Originally created 01/25/00

New clinic set to open today



For once, the battered and dingy file drawers looked out of place in the records room. Berine Davis and co-workers at the Richmond County Health Department carefully transferred files out of the old and into the new cabinets as they prepared for the opening of the new clinic today.

At 8 a.m., the doors will open on the health department's new $7 million clinic at 950 Laney-Walker Blvd., weather permitting.

Boxes sprouted everywhere as the deadline approached Monday.

"We open tomorrow, and look at this place," said Jane Oglesby, county nurse manager, standing amid a sea of boxes. "We've got most of the clinical areas set up to offer services. We're just going to have boxes everywhere."

The new building replaces the old clinic on Broad Street, a dilapidated "temporary" home since 1982. The new building boasts 43,000 square feet, nearly double what Broad Street had, and it brings together the dental and tuberculosis clinics, which had been housed elsewhere, said Danny Starling, director of facility management.

The new clinic will feature a new system for handling most clients, with each taking a number and a seat until they're called into records and then into a clinic, Mr. Starling said. In the old clinic, patients just stood in line until they could be seen, Mr. Starling said.

"Here, we're going to try and keep everybody from standing in line," Mr. Starling said, surveying the spacious and quiet lobby.

The closing on Broad Street and the opening on Laney-Walker is a double victory for downtown development, said Charles DeVaney, interim president of Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. The new clinic "is a major force for that area," Mr. DeVaney said. And now plans can move forward with the Augusta Commons, demolishing some Broad Street buildings to create a park area to connect Broad and Reynolds streets, Mr. DeVaney said.

"It certainly gives a green light for work to begin on the Commons," he said.

The new clinic will be dedicated in a ceremony that is still to be scheduled. Three Augusta public health advocates -- former board Chairman Charles Presley, the late Dr. Rufus Payne and the late Dr. William L. Griffin -- also will be remembered by naming parts of the building after them. Those areas also will be dedicated later.

A new clinic had been discussed for many years as the county struggled to find an alternative to Broad Street. The decrepit file drawers Mrs. Davis emptied Monday are "dinosaurs," she said, laughing.

Comparing the other facilities to the new building, Mrs. Davis coins a phrase that could become the new slogan for the clinic.

"Bigger. Better. Cleaner," she said.

ReachTom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.