UF Health presented its plan for an East Gainesville urgent care facility to both the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners and the Gainesville City Commission at a joint meeting on Monday.
Both commissions voted unanimously to direct its managers to create a term sheet with UF for the commissions to evaluate and finalize at a future meeting. The motions also requested other healthcare organizations to contact the commissions for any proposals they may have.
UF Health’s Dr. Marvin Dewar presented a plan that would build a facility next to Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC) off of Hawthorne Road, where UF already owns 13 acres.
Dewar said data showed the zip codes 32609 and 32641 lack medical, dental and mental health providers relative to its population and residents have few after-hours and weekend urgent care options compared to Central and West Gainesville and Alachua County, which have many options.
Due to the lack of options, East Gainesville residents make unnecessary trips to the Emergency Department at UF Shands, wasting time and money. Dewar said the residents from those zip codes make the most ER visits for “avoidable hospital admission.”
The facility would have space for labs, x-rays, splinting and sutures and also form the cornerstone for future services on the land, like dentistry, mental health and a mobility hub. It will operate seven days a week and accept walk-ins.
Insurance or self-pay options will be available and UF expects to see 12,000 to 15,000 patients in the first year.
UF stamped the initial 8,000- to 10,000-square foot urgent care facility with a $4.5 million price tag as the worst case scenario. But both Dewar and UF Health CEO Ed Jimenez said they expect the price to fall below that number.
Based on calculations, UF estimates the facility will also not make enough money to sustain itself. UF estimates that loss to fall between $200,000 to $300,000 every year. The loss will come in part from the extended and weekend hours as well as the facility’s acceptance of patients regardless of insurance.
However, Dewar said the facility falls into the overall portfolio of services UF offers and the organizations will take the loss.
He added that two other facilities on the the eastside—UF Health Family Medicine Main and Eastside—also operate on a loss, but UF has operated the locations since the ’70s and ’90s, respectively.
“We nonetheless, the hospital and the college, believe this is the right thing to do,” Dewar said. “We are willing to take that on. We will take that (probable maximum loss) and run that into the future and continue to grow this location.”
Dewar spoke of the long need for this type of facility, a sentiment echoed by many of the commissioners.
County Commissioner Charles Chestnut recalled the Shands Alachua General Hospital (AGH) facility that closed in 2009.
“The people felt that there was a distrust because they thought that that hospital was going to be there for the eastern portion of the county,” Chestnut said.
Other commissioners asked what assurance UF had that the facility would remain open.
“We are going to continue to grow services where they’re needed and we’re not going away,” Dewar said.
Jimenez added that UF would ensure that the paperwork between the county, city and UF included wording that ensured the longevity of the facility.
UF’s proposal has the city and county splitting the upfront cost of the building and equipment while the healthcare provider will cover the management and year-after-year loss.
After the city and county managers finalize the term sheet, both commissions can officially vote to fund the project.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said the proposed facility would be on Archer Road, rather than Hawthorne Road.