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Free clinic can't re-open after flooding

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WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WOLF) -- A free medical clinic remains closed here, and the nun in charge blames flooding problems that caused their insurance to be cancelled.

Inside St. Anthony's Center, the soup kitchen was open for lunch as usual on Wednesday.

But downstairs, the free clinic that Sister Henry Lambert has been running here for 27 out of her 37 years sits quiet.

"We helped a lot of people," says Lambert, of Sisters of Christian Charity.

Lambert says it's always flooded, but it's gotten worse over the years, changing from water to sewage.

They had to call in a cleaning company, Duraclean, several months ago after water came up through the drain in the boiler room, along with a shower, and toilets, Lambert said.

Then, their insurance company cancelled their insurance on Aug. 1.

"They had to take care of the situation year after year and they wouldn't do it anymore,"says Lambert.

Now, she's been trying to get insurance in order to get the door back open, but it's been very hard for her to find.

"As soon as they know the situation, they're not interested. They're not even interested in giving us insurance, period," says Lambert.

"Could you open without insurance?" we asked. "No, the doctors need to be insured, and the nurses, and the secretaries,"says Lambert, adding that any insurance they looked into so far would exclude water damage.

Last month, she attended a meeting about Grafius Run. We took video of the stream in the north part of the city before it enters underground pipes.

"I'd never heard about Grafius Run before, that it was an underground tunnel or whatever, and it ends right out here on East Street, so I'm sure that's what the problem is," says Lambert. "They need to dig it up!"

City engineer Rebecca Haladay says the old part of Grafius Run was actually closed off years ago, and it now runs to the Hepburn St. pumping station.

Haladay says the city and Water Authority have been working with St. Anthony's Center to try to alleviate the situation, which may have to do with pipe problems underground.

"A lot of people around here's not on Medicaid and Medicare, so they don't have money for prescriptions. I think they should have stayed open," says Mary Bagan.

"I came back from New York and that's where I went to have that started first," says Teri Mann, who's used the clinic in the past. "I had help. I had people that helped me and I appreciate the help that they were doing."

"I think people should help out in having it re-done over, like chip in and put a little money in," says Joanne Miller, who used the clinic about 15 years ago.

Haladay says the city is spending $64,000 for engineering company Rettew to study Grafius Run to try to stop flooding, and they are already onto a second design.

Two more public meetings are expected soon. Meantime, Lambert says the clinic is still helping people pay for prescriptions with money left over in their account.

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