The city of Alexandria has opened its new out-patient health clinic, completing the move of most of its medical centers from the Old Town area up to the Seminary Road location.

The Flora Krause Casey Health Center, built with $1.3 million in federal and local funds, is expected to serve 6,500 patients this year, and ultimately reach 10,000 Alexandrians in need of its city health department.

"There are nine to ten thousand people in Alexandria at or below the poverty level, and they need care," Cardona said. In order to reach the more 3,000 persons who need medical help but may not visit the clinic on their own initiative, the city has organized some outreach programs and social welfare programs to contact individuals and bring them into the clinic, at 1200 N. Howard St., adjacent to the Alexandria Hospital, he said.

The clinic stagg includes four physicians and five nurses, as well as a volunteer staff of more than 20 physicians who spend several hours each week practicing their specialties, according to Dr. Enda Ryan, director of the Casey Clinic.

"The clinics include a wide variety of specialties, from obstetrics to oncology (cancer). If we need to, we can refer a patient to the hospital across the street. Obesity, hypertension and diabetes are commonly seen in the patients, and we try to help them with medical advice, as well as a nutrition or social worker if that is needed," he said.

The clinic was formerly on Columbus Street, in the Old Town area, but the rundown quality of the building prompted the move to the western part of the city. The move came several years after the switch of the Alexandria Hospital from its Old Town area to the same western location.

"We have an indigency rate of 8.3 percent in Alexandria, compared to 2.1 percent in Fairfax county, which means we have four times as many indigent people in the city as the county," Ryan noted. "There is a tradition here of compassionate care, and this is the tradition we are trying to follow," he said.

The clinic is named after its longtime director, who retired in 1971.

The modern, concrete clinic has been physically designed to accommodate the walk-in nature of its constituency. There are large waiting rooms and the children's play areas, although the scheduling for appointments keeps the number of people sitting in the waiting room down to a minimum. Appointments are 15 minutes apart.

"We keep the wait for appointments to well under the national average of 35 minutes," Ryan said. "Fifteen percent of our patients lose their appointment and calls us for the information, so we have designed an information retrieval system to help us locate the patient and bring him in here."

The in-house pharmacy dispenses 55,000 prescriptions annually, and the clinic counsels 400 pregnant women and 300 diabetics each year, Ryan said.

Patients can reach the clinic by the 28-B or 26-A buses.