Free Health Care Clinic in Syracuse Sees Decline in Number of Patients

Founder of Amaus Medical Services credits decline to Obamacare

By Matthew Liptak


Those who are uninsured or underinsured who need health care, can get it at Amaus Medical Services in downtown Syracuse.

Physician Lynn-Beth Satterly is co-founder of the clinic.

“It started in 2007 as an outreach of the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception,” she said. “They were looking for ways to ramp up care of the underserved. The pastor approached my husband and I, who are both family doctors, about some help there. We said why don’t we do a needs assessment and see if a clinic could be used. We did a needs assessment in collaboration with some colleagues and, when we looked at the numbers, we realized that there was a population of people in that area that actually could use an interim primary care clinic.”

The clinic is run much like any other primary care office, except that it is all-volunteer staffed. There are a half dozen providers, seven nurses and four clerical staff. There are four-hour clinics at the office on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Providers usually see four to 10 patients a day in four exam rooms, Satterly said.

“When they come in they can expect [what looks like] a small private practice,” she said. “We have a commitment that, even if we can’t solve all the problems, we will always advocate and our commitment is always to be kind. We’re there by choice. We’re happy to be there and take care of people. We do our best to follow standards of care. It just feels like being in a regular private practice.”

Satterly said her work at the clinic is a function of her faith, but she believes all those in the medical field have a duty to help the underserved.

“If you think about it, doctors make a living off people being sick,” she said. “I feel it’s very important to give back to people who might not be able to pay for those services.”

Before the Affordable Care Act became available the clinic was seeing about 1,500 patient-visits a year. That number was reduced to 600 or 700 after Obamacare was put in place. She says that includes about 400 unique visitors in 2016.

“What we do is we see people as long as they need us and as long as they are economically vulnerable,” she said. “It depends on the day. It depends on the year. It depends on whether or not it’s flu season.”

Amaus also has a pediatric clinic and separate dental clinic. The staff’s concern for patients extends to nonmedical issues. They will seek to advocate for them if they have unstable housing or other challenges, often referring them to the appropriate organization that can help.

Satterly believes the clinic will be around for the foreseeable future. Whether it grows or not may depend largely on what health insurance law comes about on the national level.

“I think [it] will grow as need dictates and as we can find a way to meet that need,” she said. “I think right now what we’re doing is meeting the need that we’re faced with.”

These helpers could use your help too. They are funded by private support and small grants. They are always looking for more donations and volunteers. They are particularly in need of a grant writer and website designer at the moment.

“In Syracuse at any given time 25 percent of the population meets the criteria for poverty and they have trouble making ends meet,” Satterly said. “When you’re poor, one of the things you have a problem with in addition to stable housing, and stable employment, is health care. Those three factors are related.”

To find out more about Amaus Medical Services call 315-424-1911.