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Nonprofits: Community support will double size of Smith Clinic

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Officials with Smith Medical Clinic on the campus of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church say community support has been strong enough for them to build a new facility that’s large enough for all their needs in a single phase.

Ann Faul, executive director of the clinic, said plans call for a clinic of 5,600 square feet near the former site of Camp Baskervill’s swimming pool and outdoor basketball court. Original plans called for Phase 1 of the building to be 2,500 square feet with more to be added as funds became available.

In addition, the Baskervill Food Pantry will be continue to be located under the same roof. Keith Hoile, a member of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Church, is chairman of a drive to fund a 372-square foot addition to the medical clinic for the food pantry. He will announce the start of a community drive for $50,000 at his church on Sunday.

Dr. Cathcart Smith started the free medical clinic in a trailer with furnishings from his old practice in 1985. Faul said it moved into a former Camp Baskervill children’s dorm in 2000 and was upfitted for medical care with a grant from the Duke Endowment. “The building was intended to last five years,” she said, “and here we are 16 years later. We’ve gotten our use out of it for sure.”

The Smith Clinic has put a new roof on the building and made repairs to stop it from flooding, but exam rooms are former dorm rooms that have been cut in half with new walls. Faul said a typical scenario finds a patient in a room with a doctor, nurse, interpreter and a family member standing shoulder to shoulder.

The new clinic will be designed as an efficient medical clinic, Faul said. “There’s a lot of wasted space here,” she said of the former dormitory.

Volunteers and employees have made the most of the situation, giving small spaces names like “The Pit” and “The Sugar Shack.” Faul shares office space with four others.

“We are really crammed,” she said, “and that’s fine, but having a place to have a confidential conversation is critical. If the volunteer coordinator needs to have a private conversation with a volunteer, she has to go out or we have to find a spot. We have meetings in a bathroom, conversations in the vestibule. It’s just crazy things we have to do. We’ve gotten kind of used to it.”

The new clinic will have seven exam rooms and a room for its eye equipment, which now sits behind a screen in a surgery suite until needed. There will be a room for group sessions like classes on healthy living and peer to peer counseling and a dedicated room for mental health counseling. “We’ve never had that,” Faul said. “We do counseling in the nurse coordinator’s office. I’m most excited to enhance patient privacy. We have some renowned doctors: pulmonologists, hematologists, oncologists you would wait months for in the insured world. The level of care is superb. We’re hoping to bring the space up to match.”

The announcement of plans for the expanded building come on the eve of the annual Smith Clinic Gala at Frank’s Restaurant. Smith Clinic will start selling engraved bricks for the front walkway at the gala on April 24. Faul said the bricks — selling for $300 and $600 — will help close the gap in the funds needed for the new building. She hopes to be in by late fall depending on the weather.

Smith Clinic will expand its services to Georgetown much sooner. Faul said the clinic will staff four exam rooms and an office in a facility at Highmarket and Wood streets in cooperation with the Tidelands Community Care Network. She described Smith Clinic as a spoke in a wheel of care for the uninsured and under-insured.

Tidelands Health, formerly Georgetown Hospital System, plans to combine medical care, social services and wellness programs in the former post office building following a $2.5-million renovation expected to be completed by May. In addition to an office for Smith Medical Clinic, the center will house St. James-Santee providers, the hospital’s community health education nurse consultants, its transitional care team and the Neighbor-to-Neighbor medical ride-sharing program.

“I’ve seen an uptick in donations from Georgetown since people have started to hear about the building,” Faul said. Sixty-five percent of Smith Medical Clinic’s clients come from Georgetown now with most riding the bus. “Transportation is the No. 1 reason for missed appointments,” Faul said.

Through its association with Smith Medical Clinic, the Baskervill Food Pantry has started emphasizing healthy eating to its clients. “Every third person walking through our doors has diabetes and high blood pressure,” Faul said. “That is our No. 1 diagnosis. They don’t need more salt in canned vegetables. The more fresh we can get, the better.”

Jim Dodd oversees a garden on the Baskervill property that provides fresh vegetables to the food pantry. The garden is still producing carrots, broccoli, and greens from its winter crop, and children from the church helped to plant summer vegetables on Sunday. Hoile said the pantry shelves have more cans of fruits without added sugar and vegetables without added salt. “We’ve made some significant changes based on input from dietitians,” he said. “We know a vast majority of patients at the clinic, and sadly many have problems related to diet.”

The food pantry will have its own entrance to the new building. “It will be much nicer for us because we will be able to offer client choice rather than prepackaged bags,” Hoile said. The new space will allow the food pantry to move non-perishable foods being stored in a rental unit near True Blue.

Hoile said the new pantry facilities will require a community-wide fund drive. He said between churches and individuals, including volunteers and Holy Cross-Faith Memorial parishioners, the pantry won’t be targeting the same people as Smith Clinic for its drive. He said the food pantry has already raised $20,000 during a “quiet phase” before going public.

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