POINCIANA – A search is on now to secure the funding for the expansion of Poinciana’s health care clinic, which lost out on a grant to construct two new buildings on the property because the money came from the ObamaCare universal health care program.
If the money won’t come from the federal government in the form of a grant sent to the community, then supporters of the project are hoping to instead convince Osceola County commissioners to provide the money instead.
“For a community of 72,000 to 80,000 people, we have trailers as our public health facility,” said Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, a group working to promote economic development and business and job growth in Poinciana.
“And that’s an insult to us,” Murdock said.
But the challenge is figuring out how to replace the federal funding that was lost last year, he added.
“I’m going to be drafting a letter and sending it out to all PEDA members, and I hope you would send it out to all the commissioners in Osceola County,” Murdock said. “We’re going to push this very hard. We need to show them as a community of this size, we need a public health building that’s much bigger than what we have now.”
Unfortunately, he added, “Most county commissioners don’t really care about Poinciana.”
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 last spring, 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.
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, so PEDA is turning its attention to commissioners in Osceola County. Poinciana is divided between Polk and Osceola counties, and the clinic is close to the line dividing the two counties and is used by residents on both sides.
While the clinic is still searching for funds to construct those new buildings, Osceola Regional Medical Center is moving forward with plans to build the first hospital in Poinciana. Osceola Regional, the hospital in downtown Kissimmee, broke ground on the Poinciana Medical Center on Feb. 7.
Murdock said he’s spoken to officials at Osceola Regional about the expansion of the clinic, and he said they support that project. The Poinciana Medical Center will provide a separate emergency room facility, while the Poinciana Health Care Clinic is geared toward non-emergency family care.
“We’ve had conversations with Osceola Regional, and our hospital wants that public health building built,” Murdock said. “It will be faster and cheaper and provide better service for people than going to an emergency room.”
Murdock said he’s still hopeful that a strong case can be made that as Poinciana grows, it needs both a hospital and emergency room, and a health clinic operating here.
“Eventually we’ll get the money from one pipeline or another,” he said.
PEDA member Jeff Goldmacher, who is now running for the Osceola County Board of Commissioners for the district that covers the Osceola County side on Poinciana, said he’s already started a dialogue with the commissioners about securing those funds.
“We’re working with commissioners to try to find other sources for that money,” he said. Goldmacher added that not only is the money unlikely to come from the state Legislature, but probably is no longer available at the federal level, either.
“That money might not be there anymore, and the clinic might have to find another source for it,” Goldmacher said. “It’s like with high speed rail. When Governor (Rick) Scott rejected the money, the feds took that money and sent it to other states that were more receptive to high speed rail, and that’s what we’re afraid will happen with the health care grant. It’s a whole big political game.”
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