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Health fair fills gap for uninsured
Patients thankful for free care
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Theresa Lopez takes a blood sample Saturday from Jose Mendoza during the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Health Fair. - photo by Tom Reed

As health care costs have increased significantly in recent years, more families are struggling to receive the care they need.

A free health fair Saturday in Gainesville aimed to ease some of those struggles.

Northeast Georgia Physicians Group held the health fair at its clinic on Jesse Jewell Parkway and offered various services to people who are unable to afford medical costs.

"The main purpose of this is to try to provide a service to the community for some people that might otherwise not be able to afford a screening," physician Antonio Rios said.

Some of the services offered included breast exams, prostate checks, foot exams, vision screening, dental consultations and blood sugar and pressure checks.

The group tries to hold two free health clinics each year, Rios said.

Physicians hoped to treat about 300 patients Saturday, and because of a couple morning rushes, Rios said that goal was probably met.

All the physicians and other medical providers volunteered their time at the fair.

"There's a satisfaction of providing a service to people you know that probably have been wanting to get their PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels done or their blood sugar levels done or they don't have insurance and wouldn't otherwise get it," Rios said.

Practice Administrator Jackie Summerour said the fair was all about giving back to others who need assistance.

"Giving to the community for those who may not be able to just have basic screening care, so this is our way of giving back," she said.

Patients at the health fair were thankful for the free care because without insurance, many families don't receive the routine care they need.

"With the way that medical rates are now, it's ridiculous," Amanda Yorkie said.

Enrique Salcido and his wife found the fair to be an opportunity to receive a checkup they otherwise couldn't afford. Their two children have health insurance, but costs to provide for Salcido and his wife are too expensive, he said.

"We wanted to have a checkup because we don't have any insurance, so I think this is a very good opportunity to get some work done," Salcido said.

"Right now the insurance is too expensive where I work, so it's kind of tough to get insurance anywhere else."

Some of the patients that are treated are found to have health issues such as prostate cancer or diabetes, but Rios said it's better they were able to diagnose it before it's too late.

"Unfortunately, we do screen some patients positive ... but at least you can get those at a moment where maybe there's still a good time and you prevent complications," Rios said.

Summerour said the physicians group hopes to expand the health fair each year to include more patients.

"Each year we like to grow and get a little bit more," she said.

The next free health fair is tentatively scheduled for next October or November, Summerour said.

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