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Filling a critical need
Liberty's Diversity Health Clinic opens
Diversity Health Clinic Medical Director Russell Toal goes over reports with Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Florence Baggs. - photo by photo submitted
The level of health care in Liberty County is improving and county residents now have more options for seeking primary health care.
Liberty County’s Diversity Health Clinic opened in November and patient lists are growing everyday.
Since the clinic opened, more than 100 patients a month have sought help, and local officials said the facility fills a critical need in the county.
“The important thing about the center is the community came together around the need for more health care in this community,” Medical Director Russ Toal said.
Toal is a newcomer to the county and said the community’s drive to improve health care impressed him.
Studies have blamed poor transportation and a lack of affordable health insurance for many people accessing medical care. The lack of access to primary health care has become one of the major problems plaguing the rural health care delivery system in Georgia, according to reports.  
The clinic bridges a gap between having money and the ability to have primary care.
“Patient charges at the center are based on their ability to pay,” Toal said.  
While the clinic is an added resource, it does not replace existing services. Primary care, nutrition, social work services are offered at the clinic.
Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Florence Baggs said the clinic is a viable resource for health care. She regularly sees patients who need help gaining control over areas of their lives.
“Since this is the stroke-belt, I see more problems with stroke and high blood pressure,” she said. “We hope to get people who will come here and make this their regular source of care.”
Local physicians have been helpful with the clinics transition. “I am here and I’ve been working with local physicians. They are always available for consultation,” Baggs said.
Toal said renovations to the current facility would increase its capacity for patients. “We’ll have seven exam rooms, a doctor’s office, a nurses’ station and a laboratory,” he said.
“We’ll be getting people out of the emergency rooms into the clinic,” Toal said. “We don’t want the hospital emergency room to be the only option for help.”
Renovations to the facility should be completed this month and Toal hopes the clinic’s services can be expanded.
“A healthy population makes a healthy workforce and we’re going to look at expanding opportunities to serve Riceboro and other areas,” he said. “There are still folks who are in need of services.”

About Toal
Russell B. Toal holds a Master of Public Health.
He was an associate professor of Public Health, Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University and former president of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
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