ALBANY — In the Palmyra Park Medical Center, across from Phoebe North and in the same facility that the Horizons Community Solutions office sits, a new Albany Primary Health Care clinic is now serving the needs of the community’s women.
The closure of another gynecology and obstetrics office in Albany contributed to a drastic growth in the patient base at AAPHC’s Mirian Worthy Women’s Health Center at 2100 Palmyra Road. In response, the AAPHC Women’s Health Center was opened at the nearby Palmyra center, located at 810 13th Ave., in Suite 107 nearly a week ago.
“We opened this facility due to the overflow and the number of patients trying to get into Mirian Worthy,” Clifton Bush, the chief operating officer of AAPHC, said.
Unlike the Mirian Worthy clinic, the new clinic sees only gynecology patients. After the closing of Dr. Moon Chung’s office on West Fourth Avenue two years ago, Bush said, the majority of the patients from that practice came to AAPHC.
This prompted an effort with partners, including Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, to get into a new space to handle the overflow.
“This was one of their (Phoebe’s) priorities, and they were able to (help us secure a space) to serve our patients,” Bush said.
A nurse practitioner is at the new clinic from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, while the three doctors on staff take turns seeing patients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. A physician assistant is at the site on Thursdays and spends the reminder of the week at another AAPHC clinic in east Albany.
Bush said a certified nurse midwife is there a couple of days out of the month, and a sonographer is there full-time. Another gynecologist is expected to come on board in August, and the existing staff does go into the hospital setting for surgical consults — where patients can still take advantage of the sliding scale fee AAPHC offers as a federally qualified health center.
“We are trying to eliminate any barriers to access to care,” he said.
Bush said that before the closure of the Chung office, AAPHC’s OB/GYN staff was handling 40-50 deliveries a month. Now they are making 80-100 deliveries over the course of a month.
They also see 1,700 OB/GYN patient encounters a month now, compared to 1,300 a month prior to the Chung practice’s closure.
“That can tell you (why we needed another facility),” he said. “It allows us to get gynecology patients in quicker, and also get the OB patients in quicker at Mirian Worthy, and we still do gynecology visits there.”
Dr. Stacia Dzikunu, a physician at the center who has been on the AAPHC staff for a few months, said the hope is that patients can be served more effectively and efficiently in the long run.
“That is the hope, that we can streamline care quicker,” she said. “I feel very privileged to be serving this population. I hope to continue to do that and serve the community in the future.”
Dr. Francis Kwarteng, one of the center’s doctors and a native of Ghana, is also the clinic’s director. Much of what keeps many women from seeing their doctor is that their own health often falls at the bottom of their “to-do” list in order to make sure the needs of the family and household are taken care of first.
Kwarteng said he has noticed another obstacle within his patient base that can be harder to overcome.
“It has to do with the ability to pay; that is what delays most of them,” he said. “Opening this building will help (more patients) with that factor.
“We will provide excellent and quality care, and especially to those who are marginalized — those who are poor.”
Due to AAPHC’s status as a federally qualified health center, much of its patient base includes those with little to no income — although it does see patients with insurance.
“We are just about the only (OB/GYN facility in the Albany area) that is community-based,” Kwarteng said. “At just $25, you can be seen.”
In the long-term, Kwarteng said the incidences in which women feel like their limited resources means that their health needs — including gynecological-related cancers — cannot be addressed until they are severe enough to be considered an emergency ought to decrease as more opportunities to receive care.
With poverty often comes many overwhelming health problems, including diabetes and kidney problems, which the OB/GYN providers of AAPHC often see in its pregnant patient base.
“(The new clinic is) going to reduce morality in the (Albany and southwest Georgia) area, and providers are (offering) top-of-the-line care for women in this area,” Kwarteng said. “The goal is to provide quality care for women in this area.”
A bus stop is located near Mirian Worthy and the new clinic. Officials at AAPHC said bus tokens are available at no cost at the clinic sites for patients who need help with transportation.
“The opening of the AAPHC Women’s Center is an example of what two organizations working together for the betterment of southwest Georgia can do for the community,” Brandy Church, a spokeswoman for AAPHC, said. “When local health care organizations work together, we strengthen the access to quality health care for all.”
The clinic can be reached at (229) 405-6270.