By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 19, 2017 | En Español
CHAMBLEE—With prayers for “those who are sick or in distress and on those who help and minister to the sick in any way,” scores of supporters and donors on Monday, May 1, celebrated the ribbon cutting at the new $14 million Mercy Care Chamblee clinic.
At the clinic, doctors, nurses, dentists and mental health specialists will serve adults and children from a largely Hispanic immigrant community.
Medical assistant Gladys Torres has worked for Mercy Care for close to 20 years, first driving a van to bring medical care to homeless people in downtown Atlanta.
Patients will be happy to receive care and service in this new sunlit office, she said. For her, the roomy clinic with large windows is a dream come true, she said, with a smile.
More than 725 individuals, corporations and foundations contributed to make the clinic possible.
Mercy Care leaders and supporters saluted the work to make the clinic environment appealing for anxious patients as they walk through the doors. They drew on the history of the Sisters of Mercy and the religious community’s founder, Sister Catherine McAuley, whose mission began in 1831 to serve the poor and orphans in Dublin, Ireland, and has since spread around the globe. The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Atlanta in 1880.
The building with its glass-tower entrance is a reflection of the esteem Mercy Care has for their patients, said Tom Andrews, president of Mercy Care. Men and women will have their dignity and value honored as they come there for treatment or attend community education classes, he said. Andrews thanked the donors and the workers who made the building and its services possible for people who might otherwise go without.
Clinic is part of Mercy Sisters’ legacy
David Fitzgerald, chairman of Saint Joseph’s Health System board of trustees and the capital campaign co-chairman, thanked the donors when he told them Sister McAuley would smile at the work undertaken by Mercy Care knowing it serves the underprivileged and how it serves them with honor. In 2016, 88 percent of patients served by Mercy Care were uninsured.
After Saint Joseph’s Hospital moved in the late 1970s from downtown Atlanta to Sandy Springs, volunteers, doctors, nurses and others set up Mercy Care to return downtown to care for the needs of those underserved men, women and children, he said.
Mercy Care is now a network of 13 fixed and mobile primary care clinics in metro Atlanta.
This Chamblee clinic and the people who work there continue the outreach to those working poor people, much as Sister McAuley did in her time, Fitzgerald said.
Holy water was sprinkled throughout the ground floor clinic to bless the building by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, along with Father Steve Yander, a past chaplain at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and Dominican Father Jeffrey Ott.
In his remarks, Archbishop Gregory saluted the history of the Sisters of Mercy. He reminded the crowd how the Atlanta community first got to know the Catholic Church in large part by the efforts of the Sisters of Mercy, when the four sisters arrived by train from Savannah to open the first Atlanta hospital following the Civil War.
The sisters showed care and compassion to patients as they treated people in a city with few Catholics, he said. The Mercy sisters, followed later by the Hawthorne Dominican sisters and their hospice, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home, showed the community the Catholic faith long before there was an archdiocese and a cathedral built on Peachtree Road, he said.
More space, more services for patients
The new building is distinctive with its tall glass tower, just blocks from the Chamblee MARTA station. It sits near the intersection of Peachtree and Chamblee Tucker roads.
It replaces a much smaller Mercy Care North clinic that had been serving patients for more than a dozen years in the Northeast Plaza Shopping Center on Buford Highway. Its environmentally sustainable design earned certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The building is 45,000 square feet with the medical clinic on the first floor. The clinic takes up about half of the building space with 24 examination rooms, six dental operatories, a vision center, which will begin services July 1, and lab and radiology services. The clinic will be able to handle more than 15,000 primary care office visits annually when at full capacity. The goal is to wrap clients into an integrated medical program giving them access to a range of services, from mental health specialists and pastoral care to dietitians to address underlying causes of poor health, such as obesity and smoking.
The second floor houses a health education center and the offices of the Mercy Care Foundation. The center includes a teaching kitchen and classrooms for community education. Some 10,000 square feet have been left unfinished for future growth.
At the new site, Mercy Care is planning to significantly expand pediatric services to the underserved through a partnership with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
The clinic has a sliding fee discount scale based on income for self-paying patients and also accepts those with Medicare, Medicaid and other major insurance plans. A community open house will be held Saturday, May 20, from 2 to 5 p.m.