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The area's newest clinic has become the medical home for many of the region's immigrants
At the clinic, Dr. Bley works with Spanish interpreter Carmen Serrano to talk with parents Irvin Arguerta and Marisol Carraunza about their son, Kelvin.
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BY JIM HALL
Dr. Donald Bley has pushed pins into the map of the world in his office to mark the homes of his patients.
Five continents and 21 countries have pins in them, including Peru, Pakistan and Puerto Rico.
His clinic has become the medical home for many of the region's immigrants and evidence of the changing face of Fredericksburg.
"Half of the people that I see in any day, I deal with them in a language other than English," Bley said.
The Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region is at the Bragg Hill Family Life Center off Fall Hill Avenue in Fredericksburg. It is adjacent to the Bragg Hill neighborhood, where the Catholic Diocese of Arlington has resettled about 200 refugees.
Because of this, the clinic sees a different mix of patients than the other clinics operated by Central Virginia Health Services, a nonprofit agency with 13 health centers in Virginia.
"The refugee population in Fredericksburg has been high," said Rod Manifold, executive director. "They are an underserved part of the population."
For Bley, the challenge has been to communicate with these new residents about their medical problems.
"I dealt with people today in Spanish, French and an Ethiopian dialect," he said one day last week.
The clinic opened in December and offers medical care to children and adults. It serves all, but is aimed at those who otherwise can't afford medical care or can't find a doctor who'll take their insurance.
In April, for example, the clinic treated 275 patients, three-fourths of whom did not have any kind of health insurance.
"We're doing what we're supposed to be doing," Manifold said.
One of the clinic's employees translates for those who speak Spanish, the largest group other than English speakers. For others, such as those who speak Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, Bley can use a phone translation service. The result is often a "triangulated" conversation, he said, involving him, the patient and the translator on speaker phone.
Sometimes Bley's attempt to bridge the cultural difference can be comical. Once he was treating a Spanish-speaking patient and, in imperfect Spanish, wished her a happy new year.
The translator in the room practically fell on the floor, Bley said.
"What I had wished her was a happy new terminus of the [digestive] tract," he said.
The patient was shocked, Bley said, with a look that seemed to say, "I came in here for bronchitis. What's this all about?"
Jim Hall: 540/374-5433