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Medical clinic faces new challenges
A struggling economy has brought a heavier patient load to a medical clinic that serves the uninsured and underinsured of Glynn County.

The Coastal Medical Access Project, which was taken over by Southeast Georgia Health System in 2011, sees an average of 400 patients each month and 4,800 each year.

And more patients are coming.

"In addition to the current patient load, we have qualified more than 50 new patients in the last three weeks alone, more than 250 within the last six months," said Laura Johnson, a physician's assistant at CMAP.

CMAP also participates in a prescription assistance program called Medbank that helps patients with their medications. That program has also sent new patients their way.

While the facility now has access to a larger variety of health care providers through the health system, resources can still be in short supply.

"We are always in need of volunteer specialty care providers, such as cardiologists and gastroenterologists, to help with the increasing demand of patients with (multiple disorders) that need treatment beyond our scope of practice in family medicine," Johnson said.

Many patients they see have lost their jobs in the still recovering employment market and, in turn, have lost their health insurance. That leaves those patients looking for a place to get primary care.

Some patients who don't have access to routine care seek the services of an emergency room when suffering from a condition that could be treated by a primary care physician, like the flu or an infection.

CMAP wants to put a stop to that practice by giving underinsured patients a place to receive care.

"Our goal is twofold: to increase access of quality health care to the uninsured and underserved people of Glynn, McIntosh and Camden counties (and) to decrease emergency care visits for non-emergent situations by increasing availability within our clinic," Johnson said.

To be eligible to become a CMAP patient, an individual must obtain a Medicaid denial letter from the Department of Family and Children Services dated within the last 12 months.

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