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On the Bright Side

July 11, 2013

Free clinic serves 1,000th patient

The Oneonta Community Health Center treated its thousandth patient on Tuesday.

Located on 31 Main St., the Oneonta Community Health Center first opened in 2008. Originally based out of 22 Academy St., it moved to its location at 31 Main St. about two  years ago.

“It’s a beautiful clinic; it’s really lovely,” said registered nurse Barbara Sperlin, clinic coordinator for the Oneonta Community Health Center. “It just feels very homey and inviting to patients.”

The center provides free primary health care for low-income adults with no health insurance. To qualify for treatment, individuals must have no health insurance, and have an income of no more than 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a household of one, that means an income of $34,470 a year or below. For a household of four, that means an income of $70,650 a year or below. 

Because of the requirement that patients have no insurance, no one older than 64 is treated at the clinic, as they are covered by Medicare.

The health center is staffed by 15 local doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants who volunteer their services. The center’s medical director is Dr. Benjamin Friedell.

“All our doctors are actively working doctors,” said Ms. Sperling, adding that many often work a full day before coming in to volunteer.

The office is staffed and the facilities are cleaned by volunteers as well, and only Sperling and the clinic’s volunteer coordinator are paid. Sperling is paid for 10 hours a week, but puts in more time as a volunteer.

Ms. Sperling volunteered at the center for three years before taking her current position.

“I started (volunteering) the very first day it started,” said Ms. Sperling, who said she has been a registered nurse for about 30 years.

When asked about impact the clinic had had on the community, Sperling said she believed it had had an incredibly positive one, noting that it was entirely funded by local donors.

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