Marco city leader: Tax for 24/7 walk-in clinic could be in place by Jan. 1

Should Marco Island residents be taxed to pay for a 24/7 walk-in clinic?

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Marco City Council Chairman Larry Magel.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Marco City Council Chairman Larry Magel.

Video from NBC-2

The ballot language doesn't identify the amount of the proposed tax levy. It says the proceeds would be used solely to "supplement the costs of maintaining and operating" a 24/7 clinic. The levy considered is 0.1 mill, which would cost taxpayers with a property assessed at $500,000 about $52 a year, according to a presentation to the council at the June 4 meeting.

— If Marco Island voters support paying for a 'round-the-clock walk-in center, the tax could go into effect Jan. 1.

That's what Marco Island City Council Chairman Larry Magel envisions, with the city moving quickly to establish a municipal services taxing unit to levy the subsidy if voters support it in an Aug. 14 ballot question.

The City Council has received a proposal from Physicians Regional Healthcare System to keep its planned walk-in center open after-hours for a 24/7 operation, with a subsidy estimated at $700,000 to $800,000 for the extended hours.

The current plan for the walk-in clinic is a 12-hour schedule seven days a week, Scott Campbell, chief executive officer of Physicians Regional-Collier Boulevard, said Friday to a dozen civic leaders and media representatives at Marco Island City Hall.

Physicians Regional's clinic will open by the end of the year with 3,500 square feet of usable space in a site at the Shops of Marco, at Barfield Drive and San Marco Road.

"We will be glad to make that available," Campbell said of a 24/7 operation if voters support a subsidy. "We know the citizens will make the right choice."

With respect to the NCH Healthcare System, which operates Marco's existing walk-in center at 40 Heathwood Drive, Magel said the city would issue NCH a formal request for a proposal to remain open at all times. NCH would be asked to respond within 30 days. The City Council would decide between the two proposals.

"We would sign a one-year agreement to see whether it was successful or not," Magel said.

Physicians Regional's clinic will open by the end of the year with 3,500 square feet of usable space in a site at the Shops of Marco, at Barfield Drive and San Marco Road.

The lack of a 24-hour medical clinic in Marco has been contentious for some residents, who bemoan that the island has one ambulance. If the ambulance is already handling a call, an ambulance at Isles of Capri could be called, but that means delays. The county-operated Emergency Medical Services system will not provide a second ambulance that would be based on the island, Magel said.

The advantage of an after-hours clinic operation is the continuum of care, where a clinic doctor can quickly relay information to a hospital about a patient being sent to the emergency room, Dr. David Childress, medical director of the 100-bed Collier hospital, said Friday at the press conference.

"That is the value," Childress said.

At the same time, Childress said patients always have the choice of which hospital they want to use when an ambulance is called.

NCH didn't have a representative at Friday's press conference.

Dr. Allen Weiss, chief executive officer, said NCH would respond to a request for a proposal to keep its Marco Healthcare Center open after-hours. When the clinic did operate 24 hours several years ago, it averaged fewer than two patients late at night.

Campbell and the other hospital officials emphasized that a walk-in clinic is for medical care that's similar to what a primary-care doctor can provide. Walk-in centers can provide X-rays, laboratory work, and treat cuts and other basic medical issues but they don't offer emergency medical care.

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Comments » 10

maharg writes:

A 24 hour walk in clinic in Marco Is. will not save your life. It is false security and wastes valuable time. It is impossible to create a true Emergency Room on Marco. You need labs, surgeons, complete imaging facilities, etc. Calling 911 should be the first step for the emergency ailments of our older population. As far as a second ambulance for Marco, off season it's too much, in season it's not enough. County wide management of EMS is the most efficient.

ajm3s writes:

Another story! I guess the Eagle wants this issue front and center.

OldMarcoMan writes:

I guess the City Council has made up its mind to do this if they already have the start date picked.
Why are we waisting our time voting on this?

WizeOlMarco writes:

Does having a 24/7 open clinic on Marco Island lower homeowner insurance rates for Marco Island property, such as having a fire hydrant in proximity to buildings lowers rates for the nearby buildings?

NobodysFool57 writes:

This is a non-emergency facility we're talking about. Why are we even having this discussion? Sounds like a non-necessary tax and spend boondoggle to me. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

chinkley writes:

No to the tax for this clinic and no to the 24 hour clinic.

GorgonZola writes:

This is a business. Why must we be the only place in the world dumb enough to pay a business to come here and make more money from us? The present 'urgent care' facility was a gift to the people from Deltona. Make it work.
With a population such as Marco Island's of course there may not be a lot of emergencies every night - (and we should say thank God, not tsk tsk) but we should not be unprotected either. You still need a method of transportation to get you there and if the ONE ambulance is busy, it won't make any difference if there's a 24/7 facility or not. Save the money and buy another ambulance! When our family is in cardiac arrest we want what NCH does best, thanks.

Mayor_McCheese writes:

Two points:

1. Since it is not an emergency clinic, what is really the point? If you have an emergency, you would either drive/be driven to an emergency room off the island or else you would call 911/ambulance.

2. Since this is not an emergency facility, it is just a Drs. office that is open 24 hours. Since it is really just a business and not a true public service filling a void, why on Earth would the public pay for it? If it can't survive on its own business plan, then it does not need to be created.

I can see having the public pay for a second ambulance stationed on the island or an emergency facility, but simply a primary care Dr. who is available 24hrs does nothing for anyone - except the Dr. getting paid to sit there all night reading a book.

Don't waste our money so that some realtor can tell some prospective buyer that Marco has 24 hr medical care - which if you have an emergency, it does not.

marconan writes:

Is this Marco's pathetic version of Obamacare? Should we call it Magelcare or Rivierecare?

Marco residents will be forced to pay a tax so that someone who is out of band-aides at 3 AM can go to the clinic & have their booboo fixed. There's not much more they can treat there that can't wait until regular hours. Even the hospital CEO emphasizes it.

"Campbell and the other hospital officials emphasized that a walk-in clinic is for medical care that's similar to what a primary-care doctor can provide. Walk-in centers can provide X-rays, laboratory work, and treat cuts and other basic medical issues but they don't offer emergency medical care"

Don't dare to go there with a life threatening emergency because you will be wasting your precious time & die there. IT IS ONLY GOING TO BE A DOCTOR'S OFFICE THAT WILL COST US ALMOST A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR FOR ONLY THE NIGHT SHIFT!!!

Worse yet, instead of calling EMS, someone will mistakenly be taken there with a life threatening emergency & die there. Then the family will be suing everybody including Marco because they were given the impression it was an emergency facility. IF IT'S NOT GOING TO BE AN EMERGENCY FACILITY- WE DON'T NEED IT 24/7 !!! HOW DID WE ALL EVER SURVIVE WITHOUT IT?

The wording of the referendum is misleading - "Shall the City levy an ad valorem tax for the purposes of providing that the proceeds of the ad valorem tax shall be used solely to supplement the costs of maintaining and operating a 24-hour per day, 7 days per week free standing walk-in clinic to be operated by an established full-service hospital system located in Collier County and selected by the City Council after due consideration.

The phrase "to be operated by an established full-service hospital" will be misinterpreted by many voters thinking this will be some sort of emergency facility with full service & because of that this frivolous referendum will get approved & we will have to live with it.

The hospitals are smart enough to know that the night shift in a Marco clinic is unjustified, that's why they won't do it on their own. They will only do it if we are the suckers to pay for it. And since we are going to subsidize private enterprise, why don't we pay Publix & Winn-Dixie to stay open all night just in case I wake up during the night craving a nice piece of steak.

Our "kids in a candy store" Council needs to stop shopping & just take care of the problems we already have.

lauralbi1 writes:

The issue is on the Ballot. So vote no to the Tax. I am voting no.

The fact is that it is on the Ballot. That is a good thing. If the majority wants it, so be it.

At least we all get to express our opinion and decide the issue via our vote !!!

That is never a bad thing !!!
Ed Issler

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