A third floor water heater malfunction late Saturday night caused enough water damage to close The Clinic, 143 Church Street, until Thursday.

According to Krystine Sipple, executive director, The Clinic, the damage was discovered when Dr. Lorna Stuart arrived Sunday morning to check for mail.

"Dr. Stuart came to the office around 9:30 a.m. and said it was raining inside," said Sipple. "The water was coming from the third floor water heater through the ceilings on the second and first floor. If Dr. Stuart hadn't come in to check the mail, we would've come in here (Tuesday) to all of this. I could've been a lot worse. No one panicked."

Sipple said that water had accessed the second floor file/scheduling room, in which only a couple of files were hit with water.

"All of the phones in that room were re-routed," she said. "The water didn't hit any of the exam rooms or computer equipment. When I arrived on Sunday, we began mopping and moving the wet medicine out of the room. We shut off the water heater and began making sure the equipment worked. We then had to call patients to cancel appointments."

Sunday morning, Mellon Certified Restoration arrived at The Clinic to set up 15 huge fans and four dehumidifiers throughout the building.

The biggest loss to The Clinic came when the water accessed the sample medicine closet, which caused an estimated $3,000 worth of lost medicine.

"We always keep stock medicines here and some companies give us samples of medicine," said Sipple. "We lost a majority of our sample medicine. The remaining medicine that was

spared has been moved off-site temporarily."

Sipple said that the loss of medicine is a setback for The Clinic.

"When patients can't afford medicine, we help them by working with the drug companies," she said. "If they don't qualify, we provide them with stock medicine or send them to the Gateway Pharmacy, and we pay for it.

"If the patient lives in Phoenixville, we can send them to the Phoenixville Healthcare Access Foundation. In terms of budgeted items, we spend money on medicine and lab fees."

Sipple said that the heater was five years old, and was installed on the third floor when it used to be an apartment prior to The Clinic's use.

The Clinic is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides free healthcare services to those having inadequate (or without) health coverage, in an atmosphere which fosters dignity and respect for their patients.

Sipple said that The Clinic is seeing about 60 patients a day and about 10,000 within the last year.

She said that The Clinic would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, except for patient emergencies.

"We were able to keep two of the six exam rooms open for emergencies," said Sipple.

Mary Ellen Smith, medical resources coordinator, said that everyone is doing the best they can under the circumstances.

"Dr. Stuart was concerned that we wouldn't be able to see patients," said Smith. "We had a long holiday weekend, and that usually means we will be busy when we come back. We're grateful that we're able to function to a degree."

Stuart said that despite the obvious damage to the building, she was fortunate to see emergency patients on Tuesday.

"The saddest thing is that we can't see so many patients today and (Wednesday," said Stuart. "A lot of them don't have anywhere else they can go."

Surveying the damage on the first floor, Stuart said that the damage to the sample cabinet was the biggest loss to The Clinic.

"I'm so please that nothing major was damaged," she said. "No equipment, no files, and no records. It's going to take us two to three weeks to get all of the medicine we lost back. We should be up and running by the end of this week."

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