Protestors overshadow Care Point’s community day
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
A portion of the parking lot at Care Point Health and Wellness Center had all that visitors hoped they’d find on a day planned to inform the community of services that will be offered in the brand new building.
Rows of informative brochures were available and staffers were there to explain details of what services will be available to patients.
Outside the fenced primary care facility, a group of protestors carried signs in support of Edward Holifield, a well-known Tallahassee cardiologist. Holifield, who has long opposed Big Bend Cares, the parent arm of Care Point, was there to spread his message about unfairness to the uninsured.
Holifield also continued to contend that Care Point will put Bond Health Center out of business, although doctors from Bond will have days for working out of the new building. Care Point is located on the intersection of South Monroe Street and Magnolia Drive, less than a mile from Bond.
Holifield and his supporters also were there to show their displeasure over Holifield being warned to stay off the Care Point property. That came a little more than a week after police officers turned him away from a private open house at Care Point.
Joe Webster, a Tallahassee physician who was among the protestors, questioned the violation of Holifield’s First Amendment, which guarantees free speech.
“I live in Tallahassee but I’m not sure I’m living in America,” Webster’s sign read.
“Are we living in Russia that if you write something it could be censored or you could be put in jail,” he asked while pacing the sidewalk.
“If we are going to have Corporate America telling people what to say, and then use the police department to whop common citizens in place, then we are living in the wrong country.”
But even as protestors lined near the building, facing Adams Street, they seemingly didn’t distract those who came to learn more about the services that would be available. Most, like Holifield, had one main concern: whether uninsured patients would be taken at Care Point.
Jonathan Appelbaum, Chair of the FSU College of Medicine’s Department of Clinical Sciences, and a Big Bend Cares board member, reiterated what Big Bend Cares’ executive director, Ron Renzi has been saying for some time.
“We just stand by what we’ve been saying all the time,” Appelbaum said. “We are going to see anybody that walks into the facility. This is a primary care facility. We are not going to turn anybody away.”
Appelbaum said he was impressed with the community turnout. Care Point will begin taking patients on Dec. 1.
Valarie Gainous, a Southside resident, said she plans to be one of the new patients.
“I think this is going to be a wonderful place because it’s keeping us in the neighborhood and we can see doctors in our neighborhood,” Gainous said.
Having Care Point within walking distance of four major housing complexes on the Southside is a convenience for the area, Gainous said.
“So many people that could just walk over here,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about getting up early trying to catch a bus.”
Holifield, however, suggested that Blacks weren’t considered when the facility was being built. He pointed to chemical contamination found on the property before the building was completed, contending that it wouldn’t have been addressed if he didn’t bring it to the EPA’s attention.
At the same time, he continued to question the use of $1.5 million from the Community Redevelopment Agency that helped to fund the 27,000-square foot building.
Reminded that the building is up and had opened, Holifield said he doesn’t intend to stop his fight.
“I will like to see a lack of contempt, which they obviously have for Black people,” he said. “I would like to see more responsibility.
“We are going to make sure they not just skim off the paying patients; we are going to make sure they see the uninsured as well. They have changed their story (but) we’re going to see.”