By Sofi Gratas, GPB News
With help from the Mercer University School of Medicine, a once vacant doctors office in Taylor County is now open again and taking patients. It’s the latest to open as part of the school’s efforts to strengthen rural health care.
The people of Taylor County have been waiting for a doctor to come to town for over a decade, say residents Milton Harris and Fredrick Waller.
“This is a blessing for our community,” Waller said.
“You have to travel a hundred miles round trip and go to the doctor,” Harris said. “You got to go to Columbus. Or Macon.”
Now they can visit this primary care clinic, less than a mile from downtown Reynolds. It’s run by Mercer Medicine, which also trains medical students in clinics like this one, in hopes that they’ll stick around.
Just over 20% of people in Taylor County lack health insurance. On top of that, without local doctors, people are less likely to seek care. That can lead to chronic disease. Nurse Manager Charietta Foreman says her team wants to prevent that. She commutes to the clinic every day from Warner Robins.
“We physically pick up the phone and call and schedule their mammogram,” said Foreman. “We schedule their colonoscopy. We scheduled their DEXA for their bone scan.”
Credit: Sofi Gratas/GPB News
Local pharmacist Jonathan Knight is also encouraging the people of Taylor County to visit the clinic for preventative care.
“Make it about your personal health,” Knight said. “Don’t come when you’re sick. Go ahead and come while you’re well, to keep things rolling.”
Staffing the clinic are Foreman, two medical assistants, one nurse practitioner and a primary care doctor, Srijana Ranjit. Here, patients can get check-ups, X-rays, lab tests and immunizations done.
Ranjit, who worked at the Mercer Medicine clinic in Fort Valley before it closed due to a lease termination, said most of her patients now make the 15-minute drive to Reynolds. The clinic is also seeing new patients every day.
Meanwhile, the former Fort Valley clinic is now owned by Atrium Health Navicent Peach County, but sits vacant.
According to an announcement also on Friday, over $400,000 in federal dollars are helping a different facility in Fort Valley run by Georgia-based CareConnect add more exam rooms for a growing patient load.
Both clinics accept major insurance types and offer sliding-scale fees for care.
This story comes to Macon Report through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.