Health Clinic in Tampa Serves the Working Poor
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11/23/09 Concetta DeLuco
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Despite the ongoing healthcare debate in Washington, one local clinic is not waiting to take action. The Judeo Christian Health Clinic on MacDill has been providing free healthcare for years and lately finds itself catering to the rising number of unemployed.

On any weekday morning, long lines to get into the Judeo Christian Healthcare clinic, sometimes start as early as 3 a.m. The doors open up at 9 a.m. Last year it served over 28,000 patients. The reason? Executive Director of the clinic, Kelly Elizabeth Bell said it is one of the few places in Tampa Bay that offers free healthcare to those whose income falls slightly above the poverty level, and who do not qualify for other federal or county healthcare services.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, unemployment in Florida is at an all time high at 11.2%. And over the past year, more than 340,000 Floridians have lost their jobs. Myrna Robinson, a seven-year volunteer at the Judeo Christian Health Clinic said the rise in unemployment has changed the demographic and number of the patients.

On Saturday night, the Senate narrowly voted to begin debate on the Democrat’s $848 billion health care bill. In a report released today by US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, four million Floridian residents do not have health insurance, but would be covered if the bill is passed. Pat Harvey is a new patient at Judeo Christian Health. She is uninsured by way of being recently unemployed.

Harvey is not taking being unemployed sitting down. She has called more than 800 places inquiring about positions, but is still without a job and in need of healthcare. In a tearful recount, she tells WMNF about her struggles.

According to the Courthouse News Service, if the Senate bill is passed it is estimated to extend coverage to 31 million more Americas, covering 94% of Americans. Volunteer Myrna Robinson said national healthcare can not come too soon. She recalled a story of a woman who almost died from a severe case of breast cancer because she could not get healthcare prior to coming to the clinic.

The Judeo Christian Healthcare Clinic was founded in 1972 by Reverend James Holmes of the St. John Presbyterian Church. Executive Director Bell said the clinic had very humble beginnings but has grown thanks to Reverend Holmes commitment to offering healthcare to those in need.

The clinic is a non-profit that runs solely on donations and volunteers, which both Bell and volunteer Robinson said are extremely important in order to serve the needs of the community.

Patient Pat Harvey said she is extremely grateful for the help she receives at the Judeo Christian Health Clinic, and knows she is not the only one in need.

People who want to apply for healthcare at the Judeo Christian Health Clinic should bring a month’s work of paychecks and a photo id to its location at 4118 N. MacDill Ave between 9 and 11 am. For more information visit judeochristianhealthclinic.org.

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