Mercer University set to open rural medical clinic in Harris County before end of year

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HAMILTON, Ga. (WRBL) — Mercer University plans to open its fifth medical clinic in Harris County before the end of this year.

Friday morning a ceremony was held at the old Harris County Library located in downtown Hamilton. The building is currently being renovated into the new healthcare clinic that will be run by Mercer University. The renovation is expected to cost about $900,000, more than $600,000 of that has been raised locally in Harris County.

Dr. Jean Sumner, Dean of the School of Medicine at Mercer, was in Hamilton and is impressed by the way the community has embraced this public-private partnership to bring the clinic here.

“The one thing I want you to know is that when Mercer comes, we are going to bring quality healthcare, state-of-the-art healthcare, consistent doctors and nurses, and advanced-practice people,” Sumner said to the room of Harris County leaders who gathered. “But we are here to stay. And we are not just here to be your clinic. We want to be part of your community.”

This will be the fifth clinic Mercer has opened to meet rural healthcare needs in Georgia. The other four are in Plains, Peach County, Clay County, and Putnum County. Despite Harris County’s closeness to Columbus, a larger medical hub there is a need in Harris County, said Sumner.

“Harris County really didn’t have physician care in this county on a consistent basis,” Sumner said. “And there are 36,000 people that live in this area. And you may be near metropolitan areas, but a ride of 40 minutes means that if you have a catastrophic event, you may die.”

Morgan Marlowe, who is the chairman of the steering committee for Mercer Medicine Clinic, believes the clinic will be an asset for Harris County.

“A completely different business model,” Marlowe said. “These are your daily physicians, your general physicians, family practitioners. It is somebody that can advocate for you if you need to go someplace else. It is not just for a cold or the flu. It is your daily physician that you go visit.”

Creating this clinic comes after the $35 million establishment of the Mercer School of Medicine campus in Columbus, which begins classes in a few weeks. Rep. Vance Smith, R–Pine Mountain, says this is a benefit for Harris County residents that is coming in part because of the med school campus in Columbus.

“People do have to travel some 25-30 miles for medical attention,” Rep. Smith said. “This will put the medical attention, the right people in the right place for our citizens of Harris County. We are growing … We are just tickled to death that Mercer is working in a partnership with the school board, the Harris County Commissioners, the city of Hamilton, and Georgia Power. All of the people who come to play. What a huge benefit for our citizens of Harris County.”

State Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, agrees with Smith.

“And to have the quality of healthcare that Mercer provides throughout the state and having it right next door to the Mercer Medical campus I think is an incredible opportunity for Harris County and Muscogee County,” Robertson said.

Dr. Sumner was happy with the progress she saw Friday morning and anticipates the clinic’s opening.

“I saw people working together for the greater good,” she said. “I saw people who care about the people in their county who want better lives and better-quality healthcare for this county.”

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