Health clinic to serve Harrisburg neighborhood

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With help from the city government and some of the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood's unspent campaign funds, Harrisburg will soon have a neighborhood walk-in clinic for under- and uninsured residents, allowing them to keep up with their health and hopefully keep them out of emergency rooms for minor ailments.

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Gloria Norwood (left) and Marsha Jones give a tour of the new Harrisburg Family Healthcare Clinic in Augusta on Thursday.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Gloria Norwood (left) and Marsha Jones give a tour of the new Harrisburg Family Healthcare Clinic in Augusta on Thursday.

Neither Gloria Norwood nor her late husband ever lived in Harrisburg or have roots there. But she's nonetheless been drawn to the cause of turning around the poverty-ridden neighborhood. For the past year and a half she has been volunteering with St. Luke United Methodist Church's girls choir and Harrisburg Sisterhood, programs that get middle school-age girls off the streets.

"I really feel like God has put it in my heart to be active in this community, to the extent that I can be," said Mrs. Norwood, who was steered to St. Luke's by a friend in her Sunday school class at Trinity-on-the-Hill United Methodist.

Now Mrs. Norwood and Marsha Jones, St. Luke's music and outreach director, are embarking on their next mission: the Harrisburg Family Healthcare Clinic, scheduled to open Sept. 2 in the front section of the Hobart Sales and Service restaurant equipment building at Crawford Avenue and Hicks Street.

Building owner Owen Nine is letting the clinic use about a third of the building free of charge. Six months ago, it was warehouse space with concrete floors and concrete block walls, but it has since been converted into a medical clinic with a triage area, two exam rooms, two offices and a classroom/conference room. The renovations cost about $40,000 -- $25,000 of which came from Mr. Norwood's campaign war chest, monies which legally have to be given to charitable causes -- along with donated labor and materials.

On Tuesday the Augusta Commission approved routing $25,000 in contingency funds to the clinic's start-up operations, a move pushed by Commissioner Jerry Brigham.

Working with the girls at St. Luke's, Mrs. Jones said she got bothered hearing them tell of trips to emergency rooms for earaches and colds.

She and Mrs. Norwood thought the Hobart building would be an ideal place for a clinic, so they formed a nonprofit, Good Neighbor Ministries, to make it happen.

"From the church's point of view, healing is a very important way to communicate the love of Christ," Mrs. Jones said.

Michael Shaffer, who was once a district director for Mr. Norwood and later a spokesman for the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, is serving as the clinic's executive director.

He said the plan is to have one doctor and one nurse practitioner on staff, possibly on a rotating basis. Operations will take ongoing fundraising, and the clinic has a verbal commitment for assistance from University Hospital, he said.

The clinic will offer primary care and be open for four hours per day on Wednesdays and Thursdays only, Mr. Shaffer said. Patients could get physicals and flu shots there and be seen for minor problems such as chest pains, back pains, coughs and fevers.

"The idea is to give the people of Harrisburg the same experience that you or I would have if we went into a doctor's office," Mr. Shaffer said.

If something requires a specialist, a patient could be referred through Project Access, where doctors donate services to the indigent and uninsured. Another service will be education -- classes on diabetes, blood pressure, exercise, diet and prenatal care -- helping to break cycles of obesity and teenage pregnancy, Mr. Shaffer said.

The clinic will not be free. Patients would pay on a sliding scale, probably about $15 per visit.

"One way a person maintains their dignity is to be expected to contribute," Mrs. Jones said.

"Don't get me wrong," Mr. Shaffer said. "If somebody walked through the door and didn't have a penny, they're not gonna' get turned back out."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

TO DONATE

To make a donation to Good Neighbor Ministries for the Harrisburg Family Healthcare Clinic, contact Executive Director Michael Shaffer at (706) 533-0983, or m.shaffer@me.com.

OTHER HARRISBURG DEVELOPMENTS

A planned protest outside the Forest Hills home of a Harrisburg landlord has been called off, but activists are holding the Aug. 8 date for picketing another property owner.

Organizer Lori Davis said John B. Weigle Jr., who owns 223 Eve St., one of three properties targeted as a "nuisance" during a Fourth of July march against absentee landlords and drug peddling, has agreed to a meeting.

"Right now, they're willing to negotiate, and we're going on to the next person," she said. "It's a victory."

Mrs. Davis said the next target will likely be the owners of 1841 Watkins St., Emory and Rachel Rabitsch, who live in Evans. Mr. Rabitsch maintains that his tenants are good people who keep up with their rent payments, and he's not willing to evict them because they have friends over or because a man was arrested for having a small amount of marijuana there last week.

"That's fine. Let them do it," Mr. Rabitsch said of a demonstration. "They're not gonna' dictate how I run my business."

Comments (7) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/24/09 - 05:20 am
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This is how you provide

This is how you provide healthcare to the uninsured. It can be done soooooo cheaply compared to the monstrosity healthcare plan Obama is proposing.

Lumbarsupport
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Lumbarsupport 07/24/09 - 06:11 am
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Too bad this will be illegal

Too bad this will be illegal after the implimentation of nationalized health care plan.

CorporalGripweed
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CorporalGripweed 07/24/09 - 07:33 am
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Gyn Express and Birth Control

Gyn Express and Birth Control Source opened almost three years ago to help the uninsured with low cost women's health care. A visit is $60. It is not indegent care, but works for the employed uninsured. It is going to take this type of vision from Docs all over the US to keep socialized medicine out of America. We can fix the problem ourselves, without gov't intervention. Glad to see others helping the uninsured.

WW1949
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WW1949 07/24/09 - 08:44 am
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tcdse, you are blinded. The

tcdse, you are blinded. The socialized health plan will be paid for by higher taxes on the working class, middle income and higher income taxpayer. Our tax rate will be higher than that of England and France which now stands at 46%. We are now giving away too much in the form of welfare, food stamps and other entitlements brought on by the great society ideas. I am just sick and tired of the nonworking that think the working owe them something. By the way what is Kool-Aid mean?

WW1949
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WW1949 07/24/09 - 08:55 am
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A comment to the article

A comment to the article above. Maybe the people leading the protests should go thru the Harrisburg community and take up a collection to repair the houses they do not like. Most of the people living in the older homes can't pay any more rent and if the landlord spends alot of money to fix them up then the rent has to be raised to cover the costs over an extended time.

jack
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jack 07/24/09 - 09:46 am
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The only monstrosity in the

The only monstrosity in the health care plan is the lack of a single payer component. Riverman is, as usual, deluded by the Kool-Aid.
Posted by tcdse on Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:17 AM....only a fool who has not read and listened to those who are exposing this government monstrosity would make such a statement. Obviously, YOU must be drinking 150 proof DIMocRAT kookaid.

jack
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jack 07/24/09 - 09:50 am
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WW1949, if those people

WW1949, if those people living in Harisburg are renters, then why aren't the landlords being forced to revitalize their property rather than we tax payers? We tax payers do NOT owe either the land lords or the renters OUR hard earned money to live there. I am wiling to help the eldderly and handicapped but NOT the crack heads that now hang out and live in Harisburg.

Riverman1
93727
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Riverman1 07/24/09 - 02:11 pm
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TCDSE, so you want to see a

TCDSE, so you want to see a single payer health care plan. This is delicious. You want all payments by individuals to go to a single system which is also paying medical care costs for everyone. Beautiful in a perverse way. So...if millions are paying nothing what happens to the health care of those who are already paying? Do you think they get less? Troublesome numbers, I realize.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 07/24/09 - 02:46 pm
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Don't you think this health

Don't you think this health clinic might attract more of the types of ppl to Harrisburg that Palmer and his gang are trying to run out?

WW1949
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WW1949 07/24/09 - 08:09 pm
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Jack, I agree with you 100%.

Jack, I agree with you 100%. The point I was trying to make is that the landlords do not get enough rent from the tenants to do much repair. If they do the repairs then the quality of the people living in the homes is such that most do not care. They park cars on the lawns. Throw beer cans everywhere and have all kind of junk in their yards. In two weeks it will look like they did nothing. I and you own no one anything. That is why I never give money away to any organization collecting or anyone at stop lights. I give to the individual so I know where the money goes.

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