A routine meeting of Philadelphia City Council turned heated Monday night when Alderwoman Lynne Marlowe questioned Mayor John Drinnon about a possible medical clinic opening shop in the city.
Drinnon, who met with representatives from Chota Community Health Services on Feb. 15 in Madisonville, said the company was planning to add a clinic in Sweetwater and also wanted to allocate some grant money for a satellite office in Philadelphia. The clinic would have served at least 300 low-income or indigent patients in Philadelphia who are currently traveling out of the county to receive health care.
Drinnon said the project was not feasible because the grant, which was for $650,000, had to be submitted by the end of last month, and the city did not have funds available to rent a building for the clinic. He said clinic officials considered housing the operation inside city hall, but the building would need to be renovated.
"That meant that the city would have to agree to pay for the building, and that would be a continual and perpetual agreement between Chota and the city of Philadelphia," Drinnon said.
Marlowe expressed disappointment that the project did not move forward and charged that Drinnon failed to return multiple phone calls from Donna Grant and other representatives with Chota. She also felt city council was kept out of the loop.
"I was kind of upset that we weren't really included in any of the decision-making as far as bringing the clinic in," Marlowe said.
Drinnon said more than once that he returned phone calls from Chota representatives.
"I take offense to the idea that you were not included," Drinnon said. "I announced at our meeting that I was going to meet with (Chota). ... I returned her phone calls."
"You did not, Mr. Drinnon," Marlowe said. "I have to call you on that. She said they were very disappointed and upset that you did not even give them the common courtesy to return her phone calls."
"I returned her phone call," the mayor responded. "I told her that we could not secure a building."
Marlowe said some funding to secure a building would have come from the grant.
Drinnon, who noted that he works full time and met with Chota officials at 3 p.m. that day, said he hopes an agreement can be worked out in the future but the most recent attempt presented too many time constraints. Chota and Philadelphia previously negotiated on bringing a clinic to the town, but talks fell through with former city officials.
"My suggestion in the future is if you were concerned about an issue, and you don't hear from me on it because I have a full-time job — I have three full-time jobs — then I suggest you call my number," Drinnon said.
Alderman Chris Miller interjected.
"I'm kind of over the job thing," Miller said. "We all volunteered our time to be here. If you do not have time for the position you're in, step out of it."
Council planned to create a committee, to be headed by Marlowe, to oversee any future agreements the city might strike with Chota. Marlowe asked that Drinnon not be the sole decision-maker in the future.
"I guess what we're trying to say is if we weren't able to allocate a building in that amount of time, we should have been informed of that rather than waiting to find out that we lost it because it looked like you sat on your hands," Marlowe's husband, Jeff Marlowe, said.