EAST LOS ANGELES : Clinic Construction to Begin Next Month

Officials expect construction to begin next month on a new clinic at the Ramona Gardens housing project that will offer expanded medical and dental services to low-income residents.

Months of delays have caused some residents to doubt whether the clinic would become reality. The Community Health Foundation of East Los Angeles, which provides free medical care to residents five days a week, first proposed building the clinic last September, but red tape delayed plans until now, said assistant director John Juarez.

"It's finally moving," Juarez said. "In the last couple of weeks, they've finally taken an interest in it."

The plans have changed from the original proposal to renovate a two-story abandoned unit. A one-story unit will be renovated instead because it will offer easier access for the handicapped, Juarez said.

The five-room unit will include four medical examination rooms and a dental chair, plus a waiting room. The improvements will increase the number of people served by the clinic, from the current 20 to 25 patients a day to about 60, Juarez said.

Last year, the clinic treated 3,000 patients; the housing complex has an estimated population of 4,000.

The Community Health Foundation, under a $289,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has operated a clinic for two years, occupying two upstairs rooms and a downstairs waiting room of the Resident Advisory Council office.

The Housing Authority will pay the costs, estimated at $50,000 to $70,000, and Community Health Foundation will provide the medical examination tables and equipment and pay a monthly fee. Juarez estimates that construction will be completed by July.

The biggest change will be the increase in the number of patients seen daily and the availability of dental services, which are now only offered sporadically, Juarez said. The new office will provide dental X-rays as well as cleanings and fillings. Currently, dental workers can only screen patients but do not clean teeth or fill cavities.

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