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Should Urgent Care remain open?

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By Alice Du Pont

Gadsden County commissioners bought a little time for the cash-strapped Urgent Care Center during a special meeting Monday night.

Commissioners Doug Croley and Gene Morgan wanted to close the facility for a week, while Corey Fleming, center administrator, meets with the Gadsden County Health Department to determine the best option.

“We may have to close it. There is no other choice," said commission Chairman Eugene Lamb last week.

Commissioners determined Monday night to keep it open until April 7 to allow for discussion.

In a memo marked "urgent" to Clerk of Courts Nicholas Thomas, Interim County Administrator Bud Parmer and county commissioners, along with Finance Director Connie McLendon, said the balance in the Urgent Care fund is $40,840.09 as of March 23.

"This office will need direction regarding the payment of the payroll ending April 6 and any accounts payable costs occurring after this week. We will continue to owe the $7,000 per month and the 12 percent of monthly collections to Tallahassee Memorial (Hospital) as the Urgent Care remains open. We have already incurred the cost of utilities and communications that has yet to be paid for this month. The payroll for another two weeks pay period ending April 6 is approximately $23,000," McLendon wrote.

There are currently 17 part-time and five full-time employees at the center.

If the center is to remain open and operate as it currently does, seven days a week from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., it will cost a minimum of $61,800 per month. The money, according to Thomas, isn't there. The center had been operating from interest received from the hospital trust fund since 2006. As of Monday night, the fund had $2.85 left in it, Thomas said. However, monthly installments from the interest average around $15,000 per month and April's payment has not been received.

There is enough money on hand to pay salaries and benefits for the next pay period, ending April 6, but no more, Thomas added..

According to McLendon, there are no available funds to transfer from the Gadsden Community Hospital trust fund and that the remaining $25,000 in that fund is due to Gadsden Hospital Inc. for attorney services.

The Urgent Care Center, which opened in December 2006, experienced financial problems a year ago. Fleming requested last year that county commissioners allow him to require photo identification from those seeking services. At that time, he said, many bills were being returned for incorrect addresses because patients were giving false information.