French 500 Clinic closes

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — After nearly eight years of operation and providing healthcare to those who could not afford it, the French 500 Clinic is saying goodbye to southeast Ohio and its Appalachian patients.

French 500 Clinic Board members Tony Gallagher, Dr. Mel Simon and his wife Lydia Simon reflected on their years with the clinic and thanked the many who volunteered their time and knowledge to the assistance of the clinic’s patients.

“We believe we helped over a thousand patients,” said Gallagher and Mel. “After some time, we stopped counting.”

“I’ve been doing medical missions, my wife and I, to the Philippines,” said Mel. “Every December we go, since 1982. That’s every year. In (winter), (Dr. Paul Sebastien) had stopped me. He knew I was leaving for the Philippines and asked me a question. He said,’You’ve been doing this all this time to the Philippines. Why can’t you do it here?’”

A discussion began focused on the fact many area residents at the time did not have medical insurance. According to information provided by the three, the clinic served its 1,000th patient on its third anniversary.

“Lydia, me, Sebastien and Mel met and asked ‘Can we do this?’” said Gallagher. “Where are we going to find the money?”

The clinic’s anniversary was August 30, 2009.

Gallagher said members started searching for founding and were awarded roughly $15,000 to $16,000 by AEP to get the organization off the ground.

“That stimulated us to ask donations from banks and women’s clubs (and other organizations) and they all responded,” said Mel.

“We could not have done it without them,” said Gallagher. “We moved to have some examining rooms at (258 Pinecrest Drive).”

Mel said that his daughter-in-law Dr. Tess Simon, who had been practicing at the location, as well as Mel, was moving to another location to practice and the remaining examining rooms she had been practicing in became used for the clinic. Doctors, nurses and others joined the clinic’s mission as its practice took form.

“We started out with only Gallia County and then we went out to other counties and accepted them,” said Gallagher. “But we would only take people who had no insurance.”

Gallagher said certain forms of government subsidized healthcare was also accepted in the clinic, but not all. He said it had not been uncommon for the clinic to have patients that hadn’t had care in several years. The focus of the clinic was to provide healthcare to those who could not afford it.

Lydia said that with patient numbers dwindling in the last year and the financial burden to continue funding the clinic taking its toll, the group had decided it was time to close the clinic.

In an email provided to a reporter, Mel says to his clinic colleagues “In this connection, I consider it a great opportunity for all of us in the (French 500 Clinic) that we all had the chance to give our best assistance to the patients that we have served so well in the past successful seven to eight years of our operation. By any standard of measurement, I am confident to say that we have fared well, thanks to all of you and by the Grace of our Almighty.”

Mel said he was keeping the clinic’s paperwork close in case the current economical environment changed it was was feasible to re-open the clinic. All three said they were proud to have served the community and that their memories of the clinic would remain bright.

Mel listed some of the clinic’s original volunteers but noted there had been more throughout its time.

Richard Simpson, M.D., Reid Brubaker, M.D., Nabil Fahmy, M.D., Jamshed Nuggud, M.D., Theresa S. Simon, M.D., Michael Corbin, M.D., John Ellison, D.O., Aaron Karr, D.O., Barry Bradford, D.C., Jolie Bitner, D.C., Todd Rubley, D.C. Joanne Elliott, R.N., Paul Sebastien, Ph.D., Beverly Voss, R.N., Debbie Beegle, R.N., Carol Curry, R.N., Barbara Epling, R.N., Evangeline Gagucas, R.N., Debra Greene, R.N., Connie McGlothlin, R.N., Jaga Sebastien, R.N., Lydia S. Simon, R.N., Sandy Walker, R.N., Potty Wetherholt, R.N., Bonnie McFarland, R.N., B.S.N, Lennie Davis, R.N., B.S.N., M.S., Ida Evans, C.L.N.P, Kay Albright, Shirley Doss, Judge Margaret Evans, Tony Gallagher, Jan Davison, Betty Horan, Remy Simon, Amanda Roush, Rev. John Jackson, Patricia Clark, Debbie Caldwell, Lynn Simpson and Charlene Smith.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright