Hope Clinic seeks expansion funds

LAWRENCEVILLE - Officials from the Hope Clinic will go before the county commission tonight to secure federal funds for the expansion of the chronic care facility that nearly half of the county's indigent patients visit.

The $1.9 million federal grant would fund an expansion of the facility - namely, the addition of several examination rooms - and would give the Hope Clinic sole ownership of its Pike Street location. About $82,000 will go toward purchasing a digital X-ray machine.

The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Pam Martin, the executive director of Hope Clinic, said the grant will help alleviate overcrowding and will allow the clinic to hire another doctor, a step toward establishing a more stable indigent care niche in Gwinnett.

The expansion, she said, will cut notoriously long wait times. On Tuesday morning, the wait was nearly two-and-a-half hours.

"We hope to cut wait time by being able to increase capacity by up to 33 percent in the near-term and 50 percent in the long-term," she said.

The grant also will transfer ownership of the facility to the Hope Clinic. In effect, this will leave the clinic with an additional $7,000 a month, money that is now used for rent. With the added cash, the facility will be able to hire another doctor that Martin says could be key in establishing a much-needed niche in terms of better servicing the poor. Of the 8,000 patients the clinic services, 5,000 are uninsured. And that number is growing daily, she said, with just two doctors on staff.

The clinic treats a variety of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure.

"It's fixing to bite us," she said. "We need to build up this part of health care in this county."

Under a provision in the grant, the county would assume ownership of the facility should the Hope Clinic go out of business, Martin said.