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Women’s health clinic reopens

POSTED: March 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Nurses Jennifer Workman, left, and Maresa Helton go over charts at the Atlanta Street Clinic. The women's health clinic has been repaired and reopened after damage from a water leak closed it in January.

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Despite a few setbacks, a small clinic is continuing to provide women’s health services at a Gainesville housing project.

Since 1997, the Atlanta Street Clinic has been serving clients in the Green Hunter Homes complex at Atlanta Street and E.E. Butler Parkway. The community is one of six operated by the Gainesville Housing Authority.

"The housing authority approached us about it back then," said Dave Palmer, spokesman for District 2 Public Health in Gainesville. "At the time, there were a lot of women who didn’t have transportation to the Hall County Health Department."

The clinic was started with funds from a state program aimed at preventing teen pregnancy. Jennifer Parker, women’s health coordinator for District 2, said the funding was discontinued last October.

"But Dr. (David) Westfall (medical director for District 2) felt the need was so strong in Hall that we decided to continue," she said.

Though the clinic is only open a few days each month, it logs about 200 patient visits each year.

"It’s used by tenants from all six of our complexes, which have a total of 495 apartments," said Judith Escamilla, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority.

The clinic occupies a tiny space in a building that’s used as a community center. Because there’s not much room, patients are seen only by appointment.

"They’re booked up all the time," Parker said. "A lot of our patients love it because it’s more intimate than the Hall County Health Department."

Palmer said patients are charged the same as they would be at the health department, on a sliding fee scale based on income.

Open every Tuesday and every other Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the clinic is staffed by a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse. A nurse practitioner is also there one day a month.

Parker said the services offered are similar to those in the women’s program at the health department: physical exams, breast cancer screening, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

The nurses who staff the clinic also work at the health department and in other District 2 programs.

"We’d like to expand the (clinic’s) hours, but there are only certain days when we could spare someone," Parker said.

Many of the women have young children, and Escamilla said she’d like to see the clinic offer immunizations, but the facility isn’t equipped to handle that service.

Still, they’re lucky to have the clinic at all. During a bitter cold spell in January, an overhead pipe froze and burst, forcing the clinic to close until the water damage could be repaired.

When it reopened a month later, the rooms had a fresh coat of paint.

"It looks real nice," Parker said. "We’re excited that it’s opened back up, and we’re so thankful to the housing authority."

Escamilla said the clinic’s existence may boost morale among tenants because it creates an impression that someone cares about their well-being.

"The clients say they like the one-on-one with the nurses. They don’t feel they’re treated as if they were just a number," she said. "And having the clinic convenient to them makes it more likely that they will use the services."



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