SPRING HILL — The Hernando County Heath Department's walk-in clinic, established last October with the goal of decreasing nonemergency visits to local hospitals, will be closing July 1.
The reason? Not enough traffic.
The walk-in clinic, at the Health Department's office on Forest Oaks Boulevard, offered primary-care services from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Patients could be seen for issues ranging from sore throats to strains and sprains. A flat fee of $60 was charged for all visits.
Officials hoped to make the express clinic available during times when regular physicians might not be available, said Health Department spokesperson Ann-Gayl Ellis.
"The idea is to give people who don't have true emergencies but don't have a primary-care doctor accessible another option to help with their minor health issues," Ellis said.
The express walk-in clinic, which originally opened on Friday afternoons, saw limited traffic for the first few months. The Health Department closed the clinic for a few weeks in December and, thinking weekends might be a better community fit, reopened on Saturdays in January.
The clinic experienced a bump in traffic for swine flu vaccinations, which were available at the clinic for no charge. But the increase was short-lived. As soon as vaccinations were over, numbers went back down again, said Ellis.
Health Department officials knew opening an express clinic would entail a learning curve. They spent this past spring monitoring numbers and marketing the new service.
"We even tried a coupon and newspaper and radio advertising," said Ellis. "The number of people that are using it has not increased. It's not a good business move to keep it open."
Dollars that would have been used toward paying the Saturday express clinic staff will be reallocated into the Monday through Friday primary care clinics, which continue to be very busy.
The Health Department continues to offer walk-in options for some types of care, such as immunizations. But appointments are required to be seen by a physician.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.