A proposal by a bureau of the Department of Human Resources (DHR) to merge the chest clinic at the Northwest Health Center witht the chest clinic at D.C. General Hospital in Southeast is being fought by District residents and Northwest clinic personnel.
Last Saturday, a small group of citizens met at the 19th Street Baptist Church in Northwest, to discuss a proposal by the Bureau of Preventive Services that the Northwest chest clinic be closed by December and its functions transferred to D.C. General.
The suggestion comes three months after the General Services Department recommended that DHR replace th 75-year-old Northwest Health Center because of numerous building violations. No funds have yet been made available for a new building. However, DHR is planning to relocate the various services now offered at the health center. Some services are expected to be transferred to portable buildings to be erected on nearby property.
Moving the chest clinic, opponents said, would leave the city with only one free chest clinic, located in Southeast. Financially strapped upper northwest and northeast residents would be face with increased transportation costs, they said, and travel time to the new clinic could increase by as much as three hours.
Clinic staff also expressed fears that northwest patients already undergoing treatments for tuberculosis would discontinue their medication if forced to travel to Southeast for services. Treatment for the communicable disease, which they said is still a health hazard in the District, takes two years.
"We already have a problem trying to keep up with (homeless) alcoholics and drug addicts," said a clinic staff member.
In an attempt to save the clinic, the group organized telephone and petition committees to inform local people of the issues. Representatives from senior citizen and religious groups - such as the Committee of 100 Ministers and the United Planning Organization's Senior Citizens Task Force - also pledged their support.
Northwest resident Loretta Haynes was chosen to man the telephone committee. Yvonne Williams, also from Northwest, set up a campaign to mobilize junior and senior high school youth who use the chest clinic's free services to complete medical requirements for summer jobs.
"We need to let them (the ministers) know these are their people being shunted about," declared the Rev. Frank Williams, paster of the Asbury Methodist Church in Northwest, Williams said he would bring the issue to area ministers and his congregation.
Audrey C. Thomas said she would take the issue to senior citizens in the city's 119 senior clubs. "We've got to get youth and age in action (on this) and forget about the middle ground," said Thomas.
Members of the clinic staff said that the District is sixth in the nation in new reported tuberculosis cases. Most of those cases, said Northwest personnel, involve people who live in the upper Northwest and Northeast areas. Patients from nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs are often diagnosed at the center treatment is generally conducted at heatlh centers in their own areas.
Of 319 new tuberculosis cases reported in the city in 1976, 166 came from the Northwest area and the remainder from the rest of the city. In July of 1977, 81 TB patients were services at the Area "C" clinic while the Northwest center handled 144 cases in September of this year.