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Saturday May 23rd, 2015 12:18AM

MedLink applying for grant to open community health center in White County

By Rob Moore Reporter
HELEN - If everything goes as hoped, White County soon will be getting a community health center.<br /> <br /> Linda Ramey of MedLink Georgia provided an overview of what MedLink Centers provide for the community to the Helen City Commission Tuesday.<br /> <br /> Ramey said the clinics are designed to meet a need in "medically underserved populations."<br /> <br /> "We are applying for a grant to open a community health center in White County," Ramey said. "We won't know if we will be awarded the grant, but are hopeful."<br /> <br /> Asked by commissioners if a potential location has been determined, Ramey said officials would be looking at a possible location in Cleveland.<br /> <br /> Commissioner Helen Wilkins encouraged Ramey not to rule out locating the community health center in Helen.<br /> <br /> During her overview, Ramey clarified some things about MedLink Georgia.<br /> <br /> "We're not a free clinic," Ramey stressed. She said the center bridges a gap between existing free clinics and emergency rooms, relieving the financial load on those organizations.<br /> <br /> "We are not competing with the free clinics," Ramey said, noting people who can pay a minimal fee can use MedLink. "We are partnering with them.<br /> <br /> "And it's very important that we partner with our hospitals, because it's been determined so many people go to the emergency room for non-emergent care," Ramey said. "They go to the emergency room, they don't pay their bill and then the hospital ends up with a huge debt. That's happened to Habersham Medical Center, and a lot of the rural hospitals are actually going out of business because of this, so MedLink can take those patients. It is important that we have a strong partnership with the hospitals in our service areas."<br /> <br /> Asked by commissioners if MedLink is like speedy clinic-type establishments, Ramey said no.<br /> <br /> "It is not quick care," Ramey said. "We are like any other physician's office. We provide primary care. Walk-ins are welcome."<br /> <br /> Ramey said MedLink Georgia does have a sliding-scale fee schedule for those who are not able to pay.<br /> <br /> "Basically what that means if someone comes into a clinic and they do not have the means to pay, then their fee is based on their family income and their family size," Ramey said.<br /> <br /> MedLink also tries to separate waiting rooms for well care and sick care so that those who are there for occupational exams are not exposed to sick patients.<br /> <br /> Ramey asked for letters of support from city leaders and the community to help obtain the grant to open in White County. The grants would establish the clinic and help offset the costs of care not covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.<br /> <br /> MedLink Georgia, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation, currently operates clinics in Banks, Barrow, Elbert, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Madison, Oglethorpe and Rabun counties.<br /> <br /> Currently, MedLink Habersham is seeing a number of White County patients, Ramey said. <br /> <br /> MedLink Georgia's mission is to improve the quality of life in the communities it serves.<br /> <br /> Services include primary medical care, preventive health, women's health, pediatric/adolescent care, chronic disease management, care for acute illnesses, an on-site laboratory, office procedures, and physical exams for work, school or camp.<br /> <br /> Most major insurance plans are accepted, including United Health Care, CIGNA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, TriCare, Medicare, Medicaid, WellCare, Amerigroup, PeachState and others.<br /> <br /> For more information, visit www.medlinkga.org.
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