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New health center location celebrated

March 20, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - How fitting that Doris Hughes should be on hand Saturday to help dedicate the new 43,000-square-foot "broom closet" now known as the Shenandoah Community Health Center.

A registered nurse who saw a need for affordable health care for everyone almost 30 years ago, Hughes founded the Shenandoah Valley Medical System in 1976, carving out space the size of an actual broom closet at the old Berkeley County Health Department office on King Street.

Lawmakers, health-care providers and some patients were on hand Saturday afternoon for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new site at 99 Tavern Road, which effectively houses all of the medical services that had been at five different sites.

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"In the 1970s, it was a gutsy time to start this, but that didn't stop you, Doris. You had your vision and that was that," said U.S. Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., keynote speaker at the well-attended outdoor event.

A cheer went up when Rockefeller announced good news about unsuccessful efforts Thursday in the U.S. Senate to cut funding that is important to Shenandoah Valley Medical System programs.

In a 52-48 roll call, a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans voted to yank all $14 billion in proposed five-year cuts from Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for the poor and disabled, Rockefeller said.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., remarked that last year, there were 90,000 patient encounters and 700 babies ushered into the world through the center's five former locations.

"For many people, this is the only health-care provider they have," said Marcia Brand, director of the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. "Anyone can get great primary care here, no matter what their income."

She added that every patient who comes to the center is one less person showing up in overcrowded emergency rooms at hospitals.

"In the United States, 13 million people are served with similar health care," Brand said. "Since 1976, this center has cared for us."

Among those attending the grand opening Saturday were Suzanne Antolini and her three children. When they came through the front doors into the huge center atrium, Jessica Antolini looked around and said, "Wow!"

"All three of my children, Jessica, John and Jacob, were born through this agency and they all come here for care," Antolini said. Her husband, George, now works at the center.

Among the services available are internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, WIC (Women and Infant Children), behavioral health, midwifery, obstetrics and gynecology, according to David Fant, the current executive director of Shenandoah Valley Medical System.

For more information on services, call 304-263-4999.

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