New Hopkins medical office opens next week

04/22/2014 8:25 AM

04/22/2014 8:28 AM

Hopkins Family Practice moves into a new home across from Lower Richland High School next week, paid for in part by a $775,000 federal grant.

The practice, part of the growing Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers group, has been operating out of cramped space in a retail building on the other side of the new parking lot. Now it has plenty of room in a building constructed specifically for health care.

When county leaders asked people in the Lower Richland community about how to best spend federal Community Development Block Grant funds, a low-cost health clinic was at the top of the list. Many in the area had to drive 20 miles or more into downtown Columbia to get to a low-cost or free clinic.

As part of the nonprofit Eau Claire Cooperative, Hopkins Family Practice works with low-income patients to pay what they can afford on a sliding scale based on their income. More than 20 Eau Claire facilities in Fairfield, Lexington and Richland counties now treat 55,000 individuals, according to Dr. Stuart Hamilton, the Eau Claire CEO.

Eau Claire is responsible for the health care services for 45 percent of the people living at or below the poverty level in Lexington and Richland counties, Hamilton said. The new Hopkins office will expand that coverage.

The biblical story of the Good Samaritan, who showed compassion with no strings attached, is a guiding principle for Eau Claire. “It is the kind of compassion that is active and meets the needs, whatever the needs happens to be,” Hamilton said Monday at a ribbon-cutting at the Hopkins facility. “This building is a product of that kind of compassion.”

Hopkins Family Practice is a decidedly local practice. The building’s architect, Craig Otto, is a Lower Richland High School graduate, and the practice’s pediatrician, Dr. Ugochia Cantave, and general practitioner, Dr. Ezra Ash, both grew up in the Lower Richland area.

“You don’t think you’re going to come home,” said Cantave, who practiced in Beaufort before returning to the Midlands. “It wasn’t in my plan. But right now, I don’t see myself anywhere else.”

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