Job woes double patient load at free medical clinic’s new F’ville site


Fayette CARE Clinic, a non-profit that provides free medical care to uninsured residents of Fayette County, has a new location.

The clinic is now located in the 1260 professional building directly across Ga. Highway 54 West from Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

The clinic’s mission has not changed, rather it has grown due to the stumbling economy as more Fayette residents find themselves out of jobs and unable to afford COBRA payments, said CARE Clinic Executive Director Sheryl Watford.

From Jan. 1 through last week, the clinic registered 370 new patients alone, nearly double their expected rate, Watford said.

“They don’t have the money for COBRA, a house payment and food on the table,” Watford said.

That’s where the CARE Clinic comes in. With generous support from more than 150 volunteers and both cash and in-kind donations from numerous local companies, the clinic meets the medical, dental and vision needs of Fayette’s uninsured residents who otherwise might have nowhere to turn except the local emergency room.

Last year, the clinic provided $1.06 million in services to the community for a cost of just more than $201,000, Watford said.

Most of the clinic’s patients need help managing symptoms from chronic conditions ranging from diabetes to hypertension and depression as well as dental and vision care.

The clinic’s new location is nearly double the size of its former site, and patients have reacted very positively to the new location, Watford said.

“They say, ‘I feel like I have insurance and I’m at a regular practice with my own physician,’” Watford said.

The clinic’s phone number has also changed. It is now 770-719-4620.

Building owner Group VI made custom building modifications to accommodate the clinic’s needs such as a special area to house the dental panoramic X-ray machine. The move was accomplished in November with contributions from Trinity Air, Fitzgerald Plumbing and Patterson Dental. RK Technology provided a new computer network.

The rest was done by volunteers, including many from the Fayette Daybreak Rotary Club, who moved so quickly that the clinic didn’t miss any patient appointments, Watford said.

A grant from United Way and Kaiser Permanente has provided CARE Clinic with all-new dental exam equipment and funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta has provided needed funds to sustain operations and increase the patients served, Watford added.

The CARE Clinic went from having very little parking to a copious amount of parking. The former building, which served well, also had no central heating and air and had just one restroom. It also lacked sinks in each individual room for medical staff to wash their hands.

All that has changed thanks to the support from Group VI, Watford noted. The result has been not just an improvement in the number of patients served but an opportunity for CARE Clinic to grow.

The need for dental care among Fayette’s uninsured is so large that the CARE Clinic would like to have more dentists to help with general dentistry who can help cut down on the waiting list for the services, Watford said.

The clinic partners with All Medical Resources, a non-profit that works directly with pharmaceutical companies to provide medicine to uninsured and underinsured patients at little or no cost.

Piedmont Fayette Hospital and Outpatient Imaging (OPI) continue to provide in-kind services for clinic patients, Watford said. And the Clothes Less Traveled thrift shop contributes significantly toward rent for the facility.

The clinic is also establishing an intern program so medical students in various fields can earn credit while volunteering for the clinic at the same time. The program is a cooperative effort with Griffin Tech, Clayton State University and the Central Education Center in Newnan, Watford said.