Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

State Wants County Out of Clinic Business

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Sarasota County
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Sarasota County Commission is struggling with a plan to shift primary care for 31,000 poor residents away from county health department clinics.

The state Department of Health is asking the county to not request $1.9 million in federal grants for primary care, an amount that helps support several clinics from North Port to Sarasota, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Walter "Mickey" Presha, chief executive officer at Manatee County Rural Health, told the Herald that Gov. Rick Scott wants to shift primary care services for the poor away to privately run, Federal Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs.

The DOH said in a statement that its request, which is for 2016, is part of the transition to services being the responsibility of private clinics including the Community Health Center of North Port, Inc., a FQHC clinic that has provided services in Sarasota County for seven years.

“Although DOH-Sarasota will not reapply for the federal grant, the department is working closely with (the North Port health center) and local partners to evaluate strategies to ensure the financial stability of the FQHC moving forward. The goal is to ensure financial sustainability, while providing continued access to primary care services for those in greatest need,” according to the statement released late Tuesday.

Just a handful of local health departments still operate primary care clinics for the poor, including the one in Sarasota County, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. For example, Hillsborough County's health department shifted its primary care for the poor over several years ago to private non-profit groups including the Tampa Family Health Centers.

The County’s $17 million annual budget for the clinic relies on the $1.9 million federal grant, $1.3 million in county money and $98,000 from the state. The rest is mostly covered by payments from Medicaid and Medicare, the Herald-Tribune reports.

On Thursday, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that it's unclear where the primary care will be provided. In addition to the North Port center, the county provides treatment at the William L. Little Health and Human Services Center and the Sallie and Sam Shapiro Children’s and Babies Medical Center in Sarasota.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.