Health clinic nears opening in Fort Valley

FORT VALLEY — More than a year ago, evangelist Al Sanders of the Feed Center had a vision: to open up a free clinic in the Fort Valley area for the uninsured.

Then he got to work.

First, he had to submit the requisite paperwork to the Department of Community Health. Then he had to seek donations — everything from medicine to doctors’ time.

June 16, the Feed Center Medical Clinic is scheduled to open its doors to its first patients in the Physician’s Specialty Center at Peach Regional Medical Center. The clinic will operate from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Uninsured patients will have access to primary health-care services by appointment only.

“We know there’s a need for this,” Sanders said. “We’re just filling the void.”

The clinic was made a possible through the Georgia Volunteer Health Care Program. The program provides immunity protection for licensed health-care professionals when they’re volunteering their services to qualified patients. Those who may be eligible include people who qualify for Medicaid, lack dental insurance, earn income at or below the federal poverty level or are a client of the Department of Community Health, according to the community-health program’s Web site.

Sanders said five doctors, seven nurses and six clerical workers have signed on to volunteer.

The donated space will consist of a registration area, waiting room, three treatment rooms and a doctor’s office.

“This free clinic will meet many needs and has long been needed in this community,” said Nancy Peed, hospital administrator with Peach Regional Medical Center.

Once the free clinic at the hospital is up and running, Sanders said, plans call for opening a second location on Carver Drive across from the Feed Center’s headquarters. That location will be closer to more people who need the services, he said. The program is also trying to add a dentist.

“We want to be in the community,” Sanders said.

Part of the community emphasis will come in the form of education.

Tonya Howard, who serves as the Feed Center’s youth director and works on the clinic’s board, said particular attention will be paid to sickle cell anemia.

Howard, who was diagnosed with the disease at birth, said the disease is killing people because they’re not knowledgeable about it.

“This free clinic is going to help a lot of people and open a lot of people’s eyes about their health,” she said.

A lot of work has been done, Sanders said, but he still plans to seek funding from community businesses and banks to help with the facility.

At the end of the day, he said, the most important thing is getting medical help to the people who need it the most.

“Being a faith-based organization, we have to do this right,” Sanders said.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-6199, extension 236.