Sarah L. Goff, M.D.: Criticism of proposed health clinic in Amherst off base
To the editor:
It was with great disappointment that I read of public criticism of the proposed site for a new health clinic in Amherst.
As a primary care doctor and health services researcher, I have had the pleasure of caring for patients of all ages in community health centers in western Massachusetts. My research focuses in part on health care disparities. Given the apparent need, I was thrilled to learn that the Hilltown Community Health Center is considering a satellite clinic in Amherst and think Town Manager John Musante’s proposal of the Bangs Community Center as a potential site is brilliant.
The center is on a bus line and would allow for easy integration with existing services while also stimulating growth of new volunteer opportunities — a community health center at it’s best. Ironically, I was also excited for the seniors who could benefit from on-site primary care; community health centers do not provide care only for underserved populations and some seniors are also members of these underserved populations.
We chose Amherst as a place to raise our young children because we perceive it as a community that values diversity and that possesses an ethic of social justice.
The Council on Aging’s opposition to the Bangs Center as a potential site conflicts greatly with my perception of our community.
The council’s concern about health risks for seniors sharing the building is unfounded. This concern seems a thin cover for the other concern described: that Senior Center visitors might have to share a building with community members with a perceived lower socio-economic status.
The patients served by community health centers often have little to no political voice. Although other reasons may arise that disqualify the site, I am hopeful that the unfounded fears of one part of the community do not limit opportunities for others and further propagate inequities in our health care system.
Sarah L. Goff, M.D.
Dr. Goff is assistant professor of medicine at the Baystate Medical Center/Tufts University School of Medicine.