Stimulus funds bring health clinics to Egypt Lake, East Tampa

Stimulus money is helping build new health clinics in Hillsborough to serve the burgeoning population of Medicaid and uninsured patients.

The clinics include a 20,000-square-foot health center in the Egypt Lake area, at the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Waters Avenue, and an 18,000-square-foot East Tampa clinic near the corner of 22nd Street and Osborne Avenue. The centers will be built and staffed using more than $4.8 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The $862 billion stimulus act has doled out $9 billion in contracts, loans and grants in Florida and created 34,857 jobs, according to recovery.gov, the federal Web site that tracks the money.

In Hillsborough County it has brought in $609 million and 590 jobs, helping to extend Tampa's downtown streetcar system, renovate public housing complexes, fund research at the University of South Florida and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, pay schoolteachers and hire Tampa International Airport and Tampa Port Authority workers, federal officials have said.

The Tampa Housing Authority was awarded $62 million recently, including $38 million to help build Encore, a 28-acre project that includes affordable rental units, market-rate homes, grocery store, hotel and offices on the grounds of the demolished Central Park Village public housing complex.

Eighty-five health centers, including those locally, are being built or renovated across the United States with federal help.

Suncoast Community Health Centers, a nonprofit with clinics in Dover, Plant City and Ruskin that serves a variety of patients including those on Medicaid, received $3.8 million from the federal government. Suncoast officials could not be reached for comment by press time, and their construction plans were unclear.

Tampa Family Health Centers, a 25-year-old nonprofit organization that also serves the underprivileged with six full-time clinics and a mobile medical and dental clinic, is building the new clinics in East Tampa and Egypt Lake.

The organization will receive the stimulus money in three installments: $605,000 to hire and retain medical staff to meet the increased patient demand for medical services because of the recession, $1.3 million for the construction of the East Tampa center and $2.9 million to build the Egypt Lake center.

The clinics will serve anyone. Low-income patients will pay for services based on a sliding scale.

The Egypt Lake clinic, which will open in May, will be built on the site of an old Saturn car dealership and will include full medical and dental services and a pharmacy.

The East Tampa center, set to open in August, will include the same capabilities but also obstetrician services.

It will replace two smaller clinics in East Tampa: The Lee Davis Health Center, located within a county neighborhood service center at 3402 N 22nd St., and another clinic at 1401 E 22nd Ave. within a 37-year-old, 8,000-square-foot building.

"We're busting out of our seams at the Lee Davis location," said Stephanie Theaker, Tampa Family Health Centers chief operating officer. "The demand is at an all-time high for us."

In East Tampa, Theaker said, patient visits have grown by 30 percent each year.

The need for centers that take Medicaid and uninsured patients has always been great in East Tampa, where the average per capita income is about half of the city's average.

"If they can build more clinics with stimulus money, or other money, that would be good," said Treshena Dixon, a pharmacist at College Hill Pharmacy.

"We do, because of the lack of insurance or health care, service a lot of customers who come in and ask us for help because they don't have a doctor," Dixon said. "So they'll come in and say, 'I got a really bad stuffy nose' or 'I have an open sore on my leg, what can I take for that?' And we say 'you really should see a doctor for this.'

"They say, 'I don't have a doctor or I don't have insurance.' "

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Stimulus funds bring health clinics to Egypt Lake, East Tampa 03/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 3:30am]

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