Controversy Over Closure of Florida AIDS Clinic

The sudden closure of the AIDS Resource Council, a prominent Fort Myers-based organization treating hundreds of HIV-positive patients, was something of a messy one.

Maybe most troubling to area health care providers is the fact that no one knows for sure how many of these patients have been referred to other medical clinics. Though Lee Physicians Group, health departments in Collier and Hendry counties, and other HIV/AIDS services in the region are now working to take them all in.

“I don’t know how many are out there, and that’s the concern,” said Sharon Murphy, executive director of the McGregor Clinic in Fort Myers, which serves adults with HIV/AIDS and has taken in at least 75 of ARC’s former patients.

ARC was founded nearly two decades ago and cared for, at last count, about 250 people. Many are homeless and are more difficult to locate, staff members said. Most were either uninsured or were covered by Medicaid, low-reimbursing government health insurance that many private physician practices won’t accept.

Linda Idelson, president of the ARC’s board of directors, said her organization complied with Florida law about notifying patients of the clinic’s closure by advertising it and posting signs on ARC’s now-shuttered office at 3677 Central Ave.

She also said she’s confident other agencies are working hard to find them and will get them the care they need.

ARC’s closure did not come as a surprise to the McGregor Clinic, which recent moved to offices on Broadway to accommodate more patients, Murphy said.

“This was a scenario we had actually planned for in the background, because we knew they were having funding issues,” Murphy said. “So, it was always, what’s the contingency plan for when this happens?”

So how did things get to this point? The exact reasons behind the decision last month to close the clinic, known also as The Bob Rauschenberg Center for Living, remain in dispute. All agree the organization was out of money.

ARC has struggled financially for years and lost an annual $292,000 federal Health Resources Services Administration operations grant a few years ago.

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