May 30, 2023

Volunteer-driven clinic offers free care in Washington

The annual Seattle King County Clinic brings health care to low-income and uninsured populations.

Cindi Johnson, chief financial officer, vice president, strategy, executive of administration, Washington Permanente Medical Group; Julie Smith, chief financial officer, Kaiser Permanente Medical Foundation; and Noushin Maktabi, Kaiser Permanente pharmacist

After a 3-year hiatus, the annual Seattle King County Clinic returned in April 2023 with 138 Kaiser Permanente employees serving among the volunteers. The clinic opened its doors to 3,000 patients who received dental, vision, and medical care at no cost. Many of those served were grateful for the clinic’s return. 

“I was escorting folks to where they needed to go for the full 4 days of the clinic, and many of them kept sharing how they were thankful and appreciative of this clinic,” said David Efroymson, senior director of Supply Chain for Kaiser Permanente in Washington. 

The volunteer-driven clinic provides necessary care to anyone in Washington who struggles to access or afford health care. Kaiser Permanente provided many of the needed supplies and equipment and processed all of the more than 2,000 lab tests performed.  

“Living without access to health care is a significant barrier to health equity, and a hardship that hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians continue to face every day,” said Angela Dowling, regional president for Kaiser Permanente in Washington. “We’re proud to put support of the Seattle King County Clinic at the center of our efforts to improve the health of the communities we serve.”  

Making an impact 

Families, older adults, LGBTQ+ people, veterans, low-income earners, immigrants and refugees, and people experiencing homelessness received care at the clinic. Those needing follow-up services — including social-needs assistance from social workers — were connected with community resources. Many will receive cataract surgery and vision care follow-up at Kaiser Permanente.   

“I met a woman serving as a Spanish interpreter who has volunteered for many years,” said Kym Kinoshita, director of Referral and Review Services for Kaiser Permanente in Washington. “She was so grateful for the care she received at this clinic that she signed up to be an interpreter after her first experience as a patient. Now she gets her care on the first day of the clinic and volunteers the other 3 days, interpreting for patients and helping them get the care they need.” 

Kaiser Permanente has participated since 2015 thanks to the dedicated leadership of not only Kinoshita and Efroymson but also Michael Brush, MD, Kaiser Permanente service line director of ophthalmology, and the clinic’s vision medical director, Chris Villanueva, Kaiser Permanente director of Clinical Lab Services for Washington, and the many clinicians and staff who volunteer their time. 

“The partnership between the clinic, community organizations, and Kaiser Permanente can help to fulfill so many of the unmet patient care needs that exist in our community,” said Dr. Brush.  

With an additional 2-year grant of $500,000, Kaiser Permanente is committed to the clinic’s ongoing success in increasing access to comprehensive care for low-income and uninsured populations. 

The next clinic will be held in February 2024. Visit the Seattle King County Clinic website to learn more and join the volunteers.  

“We work in health care every day,” Kinoshita said, “but volunteering at this clinic fills your soul.”