Push for new clinic in Avondale shot down by Finance Committee

AVONDALE, OH (FOX19) - There is a major disagreement between the Cincinnati Health Department and members of the Cincinnati City Council over a proposed health clinic.

"I think it was silly not to allow the Health Department to apply for this grant," said City Council Member Laure Quinlivan.

Supporters of the clinic say the 3-year, $650,000 grant won't cost the city a dime.

They also say the grant covers everything from construction to pharmaceuticals.

Opponents are concerned about how to fund the clinic after the three year time period ends and that the clinic could drain funds from an already cash-strapped city budget.

Still, Health Department officials and those at Children's Hospital are shaking their heads at this one and wondering how the Finance Committee could vote down a chance to open a clinic in Avondale, which Childrens Hospital is ready to partner-up with, to provide doctors and resources.

It would cost the city nothing and could have been a home-run for public health.

Cincinnati Board of Health Chair Dr. Wael Safi said not green-lighting the project was a real misstep on the Committee's part.

"We were asked several years ago to be more creative in how we sourced funds," Safi said. "Especially funds that were geared toward preventive care services."

They need Council's permission to apply for the grant, which would cost the city nothing to operate, at a site where a public dental clinic already runs.

"They think that they have a good chance of getting it," Quinlivan said.

"We've been really successful at sourcing these types of grants," Safi said. "Nothing's ever 100-percent sure, but very, very confident."

Council members Bortz, Murray, Ghiz, Lippert and Winburn voted 'no'.

"Well, you're talking to the person who said 'yes'," Quinlivan said. "I don't know exactly why they said no, I can only tell you that the comments that were made that day were more along the lines of, we just don't want to get into another health clinic."

"Something's wrong with that picture," said Carolyn Whitehead-Brown, who has worked in public health for years. "If they had a health clinic here they could come to, our babies would be getting the help that they need."

She's a mother of six kids and now a grandmother. Whitehead-Brown raised her family in Avondale.

"There are apartment buildings all around this area and people could walk here," she said.

"A lot of the people that would have been served by this full-service health clinic don't have good transportation, and therefore, when they really do need to go to the doctor, they're calling the emergency room," Quinlivan said.

That's an option which costs more and ties-up resources for people who need emergency care.

Dr. Safi said he was stunned the clinic got shot down and by Charlie Winburn's vote against it.

"He tends to favor some of the initiatives that we do that helps the under-served communities," Safi said. "So that was really the shocking vote for at least us."

"I've heard, that maybe one Council member has, what do you call it, voter's regret," Quinlivan said with a smile.

"As it stands, with the current vote, unless we do have a flip-flop if you will, then it is dead," Safi said.

Quinlivan said she would welcome a chance to take another vote on the clinic if Council member Charlie Winburn, who's apparently been talking with the Health Department and members of Avondale's Community Council after the vote.

We called Councilman Winburn's cell phone, but did not hear back from him, Wayne Lippert, or Amy Murray, who all voted the clinic down, by news time Wednesday.

There are some in the FOX19 News Nation, who disagree with the clinic.

Ben writes, "All the liberals hear is that it's going to be funded for 3 years, they don't care who will have to pay for it after that. p.s. its going to be you and me, the taxpayers."

And Dawn agrees writing, "Who is to say Cincinnati would have gotten the funding over other cities? And open a clinic for 3 years? Who will pay for it after that? The taxpayers."

If for some reason the grant money would dry-up after the three years, Rocky Merz with the Health Department said they'd just shut it down, just like they've done before with other health clinics.

Copyright 2011 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.