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Conversations: Mary K. Wakefield on getting ready to double the work of clinics

Where are these centers located, and what kinds of services do they provide?

They focus on preventive and primary health-care services. There are 1,100 grantees across the nation. However, there are about 7,900 sites. Many [grantees] have satellite locations. They're located in rural and urban areas, in underserved areas; just over half are in rural areas. They are in every state and the District of Columbia.

Who uses health centers?

Some who come through the doors have insurance. There are patients who have Medicare, Medicaid, who are uninsured, self-paying and insured. Just over 90 percent of the patients seen are below 200 percent of the poverty level, and about 40 percent of patients are uninsured.

Do you expect the percentage of uninsured patients seeking service at health centers to increase over the next few years?

If you use Massachusetts after they passed universal coverage, between 2005 and 2009, Massachusetts health centers saw an increase in patients. There was an increase in the patient load by about 25 percent, even while their overall percentage of uninsured patients decreased by over 30 percent.

How will the funding process work, and when will it begin?

We're in the process of implementation on that program. The $11 billion will be allocated beginning this fall.

What do you like least about your job?

What I like least is that a 24-hour day isn't long enough to get everything done and to do it extremely well. We're all very busy.

What would you like people to know about you besides your job responsibilities?

I'm a nurse, and very proud of that. And that I'm from North Dakota, and there's not that many of us here in Washington or in North Dakota. It's a low-population state.

Are you hoping to have some vacation back in North Dakota?

My husband and my home are in North Dakota. I try to get back every third or fourth weekend. . . . I can tell you, it's not cheap.

Are there hobbies you've had to give up since coming to Washington?

I'm from Devils Lake. It's now become a top-ranked fishing lake. What I can't do here: birding, hiking, fishing and my favorite sport -- ice hockey. In North Dakota, that is the name of the game.


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