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Proposed Funding for Free Physicians Clinic on Hold Until Property is Settled | Local News

The purchase of a free medical clinic intended to provide free medical care to the poor and underinsured is blocked, not for lack of money, but by a legal dilemma.

The question is who will own the 8,000 square foot clinic in Crystal River once the Citrus County Hospital Board buys it for the nonprofit health organization made up of local doctors . The clinic has eight exam rooms and costs $825,000.

The Hospital Board of Trustees owns, on behalf of the public, HCA Florida Citrus Hospital and its surrounding campus, and leases it to Hospital Corporation of America. The hospital board took the lease payments and uses them to help fund local charities that provide medical services or education. The council has made donations to the College of Central Florida medical programs, Veterans Village assisted living facility, and many local charities.

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The hospital board also agreed to fund the purchase of the doctors’ free clinic.

But therein lies the problem.

Once purchased by the hospital board, the board members of the Doctors Free Clinic want ownership transferred to the Doctors Free Clinic.

“My client (the doctors’ free clinic) would much rather hold title to the clinic, as it would free him to make operational plans and future expansion plans without the added complication of another stakeholder controlling the use property,” George Rahdert, of the St. Petersburg law firm Rahdert & Mortimer, wrote to hospital board attorney Bill Grant.

“In the case of (county commission) property, my client wishes to avoid the political, disclosure and government decision-making process, which we believe could unnecessarily complicate, delay and impede future plans and operations. “, did he declare.

Solicitor Clifford Shepard, who is an ethics consultant for the hospital board, said the hospital board could give the clinic to the doctors’ free clinic board, but that would eliminate any public ownership of the property. . In the case of the Veterans Village, the land on which the assisted living facility will sit is owned by the Citrus County Commission and the commission will lease the land at a nominal fee.

Another option would be for the hospital board to own the property.


But that’s a problem, Sheppard told the hospital’s four board trustees at their board meeting last week.

This is because Dr. Jeffrey Wallis is a Trustee of the Hospital Board of Trustees and also Chairman of the Physicians Free Clinic Board of Trustees. Sheppard said Florida laws do not allow nonprofit board members to do business with themselves. This would put Wallis in the position of making ownership decisions that also affect the free clinic’s board and himself.

“You’re dealing with your own agency and you can’t,” Shepard told Wallis.

This would be avoided if the hospital board purchased the clinic and immediately turned it over to the county commission, Sheppard said. But that’s something the clinic board doesn’t want.

Wallis could step down from the hospital board, which would solve the problem, Sheppard said, but Wallis has told other directors he would prefer not to, given that he served on the board. administration of the hospital for many years and helped usher the hospital through the lease process.

The hospital board has offered another option in which the College of Central Florida buys the clinic, leases it to the Doctors’ Free Clinic group, and also uses it as a teaching facility for its nursing students. The hospital board has already donated $1 million to the college and is preparing to donate up to $10 million, depending on state matching grants for the college.

Whoever owned the clinic, everyone agreed that it should go public again if Doctors’ Free Clinic stops providing free medical services.

Mark fallow land


The chairman of the hospital’s board, Dr Mark Fallows, said that until this is sorted out, the trustees should not approve the purchase of the building.

“The last thing we need is the appearance of an irregularity,” Fallows said.

Clinic board member Dr. Brantley McNeal told Fallows at the hospital board meeting in April that the doctor’s free clinic should own the facility and ” I just couldn’t do it” if a government agency owned it.

Meanwhile, Grant said he would meet with Wallis and other attorneys involved and see if a compromise could be found and brought back to the hospital board.