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Florida's Community Health Centers step up as Walmart closes rural healthcare services


Last week, Walmart became the latest major retailer to retreat from providing direct healthcare service by announcing the closures of all its health clinics and virtual healthcare operations.

However, Florida's health centers say they are ready to fill the gap.

Florida is home to most of the soon-to-be-shuttered health centers - 23 of the 51 centers are now winding down operations in the Sunshine State, where they offer various services, including medical, dental, and behavioral health care.

Benjamin Browning - vice president and COO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers - said many have tried to figure out the complexities of delivering health-care services, which doesn't always work.

He said the current concern is ensuring displaced patients, often in rural underserved areas, can still access care.

"Fortunately," said Browning, "the community health centers are positioned throughout the state to be able to welcome those patients, to encourage those patients to come and visit and receive their primary-care services."

In a statement, Walmart cited the challenging healthcare reimbursement landscape and rising operating costs as reasons for the closures.

Additionally, Walgreens is closing 160 VillageMD clinics, Amazon is cutting jobs at One Medical and Amazon Pharmacy, and CVS Health plans to shutter dozens of pharmacies in Target stores.

Browning said their model of providing care is embedded in their name - building community.

When a patient enters their facility, they might also be connected to additional services. He said the model is financially challenging, but they've been working to perfect it.

"There is a level of streamlining," said Browning. "There is a level of efficiency that is maximized to the extent possible within the health centers to provide for those patients that can and cannot afford to pay the full bill."

Walmart expects the closures to occur within three months and will now focus its health business on its nearly 4,600 pharmacies and more than 3,000 vision centers across the United States.

Community Health Centers are in all of Florida's 67 counties, serving patients in more than 800 locations - including dozens of mobile units and school-based sites statewide.

Walmart, Community Health Centers, Florida, Florida Healthcare, Where can I go for healthcare?


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