The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ — Ferriday native Dr. Blanche Bell moved away from the Miss-Lou about 40 years ago. Monday, she celebrated a year at the Bella Rouge Healthcare Clinic at 500 MLK Blvd.
Last year, she made a dream of hers to run her own clinic a reality when she moved from Woodville to Natchez.
Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson supported her in the journey as did her friend Brian Marvel helped get the building finished as they raced to meet their deadline of Oct. 15.
“He would be here until 3 a.m. painting,” Bell said. “He was a great influencer in getting everything done. He knew people and he told me I needed help. He took it and ran with it.”
It took them a month to sterilize the building for COVID-19. Nov. 15, 2020 was their first day serving the community with healthcare. A non-profit, the clinic serves children and adults, she said.
“I wanted to give people the best part of their life. I wanted to help someone live their best life,” Bell said. “We serve this community without the ability to pay. A visit can be as low as $35 a visit. The most important thing is we care about your health.”
COVID presented some challenges to the clinic, she said. People were afraid to visit the doctor and their blood pressures would be out of control or they would not get refills for their medicine they needed.
People have also been hesitant to get a COVID vaccine. Her focus for her second year in business is to educate people about the pros and cons of the vaccine because “Informed consent is better than being forced to take a shot,” she said.
Telemedicine was a useful tool for the clinic to use. Additionally, they could mail tests home to people so people did not have to come in.
As a non-profit, Bell said the business also faced a fiscal challenge. Money did not trickle down to the clinic like she had hoped so she paid the bills to make sure the doors were open.
“I didn’t get a loan or anything,” Bell said. “It was both financially and physically a challenge. I’m hoping this next year will be better. We are incorporating occupational medicine. We are applying for a grant so we can get a van to pick up patients. I’m also trying to get approval from the state to do in-home services in case someone can not do telemedicine.”
She enjoys helping people and wants to make sure people are able to get the treatment they need. Located in a central location downtown, the clinic is within walking distance for many of her patients.
In Natchez, she said she has already made an impact on people.
She found breast cancer in a man who had no idea. His cancerous mass was at a stage 4 when she caught it but it had regressed to a stage 2. Another time, she was at a bikers convention when a cyclist complained about feeling really hot. He was experiencing a heart attack, she said, so they sent him to Jackson where he had a triple bypass. Experiences like that tell her she is in the right place, she said.
“As people’s lives improve yours does too,” Bell said. “You feel it.”