LAFAYETTE, Ga. — The Walker County employee clinic is shutting down.
Commissioner Shannon Whitfield announced Thursday he has ended an agreement with Southern Clinic Services, which has offered primary health care to county employees out of his South Duke Street office. Whitfield is negotiating with another provider, though he would not say whom.
He also said the county will save money under the new agreement, but he declined to say how much.
His announcement comes the same week the LaFayette City Council voted to enter an agreement with CHI Memorial Hospital to provide clinic services for its 130 employees. The city employees had previously been receiving healthcare in Whitfield's office.
The clinic operated with two nurse practitioners, a nurse and a receptionist, with two rooms available to patients. But Whitfield said the place could not perform X-rays on site, requiring some employees to go to another location. He also said the clinic was cramped in his office.
"It was kind of a makeshift set up," he said. " It just doesn't meet today's standards."
He said the new employee clinic will be open more hours. (The current clinic is open 36 hours a week.) He also said he was uncomfortable with medical providers giving out prescription medication at the office, believing it could be a liability.
Whitfield said the new provider will also give the employees a wellness coach, who can help employees make healthier decisions. In particular, he wants employees to kick their nicotine addictions.
Though he did not name his new provider, Whitfield's description sounded similar to that of LaFayette's agreement with CHI Memorial. The new clinic will give city employees a wellness coach, Hamilton said. It will also be open 60 hours a week, a full 24 hours more than the current operation.
The city council voted 2-1 to approve the agreement with CHI Memorial on Monday. The deal will allow city employees to use the hospital's LaFayette and Chickamauga clinics. Council members Beacher Garmany and Judy Meeks voted in favor of the deal, while Councilman Ben Bradford voted against it.
Bradford said Southern Clinic Services is a small operation, and he built a relationship with that staff. Other employees did too.
"They do a great job," he said. "They know who I am when I come in. We're more than just a number to those guys. They did nothing wrong, and it saddens me to change."
Bradford worries that a bigger clinic run by a bigger operation will force employees to sit in a waiting room for a long time when they get sick and need help. He thinks this could also keep them away from their jobs for longer than intended.
Primary Healthcare negotiations continue
Whitfield said Thursday that a Primary Healthcare Centers attorney offered to pay a monthly rent of $2,500 to use the Rossville clinic on Suggs Street. Whitfield rejected the deal.
He has requested $8,800 a month, based on a private appraisal. The clinic has operated in the county-owned building with a $1-a-year rent for 10 years. The local government also paid utilities and maintenance on the building, which Whitfield said cost $30,000 a year.
Staff Writer Tyler Jett can be reached at 423-757-6476 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.