Bridge Community has no staff doctors or dentists, as its waitlist grows | A Wausonian investigation
That's leading to longer waitlists for low income dental, medical patients
It started with a vague email from a stranger about a local clinic that the sender said wasn’t fulfilling its mission. After a few clarifying questions were answered, and some of the facts confirmed elsewhere, and several emails to that clinic’s director were returned with lengthy official report-looking responses, something emerged.
Bridge Community Health Clinic current has no full-time staff doctor and no full-time staff dentist. And there apparently hasn’t been since last summer.
Bridge Community Health Clinic is a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center with less than 20% of its funding coming from federal and state grants. The clinic, which provides medical, dental and behavioral health services, generally serves low-income residents on a sliding scale. For many, especially in dental, it’s their only way to receive care.
Bridge’s medical clinic is currently staffed with a Nurse Practitioner and is currently staffing its dentist office with “locums” or short-term contract dentists. And the waitlist that was already many months long is growing longer as a result.
Bridge Community’s director, Jennifer Smith, says it’s because of the realities of the current employment market. They can’t keep up with the private sector, and doctors and dentists are leaving for better opportunities. Smith in her response to The Wausonian shared a fact sheet from the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association released in August 2022 highlighting the workforce shortages in the medical fields. Other organizations such as North Central Health Care have shared similar difficulties.
But, ex-employees and other medical professionals are telling The Wausonian something that paints a very different story. That the work culture is poor, that money is being wasted, and that there hasn’t been an emphasis on finding more doctors and dentists. By Smith’s own admission, in 2021 Bridge only recruited two dentists, one of whom was extended an offer. (More candidates were recruited in 2020 and 2022, according to info Smith provided, which is detailed below.)
The Wausonian obtained one complaint filed with the Health Resources and Service Administration, which oversees Bridge Community. (This publication has requested all complaints from the HRSA that have been filed against Bridge Community in the past three years and are awaiting receipt of those complaints.) The complaint, made by one of the ex-employees The Wausonian spoke to, calls Bridge’s workplace “toxic.”
And results on job sites show a decline in ratings — while the clinic is rated 3.3 on Indeed right now, which Bridge’s director says is average for similar clinics, that’s because in 2019 the clinic scored a perfect five stars. In 2021 and 2022 it received a 2-star rating from past employees. (But to be fair, when The Wausonian searched other medical employers, there was a similar dip in ratings in the past two years for those The Wausonian checked.)
Is it a poor culture? Or a difficult hiring environment? Or a mix of the two?
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