Residents of East Baltimore's Armistead Gardens have asked the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center to set up shop in their small working-class community, where there are a large number of elderly people who need health care but have difficulty traveling to nearby medical centers.
"There are a lot of older people in our neighborhood who don't receive medical care unless there's an emergency," said Peggy Kirk, 72, who is secretary of the Community Outreach Group that is lobbying for a full-service health care clinic in Armistead Gardens.
"Many of them don't have cars," she said, "so traveling to the nearest clinic -- which is only a few blocks away -- is a burden because they would have to transfer buses."
Armistead Gardens is a community of brick and cinder block homes, churches and light industry. It was built during World War II to shelter the large number of people who flocked to the area for defense-related jobs.
There are a lot fewer industrial jobs near Armistead Gardens these days, but the neighborhood has not changed much since it was formed in 1941.
In 1990, there were 3,566 people living in Armistead Gardens, census figures show. Today, more than 20 percent of the residents of Armistead Gardens are 65 or older, and in an area where the median income is just over $20,000 a year, many of the younger folks in the neighborhood cannot afford health insurance.
Their lack of coverage concerns neighborhood leaders. It is another reason they are hoping to establish a health care center in their community.
"The time when having a job meant having health benefits has passed us by," said Kirk, who has lived in the 5500 block of Orville Ave. for 52 years. "A lot of the younger folks I know are struggling to make ends meet. They just don't make enough to buy health insurance."
Ralph Cox, 43, a lifelong resident of Armistead Gardens, is one of the "younger folks" who can't afford health insurance.
He had a policy with Blue Cross Blue Shield until he was injured in a car accident five years ago. His back problems required surgery, causing him to become temporarily unemployed and unable to pay for medical coverage.
"After I got back on my feet, I tried to get another health insurance policy, but they wanted $392 per month for a family plan that had a $2,500 deductible," said Cox, who is now self-employed. "I just couldn't afford it."
Community leaders say Cox's plight is not uncommon in Armistead Gardens.
"I know an elderly man who has cancer," said Shirley McKenzie, 61, who has lived in Armistead Gardens for 34 years. "He doesn't have insurance and can't afford the medication he needs."
In the past, people in such dire straits might have gotten help from the neighborhood physician. Over the years, Armistead Gardens has been home to three doctors and one dentist, but all of them have long since moved or retired.
"Right now we're trying to assess the needs of the community and figure out how to best service the area," said Chris Hagan, spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins Hospital. She did not know whether plans for the health care clinic were imminent.
Pub Date: 10/14/96