Local News

August 8, 2012

Big plus: New health care center opens doors

Dr. Wiley Smith moved to Dalton three years ago to minister to those who lack health care, and he says that work has kept him very busy.

As part of his effort, Smith has volunteered with Grace Medical Outreach Ministries,

“It’s a church-sponsored group, and we do house calls for indigent patients, people who can’t get to doctors. Grace Presbyterian Church is our main sponsor. But we get support from a lot of other churches,” Wiley said.

Smith has also worked part time at a federally qualified health center in Chatsworth. Federally qualified health centers target those without health coverage, but they also provide health care for those with insurance or who are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

The operator of the Chatsworth center, Morganton-based Georgia Mountains Health, celebrated the opening of the Partnership HealthCenter, a new clinic it will operate at the Mack Gaston Community Center in Dalton, on Tuesday.

“I’ll be working here three days a week,” said Smith. “If people have health insurance or Medicare or Medicaid, that’s great. I’ll be happy to see them. And if they don’t, they are still welcome.”

Officials stressed the health center isn’t just a walk-in clinic but a full-service family practice.

“We have a big emphasis on prevention, helping people maintain healthy lifestyles and helping those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure manage those conditions,” Smith said. “Having a health center in the community center will be a big plus. There are so many activities here. We’ve got exercise equipment here, a WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office right next door.”

Smith, an Alabama native, earned his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which trains doctors and other health care providers for the U.S. military. He retired after 20 years as an Army doctor. After that he spent nine years as a medical missionary in Belize.

“While I was down there I picked up a little Spanish, and that comes in handy,” he said.

Georgia Mountains Health CEO Steven Miracle says the health center is currently open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. But he said he hopes to add a second health care provider soon and expand those hours.

“This is a family practice, so we will do all of the things you’d expect your family doctor to do,” Miracle said.

Miracle said the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership and its executive director, Nancy Kennedy, and the Dalton City Council and Mayor David Pennington deserve much of the credit for helping bring the health care center to the community center.

Pennington said the health center was a key part of the council’s plan to make the building a community center and not just a recreational facility.


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