CMHS to keep Sugarmill Woods walk-in clinic open

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Facility had been slated for closure

By Mike Wright

CRYSTAL RIVER — Citrus Memorial Health System has a Christmas gift for the residents of southwest Citrus County.

The walk-in clinic at Sugarmill Woods, slated to close Jan. 1 in a budget-cutting move, will remain open after all.

CMHS Chief Executive Officer Ryan Beaty said a local family-practice physician, Dr. Wright Hernandez, will oversee the clinic and operate a private practice onsite at the same time.

The clinic will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to accept walk-in patients, Beaty said.

“It’ll be very seamless,” Beaty said. “The average person will see no difference. There will be no break in service.”

CMHS opened the Sugarmill Woods center in 2009. Along with a walk-in clinic, the complex includes diagnostic imaging and physical therapy.

While the other services thrived, the walk-in portion never received the amount of patient traffic that CMHS anticipated. Hospital officials said in September they could save $500,000 by closing the walk-in clinic after Dec. 31 and made plans to do that.

Residents in Homosassa and Sugarmill complained about the decision.

“The community let us know in no uncertain terms they really appreciated the walk-in clinic,” Beaty said. “We spent several months trying to figure out a way we can keep the walk-in clinic, or some semblance of it.”

Hernandez, who lives in Sugarmill and is semi-retired and affiliated with Citrus Memorial hospital, offered to open a practice at the Sugarmill clinic and also maintain the walk-in service, Beaty said.

“There will be a lot of activity there,” Beaty said.

He added: “It should be a budget-neutral event. Because it’s a hybrid ... our projections show it won’t lose money.”

Beaty said he’s happy to accommodate patients in southwest Citrus with a decision that makes financial sense as well.

“I think it’s very good news,” he said. “We listened to the community.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.