Premier Community HealthCare Group, a countywide clinic system whose patients include the uninsured and those on government assistance, has reduced its hours and eliminated its evening and weekend clinics.
Instead, the clinics will open a half hour earlier and close a half hour later on most weekdays.
"We are reallocating hours to better align our organization while also providing more attractive and easily accessible hours for our patients to receive continuity in their care," CEO Kim Schuknecht said. "Our goal is to provide services when the majority of our patients can and will come to Premier." She said that the new hours would provide better work-life balance to staff and make the clinic better able to recruit and retain employees.
Under the new schedule, which took effect Monday, all clinics in New Port Richey, Dade City and Zephyrhills will open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m. every weekday except Wednesday, when they operate from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The former schedule offered extended evening hours one day a week at various locations, with Saturday hours twice a month everywhere except New Port Richey, which operated one Saturday a month.
Schuknecht said the change was due to a greater need for services during a time when funding levels have remained stagnant and high unemployment has pushed more people onto government insurance or left them without health coverage. Premier, which is nonprofit, is designated as a federally qualifying heath care center, which means it may seek federal grants to operate and expand. Its aim is to keep those needing primary care out of hospital emergency rooms, where treatment is the most expensive.
"There's no additional funding, but the need continues to grow," Schuknecht said. "This new schedule will provide an optimum number of accessible hours to address the growing needs of the patient with the current funding provided."
This spring, Premier suffered a blow when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed about $1.25 million that had been approved during a previous budget year. Clinic officials had hoped to use the money to open a new clinic in the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter in Hudson. County officials tried to reinstate the allocation but could find no legal way to do it.
Premier provides primary adult and pediatric care, women's care, dental and mental health care to patients on Medicare, Medicaid and those on private insurance plans. Those without coverage are charged on a sliding fee scale. The only other option for the uninsured is the Good Samaritan Clinic in New Port Richey.