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Oct. 2 - Mercer University School of Medicine to Open Two Additional Rural Healthcare Facilities in Peach County, Clay County

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

October 2, 2019 - Following up on the successful launch of Mercer Medicine Plains in July 2018, Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) plans to open two additional rural health clinics in the coming weeks to continue delivering on its commitment to meet the healthcare needs of rural Georgians.

Mercer Medicine, the primary care practice and division of the faculty practice of MUSM, will establish comprehensive healthcare facilities in Fort Valley in Peach County and Fort Gaines in Clay County.

When Mercer Medicine Plains was dedicated last August, Mercer President William D. Underwood said that Mercer Medicine’s first clinic outside of Macon “represents part of a broad-ranging initiative by the University to transform access to health care in this state” and would serve as a model for additional rural health clinics around the state.

Mercer Medicine’s two new facilities will also provide an educational component for rural physicians, management services and will help in the placement of future physicians.

“These clinics not only offer quality care in rural areas; they give our students an opportunity to see good medicine and the difference a community-responsive physician can make in a rural community,” said Jean Sumner, M.D., dean of the Mercer University School of Medicine.

The Peach County practice will open in October at 201 Avera Dr. in Fort Valley in the location previously occupied by the medical practice of Michael W. Early Sr., M.D. 

“Mrs. Linda Early, the Early Family Practice Center staff and myself are delighted to collaborate with Mercer Medicine in Peach County,” Dr. Early said. “We know that the delivery of health care in Peach County has been excellent and will continue now that Mercer Medicine support and resources are present.” 

Services provided will include primary care, on-site lab services, EKG, vaccinations and telemedicine technology, supported by the Georgia Partnership for Telehealth (GPT), which will provide additional access to cardiologists, pulmonologists, endocrinologists and other specialists offered at Mercer Medicine in Macon.

Elected officials in Georgia earlier reached out to the Mercer School of Medicine to determine if the school could help increase access to health care in Clay County, located on the Alabama state line in Southwest Georgia. The hospital in Fort Gaines closed in the 1980s and, since then, half of the building has been vacant and the other half used for an assisted living facility. 

The Clay County community had received grant funding from One Georgia to explore healthcare options but had not been successful in moving forward with providers. The Clay County Board of Commissioners and Development Authority, using Mercer in an advisory role for the clinic layout, will renovate the hospital for the Mercer Medicine operation and will also provide office space for the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“The Clay County Board of Commissioners and our administrative staff are pleased and excited to welcome Mercer Medicine to Fort Gaines and Clay County. Mercer Medicine brings extensive experience and expertise to our area that will develop a medical clinic in Fort Gaines to serve as a trusted source of quality care for our residents and the surrounding area,” said Clay County Administrator Ronnie Crozier.

Mercer Medicine Clay County will offer primary care, X-ray services, on-site lab services, EKG, vaccinations and telehealth providers. 

Plans are for the facility to open at the site of the former hospital in Fort Gaines, 101 Hartford Rd. West, in early 2020. 

Since the Plains clinic opened, it has added 1,680 patients to its roster and recorded 5,330 patient visits between July 30, 2018, and Aug. 31, 2019. The facility continues to expand services, adding a part-time OB-GYN, Dr. Patricia Fennesy, and now performing X-rays.

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia.

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