More than twice as many people have sought care than were expected when the Central City's first community health center opened one year ago, officials say.

About 5,000 patients were treated by the Central City Community Health Center's first anniversary, which was marked Saturday."The remarkable thing," said Susan Read, "is that a lot of the people coming to the Central City Community Health Center haven't had any health care for more than a decade."

Read, director of Salt Lake Community Health Centers, said Central City residents' are in dire need of low-cost health services.

"We don't find that at the other clinics, partly because the Northwest Community Health Center has been here since '79, and Copperview and Redwood have been here since '83 and '82," she said.

"We had identified Central City as a needy area, and unsuccessfully sought Community Development Block Grant money to acquire a building and develop a center," Read said, adding that no real progress was made until Intermountain Health Care offered to fund the project.

The initial contribution was used to buy a building that had formerly housed an insurance company on Fourth South. It was renovated and outfitted as a modern health care center.

"The original idea came in about June of 1986 at a board retreat," said IHC's Wesley B. Thompson. "We felt we needed to make a greater statement of our mission to care for all people, regardless of their ability to pay. Central City was a medically under-served area. There were a lot of doctors around, but people were not getting health care periodically."

The decision also coincided with a need to document that charity mission. It was about that time that Salt Lake County commissioners told non-profit hospitals to demonstrate the amount of charity care they provide in order to qualify for a tax exemption.

"We anticipated at that time we would see about 13 patients a day," said Thompson, IHC's director of medically needy services. As it turns out, the staff has been seeing about 30.

Services are offered on a sliding-scale basis. "We collect about 25 cents on every dollar," Thompson said.