Steve Noblett put the merger of MercyMed of Columbus and Good Shepherd Healthcare in perspective Wednesday, saying it had “the mark of God all over it” and is something he doesn’t see everyday.
Religious entities can sometimes be competitive and jealous and guarded of their own resources, the executive director of the Memphis, Tenn.-based Christian Community Health Fellowship told a packed meeting hall where Mission Columbus operated Good Shepherd at 3679 Steam Mill Road, just off Buena Vista Road.
“Your sensitivity to the Lord, your sensitivity to the poor, and your concern for your marginalized neighbors is commendable and something that we have really been touting all over the United States as we share the story of MercyMed with other places,” Noblett said.
Shortly after that, MercyMed founder and Columbus native, Dr. Grant Scarborough, and members of Good Shepherd — which now becomes MercyMed of Mission Columbus — used a pair of oversized scissors to snip a red ribbon to officially open the medical clinic.
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Now, the doctor said, it’s time to go to work treating residents in and around Columbus and Phenix City for health problems, while also offering them some faith-based support.
“I believe that everybody is created in the image of God,” Scarborough said. “They may not agree with that, but I do. So no matter if you’re a drug addict or you’re struggling with prostitution or whatever, I’m going to give the best health care in the city.”
The demand is there, he said, with MercyMed of Columbus, 3700 2nd Ave., having had 10,000 patient visits since its launch in a former Columbus Bank and Trust building in January 2012.
With 20 percent of people in the area not having insurance, Scarborough said patients have come not only from Columbus and Phenix City, but from as far away as the Georgia communities of Richland, Buena Vista, Lumpkin and LaGrange, and the Alabama cities of Eufaula and Opelika. The medical clinic uses a “sliding scale” for payment, meaning various forms of insurance are accepted, but those without coverage pay what they can afford.
The strong response to MercyMed on Second Avenue is one of the reasons the Columbus Baptist Association — which has operated Mission Columbus for 11 years; nine with its own low-level clinic — decided to ask Scarborough to take charge of its facility, said the Rev. Jimmy Blanton, an associational missionary who directs the Steam Mill Road group.
“It’s a good move because Grant has done this over the years. He’s got a proven track record and he loves Jesus,” Blanton said. “They’re the ones who will bring us where we need to be as a clinic. So we’ve asked them to not only overlap this clinic, but to take full ownership of it. And we’re here to assist them and help them.”
Blanton estimated the former Good Shepherd clinic had between 1,000 to 1,500 patient visits per year, using volunteer doctors and offering services such as eye exams. St. Francis Hospital also was heavily involved, he said.
“These doctors were really giving their all to us, but we just believe this is a much better deal because we were not professionals at (operating a) Christian medical clinic, and Grant is,” the reverend said of the Baptist association, which has other programs and ministries, including offering food, clothing and benevolent assistance.
Previously, all of Good Shepherd’s services were free. That now changes to the sliding scale format used by MercyMed on Second Avenue. The clinics, which will have a combined staff of nearly 20, also will refer patients to each other’s facility. Dr. Sarah Barr is the physician at the Steam Mill Road clinic.
Blanton said the projection is for the new full-service clinic to experience 7,000 patient visits annually. Scarborough said that the first year will likely be in the range of 3,000 visits, then rise to that higher level.
He also said it will be nice having two locations for patients who have a hard time getting around, some perhaps riding a Metra bus and others walking to the clinic. Each facility has seven exam rooms.
But there’s no doubting the need for the medical clinics and their ability to keep people healthy and, with that, “bring them honor and dignity,” Scarborough said.
“The most common things are high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, which all of those lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney problems,” he said. “If we can treat them before it becomes a major problem, and keep them out of the hospital ERs, it’s a great thing for the whole community.”
MercyMed of Columbus is located at 3702 2nd Ave. Open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and 8:30 a.m.-noon Wednesday and Friday. For more information, call 706-507-9209.
MercyMed of Mission Columbus is located at 3679 Steam Mill Road (at the intersection of Buena Vista Road). Open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8:30-11:30 a.m. Friday. For more information, call 706-507-4672.
MercyMed’s Dr. Grant Scarborough said the Steam Mill Road clinic will adopt the Second Avenue facility’s hours at some point. Call before visiting the facilities.