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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Area clinics prepare for more patients after AGH closure

With the October closure of Shands at AGH looming, local clinics are making plans to pick up the slack.

Zenta Gomez, Helping Hands Clinic program development and volunteer coordinator, said the clinic is recruiting staff.

Gomez said the clinic needs nurse practitioners and physicians to volunteer at least two hours Mondays and Thursdays.

For the past 20 years, the downtown clinic has treated people who are uninsured or homeless with the help of local doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.

She said the limited amount of resources and volunteers have put a strain on the doctors.

She said more help would be a blessing, adding that doctors could see up to five additional patients per day, which may not seem likemuch but makes a difference.

Gomez said Helping Hands is the only free psychiatric clinic in Gainesville. With help from the UF Department of Psychiatry, the clinic is able to treat and prescribe medication for mental disorders.

The imminent closure of AGH has prompted other clinics to take action, as well.

The Hawthorne Medical Center, located in eastern Alachua County, will extend its hours and expand services, said spokesman Sean Damron.

Damron expects an increase in patients, although the clinic is located in Hawthorne.

"I think the population from the hospital is easily going to be absorbed by our clinic," Damron said. "People love to visit a doctor they're familiar and comfortable with. And unlike hospitals, there's no long waits. We try to turn people around in 90 minutes."

Damron said that local clinics are already full because patients visit clinics more in the fall and winter.

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However, HMC is prepared for the increase in patients.

According to Damron, HMC will add two nurse practitioners and one doctor, which will allow 40 additional patients each day.

"I also think there's a bit of anxiety about the closure," Damron said. "The clinic is receiving calls from AGH patients who plan to transfer their medical records."

City Commissioner Jack Donovan said the city is waiting for updates on the hospital.

"We're waiting to hear what the university plans on doing with the land, contingent on our approval," Donovan said.

UF purchased AGH from Santa Fe College in 1996.

Donovan said the hospital is closing because of financial losses. The city will be in charge of the zoning and land use.

Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said Tuesday in a phone interview that there's a proposal to keep the technology incubator at the hospital and that Shands at UF plans to add rooms to offset the closure of AGH.

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