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Hearts and Hands is on target

Free health clinic to start treating patients June 22

Hearts and Hands is on target

Hearts and Hands is on target

Morris Stevens, left, describes his t...

      At the Hearts and Hands Clinic Wednesday, Morris Stevens was waiting to be examined by optometrist Dr. Krystal Bragg. Stevens has cataracts that have affected his vision for several years.
      “I’m here to see what kind of help I can get,” Stevens said. “This clinic will help me and a lot of folks I know. We’ve needed someplace like this for a long time.”
      Springing from an idea tossed about by two Georgia Southern students in January 2009, the Hearts and Hands Clinic now has a facility, the commitment of physicians, dentists and vision professionals to provide care and the support of a diverse Board of Directors. The clinic also now has a target date to start treating primary care patients - June 22 - at its offices in the Son‘s Light Fellowship Baptist Church on Highway 301 South.
      “We know the need and we’ll be ready to start serving that need on June 22nd,” said George Chappell, the president and chief operating officer of the Hearts and Hands Clinic. “We have some pieces that need to come together. But we have the most important piece now in place - a fully committed board.” 
      Board members include representatives from East Georgia Regional Medical Center, Georgia Southern and Ogeechee Technical College, along with business leaders from around Bulloch County.
      The idea to open Hearts and Hands began to take shape in January 2009 when Georgia Southern pre-medical students Andres Montes and Emmie Boyer saw a need. And while the first organizing steps were taken by Georgia Southern students, Montes said the Bulloch community has fully embraced the clinic.
      “It’s important for everyone to understand that Hearts and Hands is here to stay,” Montes said. “This is not just a Georgia Southern student project that’s going away when I go to medical school. The clinic will only get bigger.”
      Five community physicians will be involved in the start-up, including Dr. Mark Bisseck and Dr. W. Scott Bohlke.
      "My wife Jennifer and I are very excited to be a part of the project to establish a free health clinic here in Statesboro," Dr. Bohlke said back in February. "There is a definite need for one in our community. I look forward to continuing to reach out to the medical community on behalf of the Hearts and Hands Clinic and encourage my peers to join this effort."

Opening the clinic
      Chappel said the primary care clinic will be open initially from 6 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday evening starting June 22. Initially, six appointments will be scheduled per doctor for the two-hour time frame. Patients with appointments are asked to arrive at least 30 minutes early to ensure all paperwork is in order.
      Chappell said Hearts and Hands is not an urgent care center and will not offer emergency services. It will provide primary, preventative health care like seeing people with viruses, helping patients monitor diabetes or high blood pressure.  Also, the clinic will only treat patients 18 and older when it opens.
     “With Georgia PeachCare, Medicaid and other programs, it’s easier for children to get medical assistance,” Montes said.
      Chappell said the clinic will look at expanding days and appointments in the future.
      “It’s important that we don’t overburden our volunteer physicians so they can provide the best care possible to our clients,” Chappell said. “We’re not going to try to do too much too soon.”

Qualifying patients
       For the past several months, the clinic has actively sought prospective patients to fill out applications to determine financial eligibility. Forms are available at the clinic and around Bulloch County. The first requirement is patients must be Bulloch residents.
      Becki Edenfield, who worked in the Bulloch school system for two decades and assisted thousands of students with financial eligibility forms, will perform the same service for Hearts and Hands.
      “It’s a relatively easy process,” Edenfield said. “Once I receive an application, I call the patient on the phone to determine if they are eligible. Then, when they come in for their first appointment we go over the paperwork one more time.”
      Chappell is a former hospital administrator and he has worked in the medical field for decades. He is currently recruiting a clinical coordinator that will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the clinic. Chappell said the position will be volunteer, at first, but as the clinic earns grants and receives donations, he said the goal is to make it a paid position.
      He said the coordinator position would be ideal for a retired nurse, but a person with experience in the medical field  would do well. Chappell will act as clinical coordinator until the right candidate is found.

      Montes said the clinic made its pitch for a grant from the Hospital Authority of Bulloch County recently and expects to hear next week if the request is approved. Montes said Statesboro businessman DeWayne Grice, a board member, is heading up fundraising for the group.
      Grice said he has set a goal of raising $60,000 by the end of the year through a combination of grants and donations.
      “We’re looking to the faith community to help out,” Grice said. “We’re reaching out to local churches, especially ones that already have the infrastructure of going on medical missionary trips in place. We hope they also will look closer to home.”
      Grice said he will explore large grants through the Southern Baptist Convention and for help with low or no cost prescription medicines at MedBank USA.
      He said all the financial affairs of the clinic will be tracked by local accountant Paula Mooney. Mooney, a CPA, also serves on the Clinic Board as treasurer.
      For more information about the clinic, to donate or volunteer, call (912) 681-9519, (770) 833-8571 or (912) 344-8463. You can also go to The-Hearts-and-Hands-Clinic on Facebook, or to their Web site at Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to The Hearts and Hands Clinic, Inc., P.O. Box 224, Statesboro, GA 30459.

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