Healthmark Regional plans to release Walton Medical Clinic despite ER closure

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Healthmark Regional Medical Center is working to open a free clinic that would provide access to patients who had used the hospital’s emergency room as their primary source of health care before it closed on March 18.

Medical center CEO Lisa Holley announced the plan at the Walton County Commission meeting on Tuesday.

Previous ER Shutdown Reports:Healthmark’s emergency room has been closed for over 100 days. NWFL is feeling the negative effects

Background:Healthmark Regional Medical Center would not pay staff for weeks; Emergency rooms remain closed

Holley was called to speak following a report from Walton County Emergency Medical Chief Tracey Vause that outlined the significant negative impacts of the emergency room closure, particularly for residents. from the DeFuniak Springs area where the hospital is located.

The CEO said Healthmark Regional is “working with someone right now” to make the free clinic a reality. She declined to identify the source of the aid because, she said, no contract has yet been signed.

“The AHCA did not order the hospital to close the emergency room”

During his brief appearance before the commission, Holley also provided indicators that there are issues not publicly shared by the hospital that may explain what was originally announced as a two-week ward closure. emergency prolonged well beyond 100 days.

She said the private company Healthmark Regional, having survived two years of COVID-19 impacts without the funding that other hospitals have received, was even more burdened with “making a lot of repairs that we haven’t. chose to do, but that we had to do without a budget”.

Holley did not explain what repairs she was referring to or who or what forced the hospital to undertake them.

The hospital had announced just before it closed that the emergency room was undergoing remodeling and remodeling, but Florida Association of Health Care Administration records indicate that Healthmark Regional’s operating license was set to expire on March 6. , with a new license due to take effect on March 18. .

AHCA records found on the agency’s website show the hospital’s licensing status at this time remains ‘under review’, with no new licenses issued. delivered. This status allows the hospital to remain open and functioning, according to agency officials.

“The AHCA has not ordered the hospital to close the ER,” agency spokeswoman Kayla McLaughlin said in an email.

McLaughlin said AHCA officials recently visited Healthmark on May 18. She did not provide specific information about the visit. The report of the inspection has not yet been made public nor if the documentation of this investigation has already been made public.

“They have had problems for months and months”

On Tuesday, the hospital parking lot was almost empty. A hospital staff member insisted the facility was open.

DeFuniak Springs Mayor Bob Campbell said he believes now is the time to “look beyond them (Healthmark) by opening their doors.”

“They’ve had issues for months and months, it’s obvious to the public,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if it’s 100 per cent closed, but by all appearances there’s nothing going on there. … With all the growth we’re seeing in this area, we definitely need a separate hospital. entire.”

On Friday, Healthmark spokesman Ron Kelley repeated that only the emergency room was closed.

“With the exception of the emergency room, the hospital is open. The clinic is open and the outpatient departments are open,” he said in an email.

Earlier this year, the hospital had received a Notice of Intent from the AHCA to consider incomplete and withdraw from further review by the Agency. This is how the agency says its license renewal application was returned because it did not contain enough required information to be considered complete.

A medical center receiving a notice of intent from the state has 21 days to respond to AHCA’s request for more information before the pending renewal application is removed from review. It is unclear whether Healthmark responded to the AHCA within the required time frame.

Healthmark was fined $500 by the AHCA earlier this year for failing to pay a life safety inspection fee. The inspection was done in July 2021 and the refund was 96 days overdue when the notice of fine was sent by certified mail.

‘Ambulance service has become the healthcare provider’ as Healthmark ER remains closed

Figures presented to Walton County commissioners by Vause indicate that since the Healthmark emergency room went out of business, the number of out-of-county ambulance transports has jumped 35%. In the ambulance service area that includes DeFuniak Springs, the number of out-of-county transports increased to 81 percent.

Ambulance crews have also seen a significant increase in the number of people refusing transport to a hospital, Vause told commissioners.

“Citizens who would have traveled to Healthmark are relying strictly on the ambulance service,” Vause told commissioners. “The ambulance service has become the health care provider north of Rock Hill Road” in DeFuniak Springs.

Holley urged county officials at Tuesday’s meeting to “please understand that no one wants to help the people of this county more than we do.”

She said the hospital had “several other plans” in the works to continue operations. She called Vause and Sheriff Michael Adkinson, whose agency oversees Walton County Fire and Rescue, to meet with her rather than go public with their concerns about the ER closings.

“I would be happy to tell them about what we went through as a private hospital,” she told the commissioners. “There’s a lot the public doesn’t know, and if anyone would like to take the time to come see us and talk to us, I’d be happy to be completely honest with you.”

Adkinson confirmed Thursday that Vause and Holley had spoken and discussed reuniting at a yet-undetermined future date. A request from the Northwest Florida Daily News to set up an interview with Holley was denied.

“Ms. Holley was addressing the Walton County Commission,” Kelley said in an email. “We will contact the appropriate media when we have something new to share.”