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Health

West Side Clinic Worries It Will Lose Insured Patients To New Jordan Clinic

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Alex Olgin
/
WFAE
The waiting area of the C.W. Williams health clinic in west Charlotte.

Last month, Novant Health announced it's building two new clinics on the north and west side of Charlotte with a $7 million donation from Michael Jordan. Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics promise to deliver high quality care to people who have little access now. But the head of an existing health clinic on the west side is concerned about losing business from insured patients. And that could affect its ability to serve poor patients.  

In Northwest Charlotte between a Burger King, Popeye’s and a Bojangles’ restaurant is C.W. Williams Community Health Center. 

CEO Debra Weeks calls it, “The triangle of friend chicken.”

At first glance it may not seem like the ideal location for a clinic, but the 36-year-old C.W. Williams Clinic is near a bus line and serves about 7,000 patients, and it’s also a few miles from one of the new Michael Jordan-funded Novant health clinics. In making the announcement, Novant said people in that neighborhood haven’t been able to get comprehensive primary care where they live and had to go to emergency rooms and urgent cares in other parts of town. 

Not true, says C.W. Williams CEO Debra Weeks.

“The illusion no one is helping these folks that nothing exists on the west side or the northwest side in the poor areas is an illusion. It's not the truth.”

Novant says clinics like C.W. Williams provide good care but points to the Charlotte Opportunity Task Force report. That report says there’s a need to expand care in low-income and underserved areas.

Novant says it plans to continue to engage with Weeks and the community and determine best how to support the area’s needs. Weeks would like the clinics to complement each other, but she’s concerned about losing some of her paying patients -- especially since the clinic is recovering from a near closure and bankruptcy three years ago.

“We like big, new and pretty and shiny,” Weeks said. “Come on did you see those renderings? Absolutely, I’d want to go.”

She said about two-thirds of the clinics patients are insured or pay out of pocket. The rest are uninsured and pay less for services. That balance is important to clinics that get federal funding to serve the uninsured population, said Ben Money, CEO of the North Carolina Community Health Center Association.

“We welcome other organizations that elect to step up to challenge to serve individuals that don’t have the resources to pay,” he said. “But it’s going to be necessary for those organizations to not deplete community health centers and their ability to recruit and retain Medicaid patients, Medicare patients and the commercially insured. Because without that balanced payer mix, there's no way a health center would be able to survive.”

The other Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics will be north of Uptown. Novant expects both clinics to open in late 2020.