County, clinic trying to fill needs as facility prepares to close
By STEVE REILLY and TOM CHANG
ENGLEWOOD—Patients of the Charlotte County Health Department’s clinic will have rides next month from Englewood to Community Health Center of North Port.
Dr. Pierre Leroux is still seeing primary care patients Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Englewood clinic, but the Charlotte County Health Department plans to close its clinic on San Casa Drive at the end of this month.
However, the all-volunteer, nonprofit Englewood Community Care Clinic will continue to operate from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday evenings at the San Casa facility. The ECCC only accepts walk-in patients.
Last month, Charlotte County commissioners said they did not want to leave Englewood’s health department patients stranded. Commissioner Bill Truex said he had been working with the federally qualified North Port clinic, Englewood Community Hospital, and other health care professionals on a long-range health care solution for Englewood’s lower income and uninsured residents.
Last month, Truex told commissioners more than 900 people with Englewood ZIP codes were already patients at the North Port clinic. How many more Englewood patients will end up in North Port after the San Casa clinic closes has yet to be determined, Truex said.
In the interim, commissioners agreed to have county staff arrange transportation to the North Port clinic at 6950 Outreach Way. The North Port clinic will not accept walk-in patients. Anyone wanting care will first have to schedule an “eligibility appointment.” For an appointment, call 941-833-6296. The North Port clinic also does not serve patients 55 or older. Those patients are referred to the Senior Friendship Center for medical care.
The senior center has had a standing policy where it only saw older adults who are Sarasota County residents. However, the center announced this week that it has modified its policy for older Englewood-Charlotte County residents. “Senior Friendship Centers Venice Clinic will accept qualified Charlotte County patients 50 and older who are referred to them from the North Port Clinic,” said Peg Palmer, director of the Senior Friendship Centers Communications and Public Education. “Fees are on a sliding scale, based on ability to pay.”
Those older adults not receiving Medicaid or Medicare not referred to the North Port clinic or the senior center will have to find their own alternative, including considering care at the free Englewood Community Care Clinic or the Virginia B. Andes free clinic in Port Charlotte.
Beth Harrison, executive director of the Englewood Community Care Clinic, said it’s hard to gauge the impact of what the closing of Charlotte County Health Department Clinic will be.
“In the last couple of months, we’ve been OK as far as volunteers,” Harrison said. “It’s been an interesting past few weeks, since we haven’t seen increased volume. It’s hard to say how much the other clinic’s closing will impact our volume.”
Looking ahead, Harrison said, “We’d like to have three or four in any combination of volunteer physicians, physician assistants and registered nurse practitioners so that we could stay open all day.”
Harrison said Community Care Clinic has served 2,472 visits since opening in January 2012.
The clinic encourages doctors and other health care professionals to volunteer.
The ECCC has received calls from retired medical professionals who want to volunteer but no longer have the proper credentials.
“Volunteers must have an active license,” Harrison said. For Englewood Community Care Clinic information, visit http://www.englewoodclinic.org or call 941-681-3765.