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Diversity Clinic gets $1.3M from stimulus

POSTED: March 9, 2009 11:38 a.m.
Diversity Health Center recently got its piece — a $1.3 million slice — of the pie from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package to individual states.
Diversity’s grant is part of a $4.9 million package to three other Georgia health centers.
“This is just sort of like manna from heaven,” said Deidre Michelson, health department administrator, during the Board of Health meeting Thursday.
Michelson served as the interim CEO for the low-cost primary care facility, which opened in 2007 in Hinesville.
“It’s been a very bittersweet occurrence for me,” Michelson said, citing struggles to hang on to funding and staffers. “It’s finally, finally, finally, finally paid off.”
“We were all just elated in getting that good news,” added Board of Health Chairwoman Connie Thrift.
The federal money helps to guarantee the clinic is going to be around to help bear the burden of indigent care, according to Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Scott Kroell.
“We’ll have, basically, a clinic for the under insured and uninsured, which is a big thing in the county,” Kroell said.
Thanks should go to local House representatives, according to Coastal Health District health director Dr. Doug Skelton.
“It really is hard work going to Atlanta … when they do some things good for you, you need to say thank you,” he said.
Skelton updated the board on how recent budget cuts from Gov. Sonny Perdue may affect local health services. 
“We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul and looking to Samuel to see if he can get some money back to us, to all them,” Skelton said.
Thrift signed a resolution to make 2009 the year of community health after Michelson warned of consistently high rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and teen pregnancy in the county.
“So, the health planning board will be working in individual small groups … to implement initiatives within those areas to improve the health of the community as a whole,” she said.
Faced with a dwindling staff and a growing client list, Michelson also expressed concern over the health department’s “thin budget.”
“We continue to see more clients than we ever had, as we can, with the staffing situation and provide the care at the quality that is expected,” Michelson said.
The coastal district stepped in to provide extra nurse practitioners.
Within the next six months, Skelton said he thinks the clinic should consider asking the state department of human resources to review its master agreement.
“They are famous for reducing the money and leaving the requirements in the master agreement,” Skelton said. “We can’t create staff out of thin air.”
Kroell asked how other counties are faring.
“Even with the financial difficulties, we’re probably handling our resources to maintain as much of our services better than most other districts,” Skelton said. “You get good people together and good things can happen.”
“For the staff here, it’s more than a job,” Kroell said.
 

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