A low Indigent Health Care Fund leave Manatee County healthcare system in jeopardy

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BRADENTON, FL--- The Manatee County health care system may be in jeopardy.  County officials say they have what many are calling a provider crisis.  According to a study, the county has been losing health care providers and the indigent health care fund used to help solve the problem is no longer an option.

"This place helps out people all the time," said Earl Bacon.  Bacon is one of the many people treated at the Bill Galvano One Stop Clinic in Bradenton. The location caters to uninsured and under-insured individuals, who in most case have no other means of non emergency health care

"Through here, I found out I had cancer. I had to go to 6 months of chemotherapy therapy for that so they've helped me out tremendously here" said Bacon.

He says clinic staff discovered his illness after taking a blood test.  The clinic then referred him to an oncologist for confirmation. Officials say stories like Bacon are common at the clinic but the very viability of the agency and several others like it are in danger because they depend on the county indigent health care fund. And, that money is set to run out.

"We worried, yes we're not sure where its going to come from.  We hope that between now and then that something is resolved" sail Michele Garden from One Stop Clinic.    

The county spends about $9 million a year to fund several area clinics and hospital programs.  They had hoped to implement a  half cent sales tax to cover the cost but voters did not approve the measure, leaving the county to seek alternatives.

"Property taxes pay for those core services, parks, libraries, public safety and that's what we would have to look to," said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.

An increase would equate to about 4 tenths of a mill in property taxes. The other alternative is to generate the $9 million by making cuts.

"Close down parks library, cut back on the sheriff, cut back on something that's currently funded in the budget.  All of those are very difficult decision for the Board of County Commissioner but they will all be on the table to discuss in the upcoming budget," added Hunzeker.

In the mean time facilities like One Stop say their future and services hang in the balance.

"Without this fund this clinic will be very cripples. Our patients are really going to be harmed by this," said Garden.

The county is in the beginning stages figuring out where the $9 million will come from, the budget wont be finalized until next spring.