Thursday, July 10, 2008 | 2 a.m.
This was going to be a feel-good story until someone stole the air conditioners.
The good news started when, last year, North Las Vegas offered a vacated government building to Community Outreach Medical Center, which provides medical care to the uninsured and the homeless. The nonprofit group has been in an Eastern Avenue strip mall, next to a check-cashing joint and a minimart, just south of the city line for the past year.
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There, for a burgeoning roster of clients, it provides prenatal care for soon-to-be mothers with nowhere else to turn, treats uninsured HIV patients and handles other medical issues for folks down on their luck.
The donated building on Tonopah Drive would double its exam rooms from three to six.
More people could be served in the one-stop medical shop.
Then, before the center could take possession of the 5,000-square-foot building, vandals and thieves struck. Copper wiring was torn out of the walls. All six air-conditioning units were stolen. The toilets and sinks were ripped from the floors.
It amounts to $300,000 in damage.
The building with a bright future now sits useless, and nobody has the cash to fix it.
The center operates on grants and government aid, along with the occasional donation. It’s been open for only about two years. But it’s been busy. Last year it served 1,073 patients. In the first six months of this year, it served 881 people.
“We serve the people with nowhere else to go,” says Sherry Suggs, the operations manager.
And not surprisingly, business is booming for a medical clinic catering to the uninsured and others who can’t afford to give birth or get medicine.
It will continue to grow when it moves to the Tonopah building a few blocks north, to an even grittier area where the need for services is even greater.
The center hopes to open the new location by October, but that will happen only if one of three things happens first: It gets additional grant money, an angel’s donation, or a loan.
“It looks like we are going to take out a loan,” says Dr. Rubin Saavedra, who oversees medical care at the center when he’s not working as the physician at the Las Vegas Detention Center. “It’s hard as a giver to ask for help.”
The new building, a one-time county services center, is near the “homeless corridor” and alongside a new bus line that could deliver even more people seeking medical care.
The center has big goals.
The first is opening the new building. The second is eliminating a $1,200 fee for prenatal care. Yes, free medical care for future moms.
But first they need an electrician, a plumber and new air conditioners.