So when the staff at the Poinciana Health Care Clinic celebrated the official opening for a new, 16,000 square feet facility this morning, it was a cause for celebration.
“We’re thrilled,” said Vianca McClusky, executive director of the clinic, who added that the construction work had been financed through a grant from the federal Health Resource Services Administration program. Construction started last November.
“We’re in an elite group of health centers around the country to be awarded this money,” McClusky said. “As far as health care quality, we’re really equipped to serve everyone.”
The clinic officially opened in 2005, funded through a grant from the Osceola County Health Department, and clients were serviced back then in two modular units. Over the course of the past five years, those units aged and fell into disrepair, which is why the clinic successfully applied for the federal grant. The modular units, which had provided 12,000 square feet of sapce, were torn down and replaced by the new brick building.
But once the ribbon had been cut and the balloons brought down, the clinic’s staff still had to face a sobering fact: the increasing difficulty of meeting the needs of a rising number of uninsured residents, who through no fault of their own have lost their jobs in a rough economy, and with it their health coverage.
Moving into the new building has already enabled the clinic — located right next door to the Poinciana Public Library on Doverplum Avenue — to introduce a dental plan, said Belinda Johnson-Cornett, administrator of the Osceola County Health Department.
“We did not have dental in the old buildings,” she said. “This really is a good feeling.”
But challenges remain. In order to help cover those who are uninsured, the clinic juggles a variety of funding sources — federal, state and Osceola County aid, state and federal grants, reimbursements from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and coverage from private insurers. But the money from those sources has started to shrink, while the number of uninsured seeking treatment has grown considerably, Johnson-Cornett said, creating a problamtic imbalance for the clinic’s operators.
“This new building will help us address the needs of the insured, and that’s a focus right now for us, and a challenge moving forward,” Johnson-Cornett said. “We’re facing cuts from the state.”
The Florida Legislature was forced to cut $3 billion from the state budget this year, as tax revenues continue to decline in the face of an economy that hasn’t yet started to demonstrate signs of strength. Health care funding didn’t get spared.
“From the state level, we’re not quite sure yet what’s going to happen,” she said. “The budget has been passed but the governor hasn’t signed it yet. But we know we will see some pretty significant cuts.”
In order to help cover the uninsured, Johnson-Cornett said the clinic has used Medicaid funding to keep operations going.
“That’s a balancing act for us,” she said, but an increasingly difficult one, she said, since Medicaid funding is going down while the ranks of the uninsured are going up.
“There’s an imbalance now for us,” she said. “What we try to do is everything we take in goes back into operations. But that was easier before the economic downturn because there was more of a balance between the insured and the uninsured.”
The slowdown in state and federal aid has already had an impact on the clinic, Johnson-Cornett said.
“We just recently had to lay off staff at all levels, at a time again when we’re trying to serve more people,” she said.
In the meantime, the clinic is hoping that the economy starts to improve, and they’re also targeting federal grant money to help plug holes in their budgeting.
“We apply for grant funding all the time,” she said.
McClusky noted that the clinic also accepts private health care plans, which also helps.
“We also accept people with private insurance, so we also generate revenue through the services we provide,” she said.
Right now, she added, the greatest demand they have is for primary care.
“Across Florida and the nation, that’s the challenge, access to care,” she said. “A lot of clinics, when you go in that’s not an option. Our service is based on the patient’s ability to pay. And the fact that we’re now doing dental service for children and adults is a huge plus.”
For more information about the Poinciana Health Care Clinic, call 407-343-2031.
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