West Jackson County free medical clinic too small for patients

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A free clinic in west Jackson County is now running out of space because of an influx of patients. The staff has had to turn hundreds of people away. And clinic officials are calling on county leaders and citizens to help.

Rita Shields was the first one to arrive for a checkup Wednesday at the Bethesda Free Clinic.

"It if wasn't for them, I would be in some bad shape sometimes because usually when I come to the doctor there is something wrong," Shields said.

This is her 30th visit since the free health center relocated to Jackson County.  Shields said she simply can't afford regular health care costs.

"I mean Medicaid only covers so much of this and so much of that, so you don't really get the help you need," Shields said.

The clinic operates from a double-wide trailer on county owned property. The executive director said the trailer is too small to accommodate the people who come through the door each day.

"We served 1,299 people in the year that we have been here. We are running out of room much quicker than we had anticipated. Some days we have a lobby full of patients," Mary Buffington said.

That is causing an even bigger headache.

"We turned away 275 people thus far this year. Had we had the room, we could have seen them all. We also have a dental program here; we have counseling going on, and medical services," Buffington said.

More space is not the only thing this free clinic needs, money is also an issue.

"Being 100 percent free clinic, we depend entirely on the community," Buffington said. "We take no government funds or no government grants. Finances are always an issue. So, that kind of dictates where we are looking and what we can do to expand."

Buffington isn't sure if relocating or expanding is the best way to grow, but she's optimistic county leaders and citizens will help Bethesda find the answers so the people in need continue to get health care.

"We need it from the most professional level down to the clerical help, down to just people with donations," volunteer Cecil Creel said.

If you would like to help the free clinic or need medical services, please call (228) 818-9191.

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