Free Medical Clinic Opens in Sister Bay

Practicing good medicine has always been first for Dr. Joan Traver and nurse practitioner Martha Coventry. The regulations and insurance paperwork that goes with it just gets in the way.

But at their new clinic, Coventry Care, Coventry and Traver won’t be filling out paperwork. They won’t be scheduling appointments. They won’t be billing insurance companies.

They will be practicing medicine, plain and simple, without charging a dime to the uninsured or underinsured patients who walk into their free clinic.

Martha Coventry and Joan Traver are opening a free medical clinic in Sister Bay.

“The idea was we could do something that doesn’t require all that insurance paperwork and take care of people who needed to be taken care of,” Coventry said.

The clinic is scheduled to open Monday, Nov. 18, at 10547 Koessl Lane in Sister Bay, near the Country Walk Shops. It will be open for walk-in appointments on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 to 11 am.

Traver and Coventry will see patients for acute and chronic problems such as earaches, sore throats, cuts, blood pressure screenings, diabetes management and general wellness exams. They have a laboratory and can do some diagnostics to help patients decide if they need to get more care. Patients needing emergency care should still call 911.

“What we’re trying to do is help people who have limited income not lose that income. One of the leading causes of bankruptcy in Door County is lack of medical insurance,” Traver said. “More than 30 million Americans have absolutely no form of health care [even with the Affordable Care Act in place]… So if their kid breaks an arm or has appendicitis they lose their house. We’re trying to be in a position to prevent that.”

The clinic is meant for patients without insurance or those with high deductible plans who can’t afford care.

“[Those patients] always balance that cost,” Coventry said. “If you had insurance that covered it all and you only had a $20 co-pay, you wouldn’t hesitate twice to get something taken care of. If you’re not on Medicare that’s not what you have. Most people I know have that high deductible insurance.”

“I love medicine,” Traver said. “I see people desperately ill and even dying for lack of care, and I should do something about it.”

Coventry Care is very close to the Community Clinic of Door County’s Sister Bay location, but Traver said the clinics should complement each other. Coventry Care doesn’t do counseling, family planning, acupuncture or massage therapy so they’ll send patients to the Community Clinic for those services. The Community Clinic will refer patients with urgent care needs in Northern Door to Coventry Care.

“We’re not doing what they’re doing and they’re not doing what we’re doing,” Traver said. “We intend to be working together. We don’t have enough of anything for us to be competition.”

Coventry Care is stocked with equipment from Traver’s clinic, which she closed last year when she retired from her private practice.

“I love medicine,” Traver said. “I see people desperately ill and even dying for lack of care, and I should do something about it.”

Coventry Care is a nonprofit clinic, and Traver and Coventry have applied for federal 501c3 status. They hope to fund the clinic through donations of money and volunteer help, and by selling pieces of art people donate to the gallery housed in the clinic.

The gallery, home to pieces as diverse as a cross-stitch portrait of Jesus to a Karsten Topelmann painting, serves two purposes. Selling pieces of art donated to the clinic will help generate some revenue to fund the medical practice, and having a gallery in the building could help disguise the purpose of patients’ visits.

“Up here everyone knows everyone else’s business, so if there’s an art gallery and medical services they don’t know which one [you’re here for] if they see your car out front,” Traver said. “If you only have [a building] as one thing, like a counseling service, it never flies because who’s going to park their car outside of that?”