It’s Friday at the bustling Seager Memorial Clinic. Patients pack the waiting room, located in the basement of the Ogden Rescue Mission.
Janet Burda is visiting to get treatment for a chronic and painful skin issue. It impacts her ability to do her job as a merchandiser at a local Walmart. But because Burda technically only works part time, she doesn’t have health insurance. She’s grateful she can turn to the clinic for care and to improve her quality of life.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s an awesome service. I thank everyone for volunteering their time.”
The Seager Memorial Clinic just turned 30, which means its volunteer doctors and nurses have spent three decades delivering free medical and dental care to northern Utah’s homeless, impoverished and working poor.
The clinic has seen more than 80,000 patient visits to date since it opened its doors on Sept. 20, 1988.
“We’ve seen lots of people who were down on their luck, who just needed some help to get them through to the next place in their life,” said Ruth Brockman, a retired nurse and operations officer for McKay-Dee hospital.
Brockman has been part of the clinic since Dr. Floyd Seager approached her with his mission to provide free care for those in need.
Seager died in 1996. His wife, Dauna, continued to coordinate the clinic’s operations until she passed the torch to Brockman in 2011.
Brockman said in some ways, the clinic is needed now more than ever before.
“I thought at some point people were going to get coverage, whether through Obamacare or expanded Medicare,” Brockman said. “I thought maybe we wouldn’t be needed sometime in the future. I’m not sure that will ever happen. We haven’t slowed down. There’s still a real need for people to come here and be helped.”
Dr. Johnnie Cook, a family physician, has volunteered for the clinic’s third Friday shift for the past 22 years. He’s witnessed the clinic grow and add services, including oral surgery, a diabetes clinic, a pulmonology clinic and an ophthalmology clinic. Still, he often sees gaps in care that need to be filled.
“It’s been hard sometimes because there are still cracks in the system, in getting people what they need,” he said. “If I see someone who has something that really needs to be fixed but it’s not quite emergency, like someone with a hernia ... it’s hard to treat them the way I’d like.”
That’s because without insurance, it’s often difficult to get patients treatment from specialists. Expanding the clinic and adding more services is something Cook said he’d like to see in the future.
“If there’s more need out there, we’d love to meet the need,” he said.
Having a free clinic helps get preventative care to those who otherwise would go untreated or under-treated. That benefits the entire community, Cook said.
“First, it doesn’t plug up the emergency room with things that don’t need to be there,” he said. “Second of all, it helps patients who can’t afford to go to emergency room to be seen essentially for free.”
Cook and Brockman said securing donations is vital for keeping the clinic going for another 30 years.
The clinic’s costs run about $40,000 a year, Brockman said, mostly spent on dressings, gloves and other supplies.
The clinic keeps costs low largely because of donated medicines and donated time from doctors and nurses.
“Some of the diabetic patients are on a lot of medicine and it’s really expensive,” Brockman said. “They would not be able to get it without us being here.”
Area hospitals like McKay-Dee and Ogden Regional provide free lab work and X-rays. The Ogden Rescue Mission, too, provides a free space and utilities for the clinic.
All the clinic’s many donations, Cook said, make a difference.
“It keeps people alive,” he said.
The Seager Memorial Clinic is located at 2775 Wall Ave. The clinic has walk-in hours from 3-5 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday except holidays.
To make a financial donation to the clinic, visit seagerclinic.org or call 801-394-4161.