my information

--- Issued April 28, 2010

Erie Daily Times article on the Housing Authority's new health care clinic at the Harbor Homes development, published April 28, 2010:

Medical Clinic Serves East Erie

Public Housing Complex

Ganga Rai, at right, and her husband Ruben Rai, at back center, try to comfort their son, Ujal, 16 months, as LP Nurse Janna Cosic gives Ujal an immunization shot at Harbor Homes clinic located at 1841 E. 18th Street on April 23.

You often needed a bus schedule or a friend with a car to visit a medical clinic, if you lived in the Harbor Homes public-housing complex.

The nearest medical clinic that accepted Medicaid was miles away, too far to walk for most of the more than 3,000 residents who lived in the east Erie neighborhood.

Transportation is always an issue with our residents," said John Horan, executive director of the Erie Housing Authority, which oversees the Harbor Homes complex. "A lot of recent immigrants live at Harbor Homes, and they don't have cars or access to cars."

That's not a problem anymore.

The Housing Authority and the Multi-Cultural Health Evaluation Delivery System have opened a clinic inside the Harbor Homes complex, at the Marsha Ann Hall Learning Center, 1841 E. 18th St.


The MHEDS clinic at Harbor Homes is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m., and Fridays from 1 to 9 p.m. It accepts Medicaid, Medicare and private health insurance for payment. It also bills on a sliding scale based on federal poverty guidelines for patients without insurance.

"It's a place where people can get physical exams, immunizations, basic health care," MHEDS Executive Director Agnes Priscaro said. "We can refer patients to other medical providers if that's needed."

The clinic opened Dec. 28, after a study funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health determined a need in the area for accessible primary medical care.

Many Harbor Homes residents had been going to Community Health Net, 1202 State St., or the MHEDS clinic, 2928 Peach St.

"There used to be a clinic at the JFK Center but even that was too far away, especially in the winter," Priscaro said. "Too many people were simply going without proper medical care because they couldn't get to a clinic."

The new clinic has examined or treated more than 300 patients since it opened.

About 75 percent of them are recent immigrants or refugees, Priscaro said.

Ruben Rai and his family live in Harbor Homes after recently emigrating from Nepal. They visited the clinic Friday to get vaccinations they needed to qualify for green cards.

"The doctors and nurses at MHEDS treat us very well whenever we come here," said Rai, 30. "They also remind us if we have an appointment."

The clinic is staffed by a nurse practitioner, a licensed practical nurse and a medical assistant.

Priscaro said she expects to hire a physician later this year.

Nurse practitioner Joe Phillips said he treats patients at the clinic for common illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure, but he also sees people suffering from malnutrition and helminth, a parasitic worm.

"I treat a lot of people for GERD," Phillips said, referring to gastroesophageal reflux disease. "Diet has such an impact in some cultures. Many of the people with GERD eat foods loaded with curry and other spices."

Though the clinic was built primarily for the people who live in Harbor Homes, it is open to the public.

It accepts Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance, Priscaro said.

"We have a sliding scale based on federal poverty guidelines for people without insurance," Priscaro said.

Funding for the clinic came from a $120,000 state Health Department challenge grant, and matching funds from MHEDS and the Erie Housing Authority.

"That money was to set everything up and get things running," Priscaro said. "Now it's up to us."

DAVID BRUCE can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail.