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The sudden announcement of Tampa-area clinic closures leaves some patients worried

Exterior shot of a medical building parking lot with trees and a clear blue sky.
Carl Lisciandrello
The Clearwater location, pictured here, is one of four offices and clinics closing by the end of August.

The announcement by Diagnostic Clinic Medical Group highlights the growing shortages of health care options for Florida residents.

The abrupt announcement of the closing of Diagnostic Clinic Medical Group’s clinics is leaving some patients concerned about their next steps in finding health care.

Patients were notified via letter in mid-June that the offices would end operation on Aug. 30.

A letter outlining the closing of medical clinics across the greater Tampa Bay region.
Patients received this letter on June 18 alerting them that all four DCMG clinics would be closing at the end of August.

In these communications, the group stated that patients would have to find new doctors in their network with the insurance companies directly.

The group has been operating for over 50 years, with four offices and clinics serving communities in Pinellas and Polk counties.

The news was cause for concern for many patients, who now need to find new health care providers in the middle of the year and nowhere near an open enrollment period.

Carol Mountain, a longtime Diagnostic Clinic patient, said that while she’s been able to start looking for doctors through her insurance, it’s been an involved process.

"I have to permanently change directions here,” Mountain said. “It’s not always easy.”

These closures are the latest in decreased access to health care providers across Florida.

The growing number of closures also include national retail chains like Walmart and Walgreens, which are removing many of their clinics from Florida stores.

“We're finding that a lot of panels are just not accepting new patients, so (patients) have to travel outside of Pinellas County,” health insurance provider Bill Wilkie said.

“This is all just to locate a primary care physician and then restart the whole process (of finding) specialists. It's a real inconvenience.”

The closures will impact an estimated 30,000 patients, Wilkie said.

A lack of accessible clinics and physicians also leads to increased patient dependence on urgent care and hospital visits, which can drive up insurance premiums in the long run.

"If you go into emergency care, it's at least $1,000 or more," Wilkie said. "It's not a good measure because it does have a lot of future effects that are negative."

GuideWell, Diagnostic Clinic’s parent company which also own Florida Blue, made the decision to close the medical group, which has locations in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo and Winter Haven.

Tyler Luginski is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for the summer of 2024.