Rick Badie's Gwinnett: Hope Clinic lives up to name

When it comes to health care reform, that’s exactly what this mess of a country needs. Common sense. And a heart.

In 2002, the internist had reached the point where he’d had enough of the restrictions placed on him by managed care.

So the good doctor and his wife, Pam, opened the Hope Clinic in Lawrenceville. It cares for the uninsured, under-insured and indigent.

There, practically every patient pays something, even if it’s just $5. Dr. Martin and an assistant see about 40 patients a day. Occasionally less. Oftentimes more.

“We’re booked out six weeks in advance,” Martin said. “We have a backload of about 600. These days we have a lot more who can’t pay or pay very little. But we have been very blessed because our community has stepped in.”

Martin believes the country needs health care reform. He’s just unsure our leaders in Washington can deliver.

From what has transpired the past few months, I’d have to agree.

Meanwhile, Martin and his staff work at ground zero. He has no vested interest in reform, other than to see measures enacted that take care of people in need.

“I don’t think there is a simple solution,” he said, “and I don’t think anybody has a single answer for this problem.

“It is huge, and will take a really long time to get things settled. We need reform. I don’t think the government can do it — be a safety net for people. I would limit its role.”

And start with reform at its most basic level — the community. Martin thinks his nonprofit clinic serves as a model worth emulating.

He’d like to have a network of such clinics across Gwinnett that offer nonlife-threatening acute care. Like the Hope Clinic, they’d treat diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disease.

“Our uninsured population in this county is a community problem, not a government problem,” he told me.

“If we had this clinic and, say, four more in strategic areas around the community, we could really make an impact on the emergency room crush.

“That’s our vision.”

Apparently, Martin’s model has value.

If not, I doubt Kaiser Permanente would have recently awarded the Hope Clinic a $50,000 grant.

The clinic would not have received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, either.

The Kaiser cash will be used to hire, train and certify two physician assistants. Their focus will be diabetic care.

The clinic hopes to relaunch a community health fair and to routinely offer diabetes screenings.

The HUD grant was used to buy a three-story building that’s a few yards from the clinic’s current location on West Pike Street. It’s being renovated; the nonprofit hopes to move in this fall.

“We have been very blessed,” Martin said. “There are just certain people who need help.”

And that makes sense to me.

Rick Badie, an Opinion columnist, is based in Gwinnett. Reach him at rbadie@ajc.com or 770-263-3875.

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