Warner Robins health clinic treating the needy

mstucka@macon.comMarch 4, 2014 

Katherine McLeod, CEO of First Choice Primary Care, prepares to cut the ribbon for the new Warner Robins clinic Tuesday.

MIKE STUCKA/THE TELEGRAPH — mstucka@macon.com Buy Photo

WARNER ROBINS -- On Monday, a new health clinic took in six new patients and saw some repeat visitors. On Tuesday, the First Choice Primary Care clinic celebrated its official ribbon cutting, marking progress toward treating some of the health problems that are common on the north side of the city.

Hazel Sloan, the organization’s chief financial officer, said about half the patients the clinic has seen have no insurance, and others have high-deductible plans.

“This is definitely helping,” she said. “A lot of patients may have been visiting ERs or the after-hours clinics” instead of getting regular care.

The new clinic is specializing in getting regular, stable care to patients, many of whom have diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic problems that can easily, and expensively, spiral out of control.

Daniel “D.C.” Childs, who grew up near the clinic site at 207 Green St., said its location puts it within a mile of plenty of needy residents, many of whom don’t have health insurance or transportation. Childs predicted the clinic would reduce the amount of emergency room visits and get people treated in the most appropriate way. His fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, will work to promote the clinic because many of the people who need its services won’t know about it.

That was echoed by Aaron Frazier, one of the state’s official health care Navigators, a person who is trained to help others examine their health care options.

“People need to know we’re open, because we’re here for them,” Frazier said.

The clinic began seeing patients on a part-time basis Jan. 10 but is now open every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Its staff includes doctors Tim Graves and Jennifer Evans, as well as nurse practitioner Gwen Riggins. First Choice Primary Care is a Macon-based nonprofit, which opened the Warner Robins clinic with a $650,000, 18-month grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Plans call for a dozen staff members at the site.

“As soon as we add more patients, we’ll add more people,” Sloan said.

Inside the remodeled building are six exam rooms, as well as equipment that can help test for common problems, from diabetes and cholesterol to lead poisoning.

Frazier and his coworkers are also planning a March 22 “enrollment blitz” to help people determine eligibility and find a plan in the health insurance marketplace. Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act ends March 31. People who miss the deadline will have to enroll this fall for next year. For information on the enrollment blitz, call 478-225-9449.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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