Kathy Castor breaks ground on new healthcare clinic
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02/22/10 Concetta DeLuco
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More healthcare options are coming to the Tampa Bay area. This morning, US Congresswoman Kathy Castor broke ground on a new health clinic that will be coming to East Tampa.

The new 15,000 sq. foot community healthcare center will be located on the corner of N. 22nd Street and Osborne Avenue in East Tampa. Charles Bottoms is the CEO of Tampa Family Health Centers, the non-profit organization that instituted the creation of the medical clinic. He said the new center will offer diverse healthcare services.

"It will house primary care, pediatrics, internal medicine, family practice, limited OB, and mental health. It will also offer x-ray. Hopefully, we will be able to keep many of our clients here in the community versus having to go to the emergency rooms. Spend a lot of time and a lot of extra money because we can do it a lot cheaper. “

According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, such clinics provide primary care for more than 20 million Americans living in low-income and medically-underserved communities. Tampa Family Health Centers serve 25,000 patients annually. During this morning’s meeting, US Democratic Representative Kathy Castor said continuous, comprehensive care is important. It can not only help prevent more serious health problems, but it also lowers the overall cost of healthcare for everyone.

“Where do folks go if they don’t have health insurance these days? They end up at the emergency room at St. Joseph’s just like folks around here if they don’t get the care they need, they go to the place of last resort, the place that is the most expensive, the place that we all wind up paying for. It makes much more sense to have a neighborhood clinic where folks know the person on the other side of the counter, they know the doctor, they know the nurse. In fact, on the front page of one our newspaper today, they had a whole spread on how vital it is for folks to get primary care to get those basic checkups today and how that saves money down the road and how it makes people healthier if you catch that chronic condition early.”

But, Castor said, better accessible medical care is not the only benefit of the new community health center.

“We’re going to hire folks from the community. And this is an area that needs the jobs. It’s an area that deserves it. So I am so pleased that this is paying off."

And just how many jobs is the new clinic expected to create?

“Hundreds of jobs. First in construction and than in hiring nurses and medical professionals.”

It cost $3.8 million to purchase the land for the new medical center. Charles Bottoms, of the Tampa Family Health Center, thanked Castor for pursuing federal money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which helped pay for a third of the cost. The US Representative said the Tampa Bay region has faced greater economic suffering than most regions and deserves the funding.

“ This is the intent of the Recovery Act at work. It has been one year since President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law. And the Recovery Act is our lifeline here in the Tampa Bay area because we have struggled more than most communities all across the country. Our unemployment rate is higher. The recession hit here far earlier than it did in the rest of the country. Our housing crisis-we’re one of the hardest hit communities out of the entire country. So with all that that makes the stimulus dollar all that much more important to Tampa and the Tampa Bay area. I mean, we’ve been put through the ringer.”

Castor supports healthcare reform. But a final bill has not yet passed Congress. President Obama will hold a bi-partisan healthcare summit that will be televised later this week. A proposed health insurance plan offered by the federal government, the “public option”, is a key feature of the Democrats’ bill that has been widely opposed by Republicans. When asked if she thought the “public option” might be reconsidered, Castor said:

“I hope so, because we need competition to these insurance companies. These insurance companies are absolutely reaming the consumer. Look at what the Anthem insurance company has proposed for an increase in rates-close to 50%. This is happening all across the country and Florida is not immune. So we’ve got bring greater competition into the healthcare market and I know President Obama is fighting for that competition.”

The new community health center is expected to be completed within a few months. Charles Bottoms hopes the remaining costs will be funded by local agencies.

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