Skip to content

A town square for an unsquare town

redbankgreen

Standing for the vitality of Red Bank, its community, and the fun we have together.

SUCCESS COMES WITH STRUGGLES AT PARKER

parker-clinicJoseph Aochoa, of Keansburg, has been visiting the Parker Family Medical Center since its start in Red Bank 10 years ago. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Joseph Aochoa wasn’t sure what to make of the trailer on Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank that he pulled up to 10 years ago looking for a medical check-up. It didn’t matter. The care he was about to get was free.

As he is today, Aochoa was then struggling to keep employment long enough to qualify for health benefits, and he needed treatment for diverticulitis. The volunteer doctors inside the trailer could do it for him gratis.

“I thought it was just a bunch of people trying to be nice to others,” Aochoa said. “So I try to the same thing when I’m out, so I can help people.”

A decade later, Aochoa, a Keansburg resident who still regularly visits the Parker Family Medical Center, finds that his first impression was spot-on.

“They really are nice people. They’ll do whatever they can,” Aochoa said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

There are people like Aochoa all over Monmouth County — the area Parker serves — and that’s why the clinic, which eventually left the trailer and took up residence in its own structure at 211 Shrewsbury, has been a success and model for healthcare in the county, says founder and president of the clinic’s board of directors, Dr. Eugene Cheslock.

But with that success comes challenges for Parker, particularly funding and space.

The caseload outgrew the trailer years ago. Now the one-story building is getting tight, Cheslock says, due to consistent annual growth and an anticipated spike in visitors in the next few years, when national healthcare reform kicks in.

Between now and then, Cheslock says higher premiums and general economic conditions will squeeze consumers out of the insurance market and into places like Parker, of which there aren’t many.

“We may experience a doubling in our numbers until the healthcare act is implemented,” Cheslock said. “Space is becoming a problem. We could use a bigger place now. We never envisioned the need for more physical space, but we’re there.”

The clinic, which officially turns 10 on July 29, has seen a steady rise in visitors since its humble beginnings. Cheslock says the first year it operated, he and the one or two other doctors who volunteered saw somewhere between 500 and 1,000 patients. This year, he anticipates upwards of 12,000. In the last decade, the predominately-volunteer staff, which now boasts about 80 physicians and some 200 nurses and nurse assistants, has seen about 80,000 patients, Cheslock said.

As patient numbers have swelled, so has the clinic’s budget, to about $1 million. Funding has always been a problem, Cheslock says, but the economy and the clinic’s low profile have put a more worrisome damper on funding goals this year.

“This year we’re projecting a shortfall,” Cheslock said.

Normally, the clinic covers its costs with a grant or two, biannual fundraising events and private donations; pop star Jon Bon Jovi has been one of the clinic’s more prominent benefactors. To avoid coming up short, Cheslock says this year the clinic will hold an additional fundraiser. A big one, he says, although he won’t talk about the details of it — or say if any big names are expected to participate.

It’s a move the board didn’t want to make, but is necessary, he said.

“We have not been in your face,” he said about fundraising.

Budget woes certainly affect the inner workings of Parker, but clinic’s professionals try to mitigate the impact, says Carmen Phanuef, a nurse practitioner who runs the clinic’s growing diabetes program. Phaneuf, one of the few paid staffers, says the doctors just need to pay closer attention to treatments patients get without compromising their care.

Ans an example, she said the clinic picks up the tab on prescriptions for people who can’t afford them. So when that happens, the clinic is more careful about the ones they order, and where possible goes for generics rather than name brands.

Prescriptions can cost between $5,000 and $7,000 a month, Phaneuf says.

“It just makes us focus, like, are there generics we can use instead of brand names?” she said. “You can’t just walk in and order anything you want.”

More than the clinic’s own struggles to balance the ledger, officials worry about the patients coming in. These are often people who are choosing between paying rent or ensuring their health.

“When you’re getting a CAT scan or an MRI, that’s like $2,000,” Phaneuf said. “For somebody living paycheck to paycheck, that hurts.”

In its time in Red Bank, Cheslock says the Parker clinic has served as the example of how to run a health facility for low-income families. He calls Parker “the star of the car.”

One day, though, maybe by the time the next 10-year anniversary comes around, he’d like to see the star flame out, a signal of success.

The goal, he said, is “going out of business if healthcare (reform) truly does work. That’d be a great thing, if Americans were truly insured. That’d be wonderful.”

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
Partyline
TAR BEACH SOLSTICE
Aldo Quiroz of Ocean Township came ready with his beach chair and found a shady spot to spend his lunch hour in a parking lot off Broad Stre ...
GOING GREY
Workers painting the stone facade of the PNC Bank at the corner of Broad and Harding Thursday morning. An upgrade? Maybe it’s just pri ...
COFFEE & WILDLIFE
RED BANK: The best wildlife show in town can be taken in from a waterfront bench outside the public library, and it's totally free.
FAWNING OVER HER BABY
A mother deer and her fawn were spotted between a row of garages on Hudson Avenue and some trees alongside the Broad Street parking lots. Re ...
EVENING ESCAPE
RED BANK: Sailors in Monmouth Boat Club's weekly racing series found tranquil conditions on the Navesink River Tuesday evening.
PEAK COLOR ON BROAD
RED BANK: A year after they were installed, downtown mini gardens have added to "transformational" improvements, says business owner.
RED BANK: FAIRIES MOVE IN ON WHITE STREET
Red Bank: Girl scouts turns tiny parking lot plot of dirt into a "magical girls sparkle garden."
TRAINING UNDER FIRE
RED BANK: Volunteer firefighters train to cut into pitched roofs under active fire conditions.
“SUPERMOM” WANTS YOUR VOTE
Business owner. Dyed in the wool, lifelong Red Banker. Mother of six. Yup, seems like Anita Pierce does it all. In other words, she’s ...
SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS
RED BANK: Town prepares for Saturday's Pride in the Park celebration with another lawn art design by public works supervisor and Fire Chief ...
MOVIES VIA LIBRARY
RED BANK: Public Library now offers members access to streaming movies via Kanopy, with some 30,000 titles and tons of content for kids.
NEW RAINBOW CROSSWALK ON BROWN PLACE
Kicking off pride month, some Brown Place and Spring Street residents, ages 5 to 11, constructed a rainbow crosswalk with chalk over the wee ...
WHAT TO WEAR?
RED BANK: Dressmakers' mannequins appeared to mull what to wear as they looked down on Monmouth Street last week.
SYMPHONY RETURNS JUNE 29
RED BANK: An annual crowd pleaser returns June 29 with a free concert in Marine Park by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, RiverCenter said ...
Heard on the Green
Heard on the Green
DUCK RESCUE EFFORT
Duckling rescue attempt underway in sewer at East Front and Broad, 10:29 a.m.
HOUSING CRUNCH
Demolition begins for new apartments at Globe Court and Mechanic Street.
FEELING SNAPPY
      Snapping Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs this time of year and are a common site along the Swimming River waterfr ...
TUB TIME
RED BANK: A sparrow waits for the next available dirt tub while two others take their Sunday baths. (Click for video.)
CHECK IT OUT
A bench outside the Red Bank Public Library provided a serene view of our beautiful Navesink River Monday evening.