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Glenwood doctor offers medical services at Extended Table

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
John Gardner/Post IndependentDr. Maria Chansky demonstrates a health checkup on an Extended Table volunteer. Chansky volunteers to provide medical services for those in need every other Tuesday at the Extended Table in Glenwood Springs.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Dr. Maria Chansky drives to Silt from her home in Glenwood Springs, four days of the week, for her job at the Silt Medical Clinic.

Chansky has worked for Glenwood Medical Associates for the past seven years.

Every other Tuesday, for the past year, when Chansky leaves her Silt office to return to Glenwood, she makes a special stop at the Extended Table in the basement of the First United Methodist Church on Cooper Avenue.

The Extended Table, a volunteer effort to provide meals to those in need, operates five nights a week. But Chansky doesn’t go for the food. She goes as a doctor.

Chansky said that she was asked by Donna Roberts, who used to work as the receptionist at GMA, to help out with some of the medical needs of the Extended Table’s clients.

“[Roberts] thought, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if a doctor went down to help out?'” Chansky said.

Roberts, who volunteers with other member from the New Creation Church near Canyon Creek on Tuesday nights to prepare and serve meals, said that she’d attempted to get a doctor to help out for about 18 months. Last winter, when the economy took a nose dive and the Extended Table saw an increase in clients needing food, Roberts said that the increase in need of some minor medical help rose as well.

“People kept asking me if I could help, but I couldn’t,” Roberts said. “My only other option was to take them to the ER.”

That’s when Chansky stepped in to help.

Being a makeshift clinic, Chansky can only offer urgent and chronic health care. Her resources are limited in the sense that she doesn’t have the ability to take X-rays, or have blood work done. But she can treat basic health problems like high-blood pressure, allergies, skin irritations, and minor injuries like cuts. She can also treat illnesses such as bronchitis.

“Only things that I can follow simply, like depression or high-blood pressure,” Chansky said.

Tuesday, Dec. 29, Chansky was again in the basement clinic at the Extended Table. About 10 people waited patiently after their warm meal to see the doctor.

“Como esta?” Chansky said to a Hispanic man who entered the room.

She quickly grabs the stethoscope and continues asking questions in Spanish. The man responds with short answers.

Chansky listens to his breathing, moving the stethoscope half-a-dozen times to different areas on his chest and back.

She grabs the stainless-steel pinpoint flashlight and requests that he open his mouth.

He does. She checks his mouth. She shines the light in his eyes, and away.

A few more questions yield more short responses. She prescribes some “antibiotico,” she says. And the gentleman gets up and walks out the door.

Another man enters.

“Sometimes she’ll see two people. Other nights she could have a dozen lined up,” Roberts said. “But she stays here until they’ve all been helped.”

No one is turned away.

“I don’t have any criteria,” Chansky said. “If they walk in the door and need help, I’ll take a look at them.”

While some of the patients she sees at the Extended Table are homeless, Chansky said that through conversations with patients she’s discovered a lot of them have lost their health insurance due to a loss of work in the past year. Now, they can’t afford a doctor’s office visit.

“There are an awful lot of people here who are out of work; I mean hard-working people who can’t find jobs right now and who don’t have access to a lot of other clinics,” Chansky said.

That is why she enlisted the help of fellow colleague Greg Holley, a physician’s assistant for GMA, who has agreed to fill in on the Tuesdays when Chansky is not there.

“That way there will be a doctor here every week,” Chansky said.

For Holley, this type of work is part of the reason he entered the medical field as a career. Holley said that he’s done some work abroad, and found that in recent months, the need for health care domestically is just as great as it is internationally.

“I’m finding, with the economy and the way things are, that there’s just as much need in the United States, in our backyard, as internationally,” Holley said, “as far as with people needing medical attention and those who cannot afford it.”

Chansky said that the patients are thankful for her services.

“All of the national programs are not doing anything for these guys. We’re doing it locally,” Chansky said. She added, “They are pretty happy to get someone who is willing to help and listen to their stories.”

For the next few months, Holley will cover the every other Tuesday night clinic while Chansky is on sabbatical. Upon her return the pair will swap every other Tuesday to provide limited health care once a week to those who need.

It’s something that they both gain satisfaction from.

“It’s just rewarding to help out people who are just in a rough spot,” Chansky said.

jgardner@postindependent.com


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