People without health insurance might fret about steep medical bills at the first sign of illness.
Once a month, they now have a place to turn in Columbia County for their medical needs.
The first Saturday, the Columbia County Health Department and volunteer physicians will offer free services for those who are uninsured and impoverished from 8 a.m. to noon at the Harlem/Grovetown Clinic.
These services range from physicals to checkups, but don't include emergency assistance or psychiatric and physiological evaluation.
The clinic will open its doors to the public again Saturday.
The clinic's location was determined by the convenience for patients.
"We wanted to put it where we felt like the people who would need it and use it the most would not have as far to come," said Phyllis Roland, the health department's facility administrator.
The lack of affordable health insurance is a big problem for most Americans, she said.
"What we see in our community is a lot of working adults who do not make enough money to purchase health insurance," Roland said. "We realize that access to health care is a major issue everywhere in our country, and we see more and more Americans who have no resources for health care."
Everyone working at the clinic is volunteering. The health department's own staff also is rotating shifts, Roland said.
The department is donating its resources, and physicians are donating their time.
Dr. Chitra Mani is one of those physicians.
Mani, a pediatrician specializing in pediatric infectious diseases at the Medical College of Georgia, and some colleagues helped jump-start the clinic.
"A lot of families don't go to physicians because they can't afford it, and we want to provide them the basic primary care," Mani said.
Certain services, such as X-rays and blood work, might require a fee but are offered at discounted rates.
Three physicians volunteered when the clinic opened Feb. 2.
"We've already had a very positive response," Mani said, "We've had so many people asking if they could come and help, so we're very happy about that. We hope that they will continue to help."
Mani and Roland say they hope the service will expand to include additional assistance.
The cost is free for any patient at or below 200 percent of the 2008 Federal Poverty Guidelines, which can be found at www.hhs.gov.
Patients cannot have insurance, Medicaid, Medicare or PeachCare, and are urged to make appointments by calling (706) 556-3727.
For more information, visit columbiacountyga.gov.
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