Tary Brown, CEO of Albany Area Primary Health Care, tells members of the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County about the health care organization’s history and programs. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — A HIV/AIDS clinic operated by Albany Area Primary Health Care Inc. (AAPHC), the largest clinic of its kind in a rural area in the United States, is one of the agency’s biggest success stories, according to CEO Tary Brown.
“We started in 1990 as a coordination between public health, Phoebe Putney, Palmyra Hospital and the medical society and Albany area primary health care,” said Brown
Brown continued by sharing information on what type of clients the clinic serves, pointing out that when the program started the clinic had only 90 patients, all of whom were homosexual males and most of whom were Caucasian.
“We had 90 gay men that we were taking care of,” Brown said. “Eighty-eight of them were white, 2 of them were African American. It’s not a gay male disease anymore. Our largest segment is African American. Forty-six percent are women and 85 percent are African American. The main mode of transmission is unprotected sex.”
While Brown pointed out that while some of the clinics patients have succumbed to the disease, many are now able to live productive lives.
“Believe it or not we take care of people age 2 to 86,” Brown said. “They’re able to live a healthy productive life and we’re real pleased with what that has done for the community.”
Brown, who has served as the health care company’s chief officer since 1985, made those remarks at Monday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County. He walked those in attendance through a brief history of the organization while also highlighting some facts about AAPHC and its programs.
Brown began his presentation by explaining to the audience that AAPHC is not a free clinic and is not owned by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, but does work closely with the hospital.
He also explained that in addition to having clinics in Albany, AAPHC, also provides health care services for places outside of the city, including, Leesburg, Newton, Vienna and Edison.
“Our service area is pretty large,” said Brown. “Vienna, it’s 55 miles away, Edison its 42 miles toward Alabama, so we cover a 100 miles across. You may want to know why in the world we’re in Vienna, Ga? (We are there) because the federal government and state government asked us to go there and take over a struggling community health center.”
Brown informed the group that AAPHC mainly serves rural areas that are designated as Medically Under Served Areas (MUAs) or HPSAs, explaining that HPSA is a federal designation for an area that is medically under served.
“HPSA is a federal designation meaning in a geographic area there is less than one doctor per 3,500 population,” explained Brown. “So again, in Newton we’re the only game in town. You go out to Edison, there’s about 8,000 in the county and there’s a doctor in Arlington, so we’re in Edison.”
In all, Brown said AAPHC has 12 clinics and a lab and currently provides a multitude of services including, internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, podiatry, OB/GYN, Pathology, Dentistry, Nutrition, Social Work and a variety of support services.
In addition to the medical services offered, Brown said the organization is also involved in several studies and initiatives, including, child birthing classes, colo-rectal screening, legal aid, an initiative for healthy lifestyles for families, an asthma initiative, an initiative to combat childhood obesity and an initiative to to provide parenting tools and support in conjunction with Emory among others.
Brown said the company also provides teaching for various schools and groups including Mercer Medical students, Medical College of Georgia students, Albany State University students and Phoebe Family Medicine residents.
Brown said that since the non-profit’s inception in 1979, the organization has continued to fulfill the organization’s mission of providing affordable health care for all and that the organization hit an important milestone recently.
“We’ve been around since 1979,” Brown said. “Remember when McDonald’s had the sign that said ‘500 million burgers sold?’ I do, I’m an old guy. Well, we have now served, as of December, over three million patient visits since we’ve been in business.”
Brown also informed the group that in addition to providing quality medical care to a large number of people, the non-profit has also managed to operate much like a regular business and receives far less federal funding than other companies of its kind.
“We get roughly $3 million to run the community health center, another $800,000 to support HIV/AIDS patients,” Brown said. “All in all we’re about 15 percent federally funded. We try to operate like a regular business. We do try to be as efficient as possible. There’s 32 organizations in Georgia like ours. Most of them have 33 percent federal funds. We have 15 percent.”
Brown pointed out that while being efficient is certainly a concern for the organization, it’s primary purpose is to help provide health care that meets three important criteria.
“We try and make services available, affordable, accessible and acceptable,” he said.