POINCIANA – Heading into 2012 and the start of the presidential election season, it seems likely that ObamaCare, President Obama’s universal health care plan, will be one of the key issues in the campaign.
In Poinciana, though, one of the casualties of that debate – the construction of three new medical facilities at the Poinciana Health Care Clinic on Doverplum Avenue – could be back on the drawing board, although this time supporters no longer are hoping that the state or federal government will provide the money needed to make it happen.
“We really need the public health building,” said Nick Murdock, chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, a group formed last summer to promote more economic development in the community.
“There’s no reason why we can’t get it accomplished,” Murdock said. “It’s really important for this community to have a good health care facility, and it will create 130 new construction jobs, and we’ll have a good facility there. The drawings for it are 50 percent done, and it wouldn’t take too long to get the thing under construction.
“But,” he added, “I think private funding is the way we’ll have to go.”
That’s because a few months after the Poinciana Health Care Clinic, located right next to the Poinciana Public Library, celebrated the official opening of a new, 16,000 square feet facility, they lost out on a federal grant that would have enabled the clinic to construct three more offices on their property.
The construction work had been financed through a grant from the federal Health Resource Services Administration program, and the new building replaced two aging modular units. Moving into the new 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 already 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.
“Those dollars flowed through ObamaCare,” state Rep. Mike Horner, R-St. Cloud, said last June. “It was the House’s position not to accept any dollars from the federal health care mandate, so we did not accept those federal dollars.”
There was simply no way, Horner said, to separate the grant financing the construction work at the Poinciana Health Care Clinic from the rest of the federal health care funds, even though he supports construction of those new buildings.
Murdock said he doubts that the Florida Legislature, in a political election year, will reverse that decision and accept money from ObamaCare, even if it does help a project in Poinciana.
“The clinic is going to reapply for the funding,” Murdock said. “But the Legislature killed the funding, and nobody is going to be the champion of it this year. This is a great cause and one of the top priorities for our Poinciana community, and it is one of PEDA’s primary objectives to make this happen. But while we must continue to pursue this funding, virtually all government officials have said repeatedly this will not be approved in 2012.”
Mary Ann Barry, chairwoman of the board of directors of Primary Care Medical Services of Poinciana, Inc., which operates the clinic along with the Osceola County Health Department, noted that the Legislature killed an $8.3 million federal grant.
“These new and renovated facilities would provide primary care, maternity and newborn care to our friends and neighbors,” she said. “ Our federally qualified health care centers provide excellent care to all our clients, and we provide that care to the uninsured and under-insured on a sliding fee schedule. These projects would provide approximately 185 construction jobs and approximately 14 medical and dental jobs upon completion. The expanded facilities would allow us to treat more clients, to provide expanded programs and to better meet the needs of our community.”
She urged local residents to contact the office of Gov. Rick Scott and their local representative and senator and urge them to reverse their decision and allow these federal funds to be used in Poinciana.
Murdock, though, said he thinks Poinciana will need to find a private investor to make it happen.
“I’m in the process of trying to find private funding to build those buildings,” he said. “They are going to represent the proposal to the state Legislature in January or February, but the people I’ve talked to in the House and Senate say there’s pretty much no way it will get approved. But if it’s 99 percent against, there’s still that 1 percent chance it will get through.”
In the meantime, Murdock said he’s actively reaching out to private companies.
“We have to get private money to get the building done, because our Poinciana community needs this facility now,” he said. “The groundbreaking could possibly occur within 90 days of county approval.”
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