63ºF

Duval Health Dept. closing Marietta location

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County Health Department is planning to close its Marietta clinic on West Beaver Street due to budget cuts, a move that will affect a large number of families in that area.

The cases of 1,700 children who have been receiving care there will be transferred to another clinic on Timquana Road.

Two-year-old Katie, who suffers from asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is one of those children. Her parents are constantly taking her to the Health Department's Marietta location, but now that it's closing, they don't know what they're going to do.

"I just want to scream. It's not fair to the people around here who don't have a way to the doctor other than their feet, and that's the only way I have," Katie's mother, Marina Powers, said.

"It is really frustrating. My daughter is my world, and without the doctor, she'll be getting sick a lot," Katie's father, Nathaniel Raffety, said.

Duval County Health Department Director Dr. Bob Harmon said several years of funding cutbacks are the problem, and they're causing the department to consolidate the Marietta Health Center with the Wesconnett location.

"This is a last resort," Harmon said. "We've been able to keep it open until now, but we just cannot continue it and we hope this kind of thing doesn't go on. We hope the economy improves, that state revenues improve and we can deliver the care that's needed."

This is the third health center the department has had to close in the last five years. After May, Duval County will have a total of eight health centers.

Harmon said Marietta patients struggling to get to another location can call the department's main number and ask for a human service counselor.

"They can try to arrange transportation for any patient who's in need to different clinics and doctor's appointments, so we'll try to work with them and try to make plenty of services available at Wesconnett," Harmon said.

But Katie's parents said they don't want to travel the extra nine miles. They'd like to keep their doctor within walking distance.

"I just need them to keep it open so I can get my kids to the doctors so they don't have to suffer," Powers said.

Marietta patients needing transportation assistance can call the Duval County Health Department at 904-253-1000 or dial 211 to reach United Way from any phone.