POINCIANA – Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a budget that includes something Poinciana residents have been waiting more than a year for: funding to help expand the Poinciana Health Care Clinic, a primary care facility.
“That is absolutely huge,” said Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, which has been lobbying state leaders for the past year to finance the clinic’s expansion.
“That was the Number One thing that PEDA was requesting, to approve that public health facility,” he said. “That’s going to be a huge help to the hospital, and I know the whole community really appreciates this.”
The Poinciana Health Care Clinic lost out on an $8.3 million federal grant last year, which would have funded the construction of three new medical facilities at the clinic on Doverplum Avenue. It would have created 150 new construction jobs for the community.
The clinic next to the Poinciana Library had already gone through an expansion earlier in the year, and that construction work had been financed through a grant from the federal Health Resource Services Administration program. The new, 16,000 square foot building replaced two aging modular units, and the larger building enabled the clinic to introduce a dental plan.
The clinic also won a federal grant to construct three new buildings on the property, and work had started getting the land ready.
But the grant was rejected last summer by lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives, because the money came through ObamaCare, the universal health care plan approved by Congress in 2010 and signed into law by President Obama. The Florida Legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, did not want to accept any federal funding from the Obama administration’s health care law, so the entire funding package got rejected. The grant money for the Poinciana clinic also came through ObamaCare.
However, state Rep. Mike Horner, R-St. Cloud, was able to convince his fellow lawmakers in this recent legislative session that the grant money was not directly connected to ObamaCare and should be approved. Horner’s district includes part of Poinciana.
The money was put back into the 2012-2013 Florida State Budget, which Scott signed – much to the relief of Mary Ann Barry, chairman of the board of directors of Primary Care Medical Services of Poinciana Inc., which oversees the clinic.
“This budget included an $8.3 million grant to the Osceola County Health Department,” Barry noted. “These Health Resource Services Administration funds will be used to construct a new permanent building in Poinciana and to upgrade our facilities at Stadium Place and St. Cloud.”
Horner said once he was able to take the spector of ObamaCare out of the picture, this became an easier sell to his fellow lawmakers.
“The concern of the House was that this was associated with the ObamaCare bill,” Horner said. “We were able to convince the House leadership that this was not part of ObamaCare, but was a rider that had been placed on the ObamaCare bill, so the process is not a part of any (federally-mandated) health care reform.”
Rather, Horner said, he convinced House leaders that the expansion money for the Poinciana clinic was “a longstanding grant to fund these health clinics. I don’t believe it is a part of ObamaCare at all.”
He also was able to demonstrate to lawmakers how badly needed the expansion of the clinic is, as the community of Poinciana — more than 84,000 residents in 10 villages across Polk and Osceola counties — continues to grow and require closer health care services.
“It’s going to help needy folks that had some health care needs in Poinciana, and are in some challenging financial circumstances,” Horner said.
While the clinic was searching for funds to construct those new buildings, Osceola Regional Medical Center has been moving ahead with plans to build the first hospital in Poinciana. Osceola Regional, the hospital in downtown Kissimmee, broke ground on the new Poinciana Medical Center on Feb. 7. It is expected to be open and fully operational by next summer.
Murdock said officials at Osceola Regional strongly support the expansion of the Poinciana Health Care Clinic. Poinciana Medical Center will be offering patients a separate emergency room facility, whereas the Poinciana Health Care Clinic is geared toward non-emergency family care. Having that clinic close by and available for primary care services means the hospital can provide better care for people heading to the emergency room, Murdock said.
“It really is big good news, because it was one of the things we really needed here,” Murdock said.