The clinic provides free health care to residents with no health insurance or low income.
Started in the fellowship hall of McDonough Presbyterian Church, the clinic is staffed by volunteer medical doctors, dentists, nurses, and other medically trained individuals.
They lend time and expertise to provide basic medical care and emergency dental care.
The clinic now operates out of a space donated by Henry Medical Center and holds medical clinics Mondays and Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Tuesdays from 2 to 8 p.m. at Piedmont Henry Hospital.
Ruth Rucker, executive director of the clinic, spoke to the city council during its workshop meeting last week about the services provided and why the clinic is vital to the city.
“Last year, 42 percent of our patients were McDonough residents,” she said.
Councilwoman Sandra Vincent said the percentage, which included 811 McDonough residents, was “startling.”
Two years ago, the council also approved a $2,000 donation to the clinic, which depends entirely on volunteers, grants and funds from the community.
“Because we do not have a base level of funding like many other nonprofit organizations, Hands of Hope Clinic is a year-to-year endeavor,” Rucker said.
She said although the clinic currently has about 80 volunteers, the donations pay for needs like utilities, insurance and medical technology.
Rucker also said previous grant funders were “changing their grant priorities thinking the problem of affordable health care were going to be addressed with the upcoming new health care legislation.”
However, she said, there will still not be enough funding for residents with the lowest level of income in the community.
“With the state not participating in the Medicaid expansion, we’re facing uncertainty,” Rucker said.
Gov. Nathan Deal opted out of Medicaid expansion in Georgia, citing the cost to the state as being “too huge.”
Mayor Billy Copeland said the clinic was a benefit to the city and a necessity.
“[The clinic] provides a great service to our community and has for years now,” he said.
Rucker said the benefits of the free clinic go beyond medical care.
“Our aim is to work with the hospital and keep people from using the hospital emergency department for non-life threatening conditions and we also provide patient education and counseling to help citizens get well and get back to work,” she said.
“Considering how many McDonough residents have already used your services, this information needs to shared,” Vincent said.