November 27, 2014
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Good Samaritan

By Bill Kinney, associate editor, MDJ
There are some choices you should never have to make, such as whether to pay for your child's shoes or his shots.

"There are some choices you should never have to make, such as whether to pay for your child's shoes or his shots," says Dr. Jack Kennedy, who's heading the ambitious effort to open the Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb.

"For more and more people of Cobb County, health insurance is not an option if they are to eat and keep a roof over their heads," he said.

So when they get sick or get a cavity or just need to see a doctor, they either have to grit their teeth and suffer or else go to the emergency room, which is one of the most costly and inefficient ways of providing non-emergency medical treatment.

"In America, even prisoners have access to basic healthcare," says Dr. Kennedy, a past chairman of the Department of General Surgery at WellStar Kennestone Hospital. "Shouldn't there be a place in Cobb that offers affordable, quality health care for people in need who do not have health insurance?"

He is trying to fill that need with the Good Samaritan Center, which will be modeled after a similar facility in downtown Atlanta that has been operating since 1999. Cobb's Good Samaritan Center will be on a two-acre site at the corner of Austell Road and Roberta Drive in Marietta. The 7,500-square-foot center will include a waiting area, offices, medical and dental exam rooms, an X-ray room, pharmacy, nurse's station, records area and conference room. Dr. Kennedy expects to average 500 patient visits a month almost from the day the doors open in spring 2005. Groundbreaking will take place before the end of the year.

The nonprofit center will eventually have a fulltime staff of 25 and has an operating budget of $700,000 for the first year. Dr. Kennedy also is leading a three-year capital campaign of $2.8 million, of which $1.25 million has been raised.

The Rotary Club of Marietta will sponsor an annual fundraiser for the Good Samaritan Center at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Marietta Conference Center ballroom. The evening will include a wine tasting, a buffet dinner, dancing and a silent auction. Entertainment will be provided by The Modernaires, a big band that has been in Atlanta since the 1960s. Tickets are $30 each and can be purchased by calling Paul Sherwood at (770)-427-0293.

What will Good Sam offer its community?

  • A solution to help relieve the strain on our hospital emergency rooms, thereby reducing costs and life-threatening delays
  • Training opportunities for medical, dental, physician assistant, nursing, dental assistant and hygiene students
  • Community service projects for students
  • Volunteer opportunities for community organizations, physicians, dentists and other individuals
  • A powerful way to positively impact our neediest citizens that has far-reaching effects.

What will it offer its patients?

  • A comprehensive range of services, including medical, dental, counseling, health education and selected social services
  • Affordable, quality care based on a sliding scale with fees waived for those who cannot pay
  • The opportunity to establish an ongoing relationship with a network of physicians to experience complete health and wholeness
  • Non-emergency care close to home so patients do not have to miss work, find transportation or travel long distances
  • A comfortable, professional environment where people from all races and religions are welcomed and cared for

It also will offer:

  • Local churches and outreach ministries
  • A place to refer clients who need medical treatment
  • Ongoing mission projects
  • Internships for ministers and counselors
  • A valuable opportunity to fill the gap left by shrinking government programs by putting faith into action.

"Cobb County has a long history of organizations committed to providing health care to the less fortunate, like Cobb Board of Health, MUST Ministries, WellStar and the Kennesaw University Foundation," Dr. Kennedy told the Marietta Rotarians.

"Our mission is to spread the love of Christ by providing quality medical care to those in need," he said. "We will provide primary medical, dental, pharmacy, counseling and selected social services.

We want to give these families a medical home, a place they can count on day in and day out."

Kennedy also has assembled a high-powered board. Among the project's supporters are such people as WellStar president Dr. Robert Lipson, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Sam Olens, Cobb Family Resources head Jeri Barr and others.

"Providing quality healthcare for the less fortunate in Cobb is something that every individual, business, civic group and religious group should collaborate on. The Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb will be an important tool to facilitate that goal," Lipson said.

Added Kennedy: "For us to be successful, the journey will require substantial community support and the willingness of others to share our vision. We will need prayer, friends, good advice, volunteers as well as material and financial resources."

If you'd like to be part of the effort and/or support it financially, call (770) 419-3120 or visit www.goodsamhc.org.

Bill Kinney is associate editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. His column also appears on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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