Tachevah Drive, Building 1W, Suite 204. The new office will provide more convenient healthcare access for patients who live or work in the Palm Springs area and for those with limited means of transportation to the clinic’s main office in Indio.

According to the most recent HARC survey (2019), more than 40,000 people in the Coachella Valley do not have health insurance or are under-insured, making it challenging to obtain proper care. This number includes the elderly, self-employed, part-time workers, and other low-income residents. CVVIM has helped nearly 35,000 people since 2010 and currently averages about 4,000 patient visits per year, which is expected to increase with the expanded Palm Springs coverage.

Gabriela Solano, 51 of Desert Hot Springs, is among the first group of patients to be scheduled at CVVIM’s Palm Springs office. She was thrilled to hear about the new office and will go to her first appointment at the Palm Springs office in August. When she would go to appointments at the clinic’s Indio office, her son would have to take a half day off work to take her to the doctor. “I am very happy and excited about the new Palm Springs office that is so much closer to home. It will be much easier for me to see my doctors and for my son to help me get to my appointments,” she said. Before becoming a CVVIM patient in 2016, Solano had not been to a doctor for three years. She thought her fatigue and symptoms were “just part of getting older.” CVVIM physicians have treated her for treat a thyroid disorder, diabetes, anemia, and high blood pressure. Their medical team is continuing to help her manage these conditions.

CVVIM’s Palm Springs hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday — the same as its clinic in Indio, but according to Executive Director Doug Morin, hours will be modified based on the actual needs of the community. “We are cognizant of being available when our patients need us. If we discover that people in this community need more evening hours or a Saturday, we will adjust our hours. This schedule is our baseline, but we are open to hearing from this population what the needs of this community are.”

Medical Community Invited to Apply to Volunteer with CVVIM

In addition to providing free access to primary care services in Palm Springs for low-income residents, the new office provides opportunities for those in the medical community to volunteer their services. Ernest “Cliff” Wynne, MD, a board-certified gynecologist, serves as CVVIM’s medical director, seeing patients and overseeing the credentialed volunteer medical care. Volunteers include physicians, dentists, nurses, medical assistants, and even college and high school students in health academy
programs who need hours for their certifications. CVVIM has a small paid administrative staff, but administrative volunteers, including greeters and receptionists, also are welcome to apply.  “We’re finding there are so many people who want to volunteer, not just physicians,” said Morin. “Maybe someone can’t afford to make a donation, but they want to help and can afford a few hours to volunteer to answer phones.”

CVVIM Operates Solely on Donations

CVVIM does not receive government funding or insurance reimbursement. It operates solely on individual and corporate donations, grants, and fundraising. “Our goal is to keep our overhead expenses as low as possible because we are supported totally by donations,” said Morin. “We want to assure our donors that we are using their money to the best advantage.” While nearly all personnel time is volunteer, donations cover hard service costs like X-rays, MRIs, and other diagnostics, lab work, and medications. Last year, about 220 CVVIM volunteers provided approximately $400,000 in value of free health and dental services to valley residents.

Primary Care and Some Specialty Medical Services 

At the Palm Springs office, CVVIM offers primary care, cardiology, and women’s wellness services such as pap smears and mammograms. “We also offer regular referrals to medical providers in the community who will see our patients on a volunteer basis in their practice,” said Morin. “Our patients have access to podiatrists, neurologists, dermatologists, and other specialists. If someone needs care beyond what we can provide, we will help by making referrals to other services or programs,” he said.

CVVIM Future Plans  

CVVIM also is in the process of finalizing an agreement with Desert Regional Medical Center’s family medicine residency program, which would include medical residents and faculty physicians serving as part of the CVVIM network of volunteer medical providers. Morin estimates that medical residents could begin seeing patients as early as fall 2022.

Other CVVIM plans for the Palm Springs area include a street outreach program like the non-profit has organized in Indio, with volunteers going out on the street to provide medical care to the homeless.

To apply to serve as a volunteer or make a donation to support Coachella Valley Volunteers in medicine, click here. To inquire about scheduling an appointment, call (760) 342-4414.

Image Sources

  • Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine office: CVVIM