Plano clinic shutdown surprises patients

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on June 21, 2011 at 10:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 21 at 10:25 PM

PLANO — Thousands of Collin County families will have to look for a new place to get medical care, which may cause them longer travel times and inconvenience.

The 15-year-old Texas Health Community Medical Center of Plano is closing in August. Many patients just learned the news as they showed up for appointments on Tuesday.

Gerri Garza is on Medicaid. She has been coming to the Plano clinic for three years. It provided pediatric care for her children and prenatal care for her.

Garza just had a baby five weeks ago. But when she went in for a follow-up Tuesday, she received a letter with the bad news: The clinic will close in August.

"Why would they be closing?" Garza asked. "No one had any answers. Nobody knew."

Texas Health Dallas has operated the Plano clinic at a significant loss in recent years. A company spokesman said the center currently loses more than $600,000 a year.

"Additional cuts to Medicaid reimbursements are expected to add to their losses, making clinics like this unsustainable for many hospitals," said company spokesman Wendel Watson.

Texas Health is referring the Plano patients to their Dallas campus, or will work with them to try and find other providers in Collin County who are willing to accept new patients.

"It would take more time. It's just more convenient here," Garza said. "They're always crowded, and there's going to be lots of people inconvenienced if they have to go all the way to Dallas."

The Plano clinic sees 6,000 office visits and delivers 400 babies every year. Garza says she is going to look for a new provider closer to home.

"About a year ago, my son was running about a 105 fever. Just to get a ride to take him to the doctor to get him immediately up there, it was an emergency," she said. "If we had to go all the way to Dallas, it just wouldn't happen."

For the past 15 years, the clinic has been managed and financially supported solely by Texas Health Dallas. Company executives say indigent care should be a shared responsibility.

They're asking other Collin County health care providers to join their efforts.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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