Lyon Martin clinic facing closure

Lyon Martin website

Lyon Martin Health Services -- a legendary health clinic that specializes in women's and LGBT health, celebrating its 30th anniversary last year -- is having serious financial problems and could close down as soon as Thursday.

Rumors of the closure have been circulating all day, with Sup. Scott Wiener telling the SF Appeal that a source told him the clinic was closing. And the Guardian has now learned that at least one patient, health educator Catie Magee, had an appointment for Monday canceled by the clinic and was told, “We have to cancel your appointment because Lyon Martin is closing.”

The clinic is the only free-standing community clinic in California that serves to women and transgender people in a place sensitive to sexual and gender identity. The non-profit closure of the clinic would be a great loss to the community since it also provides healthcare regardless of one’s ability to pay.

"If you're uninsured and your trans or a lesbian, you've probably been to Lyon Martin," transgender labor organizer Gabriel Haaland, who used the clinic for his transition in 1997, told us. Unlike most medical providers, he said Lyon Martin offered hormone shots and other services to anyone who sought them "without making you jump through a whole bunch of hoops."

Haaland and other supporters of the center plan to gathered tonight at 7 pm in Room 301 of the LGBT Center (1800 Market) to discuss the center and what can be done to save it.

The clinic's namesakes, pioneering lesbian and feminist activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, were the first same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license by the city back in 2004, and they were married by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom on Feb. 16, 2004,

In the past year, the clinic served 2,500 patients. Elizabeth Sekera, the clinic director told us that the clinic even sees patients outside the county of San Francisco and unfortunately if the clinic closes, those patients won’t even be covered under the city’s health access program, Healthy San Francisco, since they do not live here.

Sekera said she was unable to comment on why and when the clinic will be closed. She also did not give any information on where patients would be referred to but did say that the staff at Lyon Martin has opposed the closure of the clinic because there isn’t a transition of care plan and the abandonment of patients is unethical.

It is uncertain whether the clinic, which is funded solely by donations, is closing due to funds. The clinic is run by about 23 staff members, interns, and lots of volunteers. The support section in its website pleads, “We need your help! We need it now.”

Magee said the loss of Lyon Martin would be huge blow to the city, particularly after New Leaf, which also served an LGBT clientele, closed last year. “It's a shame,” Magee said, noting Lyon Martin's excellent “reputation as a place for women's and LGBT healthcare.”

Charlene Hawek, who has been a patient at the clinic for two years, expressed concern for where she will go if the clinic does close. When asked if there is any other option she responded, “There’s the Tom Waddell center but it’s not the same.”

Sekera hopes to see the clinic “remain open, possibly under a different name, or a full institution to exist in the same state, live for another 30 years.”