Health center closure raises concerns in St. Louis

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by Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 10:08 AM

(KMOV) -- ConnectCare, a healthcare provider for low income and uninsured patients, announced it will shut down its Smiley Urgent Care Center on Delmar Boulevard in St Louis by November 15.  

In a statement to News 4, ConnectCare said it provided 16,500 urgent care visits in its last fiscal year.  

Already this year, ConnectCare ended many of its specialty services including cardiology, orthopedics, and screening for colorectal cancer.  News 4 reported that the provider would downsize by October.  

But, the Smiley Urgent Care Center was expected to survive the cuts.

"We knew that there were some financial difficulties.  The urgency with which they were closing was a surprise," said Chief Executive Officer of the Saint Louis Regional Health Commission Rob Fruend.

When ConnectCare ended many of its specialty services, the Saint Louis Regional Health Commission tells News 4 that it had to find other providers for 2,300 ConnectCare patients who had post-October appointments.  Smiley Urgent Care's closure means another hit for the region's healthcare network.

"We'll do our best to absorb this one.  It's just that we can't keep absorbing... and keep absorbing these cuts.  This is just the tip of the iceberg and there's so many more to come if we don't expand Medicaid," said Fruend.

Earlier this year, Missouri legislators voted down a Medicaid expansion, after it was deemed optional by the feds.  In response, the federal government agreed to extend a program called the "Gateway to Better Health" which helps pay for care for low-income and uninsured patients.  

Even with that, health officials are urging state lawmakers to come up with a plan for Medicaid in Missouri.

"We've seen jobs eliminated at BJC, at SSM, and now ConnectCare closed.  And, I'm not sure we're finished," said St. Louis City Health Department Director Pam Walker.

Walker, for now, is working to find other providers to handle sexually transmitted infection care and tuberculosis screening now that ConnectCare is ending all of its services.  Walker says she expects to find other healthcare providers to provide STI and TB services without disruption by November 15.

 

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