Chanae Jackson came to Lincoln Middle School ready to voice her dissatisfaction.
“We don’t trust you, and we don’t trust you for a good reason,” she said.
Jackson, a local activist, was spurred to participate because of issues she had with her father’s experience with the UF Health system as well as personal experience regarding widespread community access.
“My son works for UF Health,” Jackson said. “From our house to UF Health, it’s two hours waiting on the bus to get there and back, which is just absolutely absurd when we only live six miles away. And that’s just the gaps. So even as they’re talking about urgent care, it doesn’t address the fact that you might get people where they don’t go to the ER, but they don’t have the follow up of the ability to access follow up services that they need.”
The University of Florida’s UF Health organized the “Hearing the Heart of Our Communities” meeting Monday evening. Dr. Lakesha Butler, UF Health’s Chief Diversity officer, spearheaded the event alongside City of Gainesville commissioners, Alachua County representatives and the advisory boards of the Gainesville community reinvestment area.
“It was great feedback,” Butler said. “It was exactly what we came here for. We wanted honest truth, and I think we’re starting a new beginning for this genuine partnership between UF Health and East Gainesville.”
The presentation began with an update on the UF Health Urgent Care Center in East Gainesville-Alachua County plans. The project will be located within the Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area’s Eastside Health Economic Development Initiative tract next to their Cornerstone property on Southeast Hawthorne Road and Southeast Eighth Avenue.
Public statements were the main focus of the event, as it was slated for 45 minutes, or half of the meeting. Just over a dozen people shared their opinions bringing attention to their concerns, disagreements and experiences.
Among the talking points, a desire for primary care options instead of the urgent care clinic appeared the most among community members.
“I would also say thank you if you put forth a very good effort and spend our money for what we need and not what you think we need,” said Carrie Parker-Warren, a retired P.K. Yonge administrator.
Other issues discussed touched upon mental health services, the desire for 24-hour service over initial statements of 12-hour coverage, the importance of hiring Black doctors and contractors to manage and build the center, and whether or not the center would accept Medicare and Medicaid.
The event was intentionally shared through localized channels like the Gainesville Black Professionals Expo Saturday, local urban-contemporary radio stations, and churches.
After Carolyn Tucker, Ph.D., shared local outreach efforts through UF Health Cancer Center’s Community-Partnered Cancer Disparities Research Collaborative. As the director of the CDRC and UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program, she detailed the training of local community members to provide mental health support and connect churches to UF Health.
District 1 City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker also reaffirmed her position on the clinic, saying that while she did not vote for the hospital in her district, she was prepared to help efforts of change.
“We know that this clinic is not enough … This has to only be the beginning.”
Moving on from this meeting, UF Health will create an East Gainesville advisory group, following up on the community concerns of this meeting within a few months, and distribute a local newsletter to share UF Health initiatives.
Ground will be broken for the clinic sometime in May, and it is projected to open in May 2024.
“No place stays the same,” said Brenda Sabree-Brown, of northeast Gainesville, “especially when you get more people transitioning or migrating from one community, one state to another. It changes the dynamic of the community because everybody that comes out of the community don’t have the community’s interest and wants to participate and help support the responsible citizen.”