The Daily Gamecock

College of Nursing shutters on-campus Primary Care Partners faculty health clinic

Dean: Rising healthcare costs caused relocation

USC’s College of Nursing has closed the Primary Care Partners faculty and staff health care center on campus, upsetting some who enjoyed the convenience of the Thompson Student Health Center-based facility.

Primary Care Partners was merged into the College’s Children and Family Healthcare Center at 2638 Two Notch Road in July, effectively eliminating its usefulness, according to Ed Madden, an associate professor in USC’s English department.

“You can have good health care, you can have proactive health care but it was accessible health care, and it was specifically for faculty and staff,” Madden said. “I know I will look for something closer to campus just because it’s more convenient.”

Madden wrote a letter to Peggy Hewlett, dean of the College of Nursing, on Aug. 9 and said he hasn’t received a response. Hewlett said the College of Nursing could no longer afford to keep the campus clinic operational. Primary Care Partners, part of the University Specialty Clinics, is self-supporting and is run by the College of Nursing. No physicians work for the clinic; only nurses staff it. Nurses receive less Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement than doctors, which was part of the reason the clinic couldn’t stay open, Hewlett said. That fact, coupled with increasing health care costs nationwide, has made the College’s clinics increasingly unaffordable.

USC closed its women’s clinic about two years ago due to financial reasons, leaving just Primary Care and Children and Family. When the College was forced to close one of those two clinics, it had to make a decision between two populations, said Hewlett.

“The majority of our patients in the Children and Family Healthcare clinic are Medicaid patients, primarily children,” Hewlett said. “We serve a very underserved population there, and our patients find very few other providers who will accept them. On campus we served a well-insured population.”

Hewlett added that the Children and Family clinic serves nearly all the children in protective services in Columbia and all the surrounding counties. The College informed faculty and staff of the closure of the on-campus clinic near the beginning of spring semester.

“I only had two people write me and say they were concerned about that, and I did respond to them, and I’m very sorry,” Hewlett said. “I do know that it has caused some difficulty for people, and certainly there are no easy decisions in this environment right now.”

Varsha Kulkarni, chairwoman of the Faculty Senate’s Welfare Committee, was not available for interview this weekend. In an email response, she wrote she wasn’t familiar with the clinic’s closing.

Hewlett described the closure as a tough decision but said she didn’t ask the university for funding to keep the clinic afloat.

“We’ve always had our own clinic, and that’s never been a position that we’ve taken,” Hewlett said. “The College wanted and still wants to run its own clinic. If the university wants a clinic for the faculty that’s different from ours, then that’s something that perhaps they should consider, but our clinic has always been a nurse-run clinic.”

Madden called the decision unfortunate and said he “wished they could have found other options.”