AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It started in 1999 as an organization focused on improving the wellbeing of Hispanics and other underserved communities in the CSRA. Today, it has grown to include multiple clinics, including Clínica Latina.
“A lot of these patients wouldn’t have the healthcare that they need and, by doing this little thing, we can help this community a lot,” said Gustavo Capo, indigent care coordinator at Clínica Latina.
Clínica Latina is just one of many free clinics housed at Centro Médico on Merry Street in Augusta.
The clinic provides services to people without health insurance or living 200 percent below the national poverty level.
They also provide interpreting services.
“The biggest barrier for the Hispanic community is language,” said Capo. “And by being able to eradicate that barrier and give patient care to these patients has been such a rewarding experience.”
Medical director Dr. William Salazar tells us the vision for Centro Médico -and the many clinics it houses- began when he was considering mission work outside of the U-S.
“One of my med students- third year- told me, ‘why do you have to move out of Augusta if the need is here and the service is here?’,” said Dr. William Salazar, medical director at Clínica Latina.
With that, he decided to pursue his mission right here in the heart of the CSRA.
“We started with the Hispanic community and then we moved to provide care to everyone that meets the criteria,” said Dr. Salazar.
Claudia Szleck is a first-generation American. Her parents came from Poland. While she was growing up, she says she went to doctor’s appointments with her grandmother and watched her mom make things easier as her interpreter.
“This is something I wanted to do with any patient that comes in because, you know, doctor’s offices are scary, emergency rooms are scary and not having that language is already scary when you’re already sick and don’t want to be there,” said Szlek, physician/volunteer coordinator.
Dr. Salazar says they see nearly 250 patients per month.
And 600 volunteers make it possible to provide their various services to the community.
“You can imagine the sense of accomplishment- not only for me as medical director,” said Dr. Salazar. “It’s really an interplaying of really working together and working together and making sure we are here to provide those services for our community.”
“It’s always a great environment in the clinic,” said Szleck. “We’re always all so happy and laughing. And the patients all appreciate it, so it’s been a really great year.”
Clínica Latina is available the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month beginning at 5 P-M. For more information about Clínica Latina and Centro Médico, visit https://www.alas-csra.org/about-us.