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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Fourth Street Clinic in downtown Salt Lake is struggling to deal with an increase in patients and a decrease in donations. The clinic has to turn patients away; people with serious illnesses. Lakeith Ellis is just one in a long line outside the Fourth Street Clinic, on 404 S. 400 West, hoping to get an appointment slot for a follow-up visit. "When I came here, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and thyroid issues." But he's told there are no appointments on Friday, and they will try to fit him in on Monday; and that's becoming a common answer.
Due to the poor economy, more people than ever need the clinic's services. A year ago, it saw 80 people a day; now it's up to 100.
Fourth Street Clinic Communication Director Jennifer Hyvonen said, "We're turning more people away a day; sometimes it can be up to 25 people a day. That leads to crowded waiting rooms, a busy staff and a line forming before the clinic opens.
The staff has changed how patient records are kept and shortened appointment times to try to serve the larger clientele, but they worry about people falling through the cracks.
Hyvonen explained, "Usually our patients are suffering from two, three, four chronic health conditions that either caused or perpetuates their homelessness."
Ashley Smith was one of the lucky patients. She and her two baby girls got an appointment. She said, "This is their first well-child checkup."
The family lives at the shelter a couple blocks away and without the clinic; Smith says there would be no health care for the babies at all. It's an alternative she's grateful she doesn't have to face.
The typical patient is seen between three and four times a year at a cost to the clinic of $500.