By Joel Hall
Until recently, many women, due to age, income, or infertility, were denied access to low-cost women's health programs provided by the Clayton County Board of Health (BOH).
A recently opened clinic, however, is providing free and low-cost health care to women who once fell between the cracks.
The Well Women Gynecological Clinic, the BOH's newest women's health resource, began operating last month. The clinic offers general physicals, breast exams, pap smears, HIV and sexually-transmitted-disease testing, and other services to women up to 64 years of age, regardless of income or insurance.
"This is something the community has desperately needed," said Barbara Crane, the BOH's women's health coordinator. She said the board's Breast and Cervical Cancer Program caters only to uninsured women, between the ages of 40 and 64, whose income equals 200 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines. She said its Family Planning Program is only offered to those of child bearing age, who are able to conceive.
"A woman who has had her tubes tied after [giving] birth may be too young for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, but because she had her tubes tied, she is not eligible for family planning services," Crane said. "We were having so many women contacting us, who didn't have eligibility to many of the programs we provide. They were either too young or too old, or their income was too high. We're targeting all women."
Crane said grants from Susan G. Komen for the Cure are helping subsidize the clinic's breast examinations, and that fees for services are based on a patient's income.
"We are offering basic gynecological services to women for a fee that might be lower than what they would pay for a doctor's visit, even if they have insurance," she said.
Belinda Starks, nurse manager for the Well Women Gynecological Clinic, said that due to the economy, more women have sought health services from the county. She said the new clinic is meeting a growing need.
"We're seeing an increasing number of people saying that they never had to use public services before because they have lost their job," said Starks. "We were trying to reach out to those people who may have just lost their job or may have recently been laid off. I think it's really going to benefit the community."
Crane said the clinic is presently averaging 18-24 patients a day. She is hoping those numbers will increase as more people learn about the clinic.
"This is an old county, but it is also a young county, in the sense that we have a large population of working women," said Crane. "I hope [the clinic] can provide that source for these women. Lack of income or insurance shouldn't be a barrier to her receiving that annual exam."
The Well Women Gynecological Clinic is located at 1117 Battle Creek Road in Jonesboro, inside the BOH's Comprehensive Health Facility and is open Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m. For more information, call (678) 610-7199, ext. 6536 or 6537.