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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trailer needed, clinic closes abruptly


LONG BEACH -- Last week's abrupt closure of Coastal Family Health Center has left some patients angry, confused and in some cases despondent.

"Some of our patients, the older ones, said they just want to cry," said medical assistant Terri Scully, who transferred from Long Beach to the Bay St. Louis office after the closure. The call came last Monday, she said, and they were closed by Thursday night. Patients were directed to Bay St. Louis or Gulfport for services.

Patients have been calling her all week, she said. Many lack transportation, and tell her they don't know how they'll get to Coastal Family Health's other clinics. Theirs was a small clinic, and patients feel like they've been abandoned, she said.

One of those patients is Charles Tuttle, who lived a short distance from the clinic. He showed up Wednesday to find the clinic closed. Tuttle, who is uninsured, battles a head injury that requires continuous care, which he gets from Coastal Family Health. Sometimes he can drive and sometimes he can't, and both Gulfport and Bay St. Louis are too far.

The Long Beach clinic opened after Katrina, in a borrowed trailer off Espy Road. It was meant to be temporary, said Coastal Family Health Director Joe Dawsey. They were supposed to return it in July, but he requested an extension until December.

Then the owners of the trailer, Family Health Care Clinic in Pearl, asked for it back last week. Dr. Margaret Gray, FHCC's executive director, said it was needed for a new clinic opening Dec. 1. Given the amount of time he had to move equipment, clean and transport the module, Dawsey said he felt he had to return it right away.

Gray said she was unaware her request would disrupt services in the area, and said she has moved a clinic before without issues. She said she did not kick the clinic out of its home. Dawsey said there will always be gaffes in any move.

"My main concern with the short notice - it was impossible to contact all the patients," said Dr. Sam McCreedy, staff doctor for the clinic. He worries patients will think it was his decision.

Dawsey said they are looking for another permanent location in the Long Beach-Pass Christian area.

For Lisa Thompson the Long Beach closure is a disappointment. She called Friday for a follow-up to some tests and was shocked the phone was disconnected. She called the Gulfport clinic, which couldn't tell her anything. The diabetic cares for five children, and can't afford to get to Bay St. Louis as often as her family needs care. But she'll go, she said, because of Dr. McCreedy.

The thing she'll miss most will be the homey atmosphere of the Long Beach clinic and the friendly staff.

"It made you feel like less of the demographic you were in," she said.

© 2007 Sun Herald. All Rights Reserved.

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Dr. Sam said...

Nice Blog. Keep it up!

Ana Maria said...

Thanks, Doc!