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Corona clinic gets boost from Peralta

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After years of struggling for funding, a low-cost health clinic may open its doors in Corona as soon as a month from now, organizers said.

"I hope that Plaza Del Sol becomes what our main center in the Bronx has been: a pillar of strength and pillar of hope in the community," said Paloma Hernandez, executive director of Urban Health Plan Inc., which will run the clinic.

The new paint and facade at Plaza Del Sol, 37-12 108th St., were scarcely in place before Hernandez and area politicians held a news conference urging parents to get their children vaccinated.

Schools opened Wednesday, and with them a window for parents of sixth- and seventh-graders 11 or older to make sure their children have received a vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

"She's going to be flooded with individuals who want to use this center," said state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights), who helped fund the clinic, along with Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst).

Peralta said many residents in the area are immigrants and may not know about vaccinations. He also warned that adults comprised 99 percent of deaths in the United States that could have been prevented by vaccines.

The 12,500-square-foot center will feature 16 examination rooms and 17 medical professionals. It will be open seven days a week and offer internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, podiatry and pulmonology. It will charge a nominal fee for services, ranging probably between $13 and $25, Hernandez said.

Peralta praised Hernandez, whose company has been operating a clinic in the Bronx for 34 years, for expanding to western Queens, which has no federally subsidized clinics.

"Over one-third of adults don't have primary health care here," he said of his Assembly district, which includes Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. "That's the highest of any neighborhood in New York City."

Major hurdles now include securing a temporary certificate of occupancy and scheduling an inspection from the Department of Health, Hernandez said.

The center is the brainchild of Corona resident Helen Arteaga, a member of Community Board 4 and now the director of Plaza Del Sol. Arteaga's father died from bone-marrow cancer after the family struggled to find a hospital that would accept Medicaid.

"In the 1980s, there weren't sliding fee scales or charity clinics," she said. After several years of advocating for such a clinic in Corona, Arteaga met Hernandez at a conference in 2002, and Hernandez agreed to help realize the project.

"I have a philosophy that if you do the right thing, the right thing will happen," Hernandez said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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