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Hearts and Hands Clinic changing gears
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      Last Spring, I wrote an article about the Hearts and Hands Clinic, a free medical clinic that two Georgia Southern students were trying to organize in Statesboro. Plans were made for the clinic to open this past August on College Street using the facilities of the Ogeechee River Baptist Association.
      There has been a lot of water under the bridge since that time, and the clinic has not opened. I know there were some concerns raised by the local medical community which have not been resolved. But, I have to believe that there remains a need for something like the Hearts and Hands Clinic in our community, and if professionals are willing to donate their time and resources, there ought to be a way to work it out.
      The student that is the face of the clinic is Andres Montes. I met with Montes a couple of weeks ago to find out where things stood. Even though he was quick to point out the mistakes that he had made along the way, he remained determined to bring the clinic to reality.
      "I honestly thought that we had a lot of support," Montes said. "We just wanted to help those people that need basic medical services that don't have any money to pay for them. This is being done all over the country. In fact, they are about to open a free clinic in Vidalia. I was hoping we would be able to open one here."
      I asked Montes what the problems had been resulting in the erosion of support from the local medical community, and he was very candid.
      "Well, I guess in our exuberance we stepped on some toes, and didn't include some of the people that we should have," he said. "It wasn't intentional, we just didn't know. Secondly, in the same vein, we didn't follow the chain of command in some organizations that we approached and that became a problem. Again, we just didn't know. Thirdly, there was a big concern about follow up medical care that has to be addressed."
      Montes said the fact that he was a university student and his age also appeared to be problematic. "One of the comments made to me is that I am too young to be the director of a clinic like this," he said. "I am certainly open to any kind of a directorship arrangement. When I graduate and leave to hopefully go to medical school, who would take my place? How would that be transitioned?"
      Montes said he feels like all of the concerns voiced by the medical community could be addressed. "You would hope something like this would be  straightforward, but it isn't always," he said. "We have hurdles, but I really think they can be crossed, and I keep going back to the need. We just want to be a help in this community."
       Montes said he will need to get specialists on board before the health clinic can be opened. "Without volunteer specialists such as radiologists, we will not be able to open," he said.
       However, Montes said plans were being finalized to open a free dental clinic. "Several local dentists have agreed to provide free dental care," he said. "We don't have the same issues with dental that we have with medical, so hopefully, that part will open at the beginning of next year."
       The location of the Statesboro Hearts and Hands has moved to the former site of the Biltmore Hotel on Highway 301 South (next to Gateway Animal Hospital) which is being used by the Son's Light Baptist Church. Pastor John Long is remodeling two rooms for the clinic.
       "I know that this whole thing has ruffled a lot of feathers, but I believe it is the Christian thing to do, to offer help to the needy, and there is a big, big need for this in our community," Long said. "I see it every day. Poor, desperate people, looking for help. It is my hope that we can all come together and make it happen."
       Montes said that he just wants to reach out to the community for help. "Whatever mistakes we have made were not made out of malice or arrogance, just a desire to create a service that we are passionate about."