St. Pete free clinic expands as congress considers repealing ACA

Posted at 6:23 PM, Mar 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-10 18:23:55-05

A plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is making its way through Congress. The new health care plan could mean 10 million people will lose their insurance coverage, according to a new report from S&P Global Ratings.

It comes at the same time a free healthcare clinic in St. Pete is announcing a big expansion and are prepared to take on more patients.

Can you imagine not seeing a doctor for decades? Until recently, that was the case for Rajpati Lekhram. As a diabetic, she had days where she didn’t have the strength to get out of bed. "I wasn’t feeling good at all and I wasn't getting the treatment I needed before I started coming to the St. Petersburg free clinic," she explained, "I must say I’m feeling great. Great.”

Lekhram and her husband don’t have insurance, but thanks to doctors and nurses, many who are volunteers, at the St. Petersburg free clinic, her life has turned around. “100%. I must say. 100%,” Lekhram elaborated.

Soon, the free clinic will be able to help even more people. By mid-summer, they'll move into a 7,000 square foot building at 5501 4th St. N., with room for specialties like cardiovascular health and acupuncture.

The new building will have twice the number of exam rooms, and that will be especially helpful with the uncertainty in our federal government. The free clinic is ready to take on more patients, no matter what happens with the Affordable Care Act.

Debbie Sokolov, the clinic's director of development explained, “We will continue to be here for people in our community who have nowhere else to go. If that’s the result of what happens with legislation, then we are here to fill that need.”

It's a need to save more lives and to give hope. And some days, like Friday, something unexpected happens.

Lekhram uttered to her doctor, “You know when you believe in your God, that’s how I believe in you.”

That hope: Passed right back.

“Everyday I get goosebumps. Everyday I break down. We are saving lives and you never know if one day you could be in their shoes. All it takes is one thing to happen to us, and we could find ourselves without insurance and needing a little help,” Sokolov said while fighting back tears.

The clinic staff tell us those warm feelings are here to stay, no matter how many patients they take on.

A private donor, David Baldwin, made the expansion possible. Baldwin purchased the medical building on 4th Street with $1,575,000. 



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