Monday, February 21, 2011

Local health clinics desperate for financial savior

Palm Beach County health leaders are searching for a white knight after Gov. Rick Scott zeroed out clinic care from his proposed budget for the Florida Department of Health.
So far, no rescuers are stepping forward.
The state manages seven clinics that serve vulnerable people in Palm Beach County: the uninsured, the homeless, migrant workers, those on Medicaid, those lacking a doctor.
The clinics care for pregnant women, people with HIV/AIDS, patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, people with infectious diseases - anyone with nonemergency medical needs.
The health department saw about 67,000 clients last year from Pahokee to Delray Beach, and if the state agency pulls its $5 million contribution, the entire $30 million program risks closure or dramatic shrinkage, warned Dr. Claude Earl Fox, who heads the Florida Public Health Institute in Lake Worth.
"If the health department gets out of primary care, which it looks like it may, you are talking about 40,000 to 60,000 patients who are going to have nowhere to go," Fox said. "I am not sure the capacity exists elsewhere to handle those patients."
Fox raised the specter of hospitals routinely seeing women showing up in the ER to give birth who have never visited a doctor, kids with ruptured eardrums from untreated infections and diabetics in comas from lack of insulin.
"This is something that could affect a lot of people in a very adverse fashion," Fox said.

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