Georgia’s state legislature has approved $250,000 to put a community health center in Pembroke, officials say.
It’s unclear when the center will open or where it will be, but officials with the Georgia Primary Care Association met with local leaders May 10 and then toured possible sites in Pembroke.
The center, which will see patients regardless of ability to pay, will be run by Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, a Savannah-based private non-profit and federally qualified health care company that has several health centers in Chatham County.
The community health center in Bryan County will be its first outside Chatham County, officials said, though Curtis V. Cooper already sees a number of patients from Bryan County, the company’s medical director, Dr. Fariborz Zaer, said during the meeting in Pembroke.
In all, Curtis V. Cooper has more than 19,000 patients in its system, Zaer said. It’s a system that includes mobile health clinics which visit senior citizens and areas such as daycares and preschools.
"I’ve been a physician for 30 plus years," Zaer said. "It’s satisfying to see the impact we’re having on the community to be able to provide services, especially for the uninsured and underinsured."
The center also accepts insurance, officials said.
Zaer and Curtis V. Cooper CEO Albert Grandy said the center provides a range of care, and has its own psychiatrist.
Duane Kavka, executive director of the GPCA, told those at the meeting the site in Pembroke will bring the number of community health centers in Georgia up to 212 in 112 counties. They are operated by 34 different private companies as a statewide system of partnerships under local control.
Bryan County was chosen for funding in part due to efforts by county commissioners and state Rep. Jan Tankersley, R-Brooklet, who represents North Bryan.
Tankersley said state lawmakers focused on rural health care during the last session, and that led to the funding.
"One of the biggest needs found by the Rural Development Center was our underserved rural areas as far as having health care, having a dentist, and having access to health care after hours," she said. "This is a wonderful opportunity that’s been presented to us."
Kavka said community health centers have been around since the 1960s, but were given new impetus under Pres. George W. Bush, whose wife, Laura Bush, was an advocate.
"I mention that to say we have great bipartisan support on both sides of Congress," Kavka said.