Parents fundraise to keep pediatric clinic open

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(Host) A group of parents in Bellows Falls must raise $25,000 to prevent a pediatric health clinic from shutting down. The parents met last week with officials from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, which operates the heath center. The hospital backed off earlier threats to close the clinic. But now the parents have to come up with half the money to keep it operating.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) When Kim McNeil’s two children get sick, she takes them to Cornerstone Pediatrics in Bellows Falls. The clinic is staffed by two physicians and serves 600 families. McNeil says if the clinic closed, she’d have to drive her five-year-old or her one-year-old down to Brattleboro to see the doctor:

(McNeil) “It’s a half an hour drive. And if you have a kid with an ear infection, you don’t want to take a half an hour off from your time of work. And this is just transportation. Then the time it takes to see the doctor, for the doctor to see the child, so there’s a two hour situation right there.”

(Dillon) The Bellows Falls clinic is run by Southern Vermont Heath Services Corporation, the parent company of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Earlier this month, the hospital warned it would close the clinic in January because it was losing money. The clinic serves 600 children. And the parents rallied to keep it open. Late last week, they got some good news:

(McNeil) “They said we can keep this open to September 30, 2003, if we can come up with half the money to pay for this added deficit that they would be taking on.”

(Dillon) McNeil and other parents say they’ll ask local foundations for grants and donations.

Jennifer Murphy is the editor of the Town Crier, the local weekly newspaper. She says the local response has been overwhelming. Murhpy says the same community spirit should help with fundraising:

(Murphy) “I think this community has more than proven that they care about this pediatric clinic, that they care about these doctors, that the families have rallied together to create a fighting force. And you know, I would not put it past them to raise every single dollar of those $25,000, whether they have to do it individually or through big donors.”

(Dillon) The parents group has until January 1 to raise the money. There’s also the possibility that federal money could be available for a health center in Bellows Falls.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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