Local health care providers say there is marginal evidence that fewer Hispanic patients are seeking care in Hall County.
At the Hall County Health Department, the total number of patient visits hasn't changed much. Dave Palmer, spokesman for District 2 Public Health in Gainesville, said there were 8,887 total visits in fiscal year 2007, compared to about 8,630 in 2008.
But those totals include visits for all types of services. The difference becomes more noticeable if you look only at the health department's obstetrics clinic for pregnant women.
According to the clinic's records, 55 new patients came in for obstetrics care in August 2008, compared to 124 new patients in August 2007.
There were 742 total OB visits in August 2008, compared to 1,017 in August 2007.
And 115 patients came in for pregnancy tests in August 2008, versus 167 in August 2007. Those numbers could indirectly show a drop in Hispanic residents, because the health department's obstetric service is used almost exclusively by Hispanic women.
"Our OB clinic is about 90 percent Hispanic," said Palmer.
At Good News Clinics, which provides free care to the poor in Gainesville, director Cheryl Christian said there has been a "slight decrease" in the number of Hispanic patients.
But at the same time, she said, "We are seeing an increase in Caucasian non-Hispanics seeking care, especially people in their 50s and 60s who have lost their jobs and their insurance."
Christian said in August 2008, there were a total of 685 patient visits for medical services, and 364 of those were Hispanic patients. Last November, she said, there were 502 Hispanic patient visits. "But it dropped down to the mid-300s in December, and it's been at about that level ever since."
At Northeast Georgia Medical Center, spokeswoman Katie Dubnik said there doesn't seem to have been much of a decline in the number of Hispanic patients using the hospital for care.
"The fluctuations in our numbers are insignificant," she said. "We really haven't seen much of a change in our Hispanic population."