Now more than ever, a non-profit like Good News Clinics in Gainesville is critical for low-income families that need access to good healthcare.
Good News Clinics provides free healthcare through services including primary health care, medication, counseling, immunization and a dental clinic.
Hall County residents ages 18-65 who fall below the 150 percent Federal poverty line, are uninsured and do not have access to insurance are eligible for these services following an eligibility screening.
Each of the providers that conduct these services are volunteers, from the approximately 90 doctors to nine midlevel providers. These providers work in shifts and Good News staff assist them through their day to day operations.
Good News Clinics started in 1992 “as a nonprofit Christian health center with the charge of nurturing broken bodies and broken souls, and the goal of healing both,” according to its website. Over the years the clinic has grown to encompass its current facility and clinics, along with treating a growing number of patients.
According to Liz Coates, Executive Director for Good News Clinics, GNC treats around 35,000 patients annually.
“Imagine for a second that you are uninsured or low income and you’ve got, for example, a chronic condition like diabetes or something like that that could turn very serious without management and prescriptions,” said Coates. “If that happens, your only place to turn is the Emergency Department…Our role always in the larger healthcare system is to keep people out of emergency situations or out of the hospital.”
Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the non-profit’s normal operations. Some adjustments clinic staff have made include limiting the number of volunteers at the clinic, closing the clinic to the public and screening each patient at an outdoor tent before they enter the building.
But rather than shutting themselves up inside the clinic, GNC staff have been out in the community to help those they serve. One way they have helped is by teaming up with Northeast Georgia Health System to hold two different free COVID-19 testing drives.
Coates said that over 1,300 people were tested between the two events and 374 tests came back positive.
“I think when we were presented with the opportunity we felt more of a sense of duty and excitement to be able to assist in such a difficult time for our community,” said Coates. “It’s very rewarding to make those notification calls to patients and really be able to offer them some hope and guidance on how to manage this [pandemic].”
Holding the free testing event also allowed GNC staff to learn about more ways that they could help in the community. Carmen Aguilar, Care Manager for Good News Clinics, said the event brought awareness to how many Hall County residents rely on taxi services and a problem that reliance was creating.
“There was no proper education for the cab drivers on how to decontaminate their cabs,” said Aguilar. “We have partnered with Northeast Georgia Medical Center to develop a video on how taxi cab drivers can decontaminate their taxi cabs while their transitioning between all these people they’re transporting throughout Hall County.”
Community members are not the only ones who could use some help during the pandemic- working through the outbreak has proved to be taxing on GNC staff, as well.
Fortunately, the staff at Good News Clinics have their faith, and each other, to rely on.
“We really do lean on each other…we understand that we have to be there for one another,” said Aguilar. “I think it’s our faith that moves us to continue moving forward because its not about us, it’s about serving the community and the underserved.”
In order to continue serving the community, GNC staff are communicating with their patients through electronic telehealth and teletherapy appointments. More information about scheduling an appointment and the clinics’ services is on the Good News Clinics website.
While much about the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertain, one thing that remains unchanged is the devotion of GNC staff to their patients.
“We believe that everybody is worthy enough to receive healthcare,” said Aguilar. “We meet our patients where they are at. We don’t just see them, we come to them in a way of giving them hope, we come to them in a way with grace, making sure that they know they are worthy.”