Central Florida Health Care clinic in Lakeland earns perfect score from federal inspection


By Marilyn Meyer

The Ledger

LAKELAND — For Ann Claussen and others on the staff and board at Central Florida Health Care, a recent site visit from federal inspectors ended with cause to celebrate.

For those who are not accustomed to dealing with the federal Health Resources & Services Administration, the terminology is vague. But being classified as a “highly functioning grantee” is a big deal, said Claussen, who is executive director of Central Florida Health Care, a federally qualified community health center that operates 13 clinics in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.

And passing all 19 program requirements is rare, Claussen said.

“We were told fewer than 5 percent score perfect in the survey,” Claussen said. “The clinical surveyor said she has done 50 surveys and we are only the second one she has surveyed to meet all the clinical requirements.”

The surveyors visited Aug. 29, 30 and 31, but before they arrived a large amount of documentation and data had already been submitted, Claussen said.

The surveyors were especially impressed with the community kitchen set up at the Magnolia Clinic in Winter Haven to work on cooking, recipes and healthy eating with patients who are diabetic or obese, Claussen said.

“They would like to make it a best practice for other community health clinics.”

Central Florida Health Care is among 48 nonprofit agencies in the state that have qualified to receive federal grants to provide health care to low-income residents who are uninsured or under-insured. It operates primary, pediatric and dental clinics in Lakeland (two sites), Winter Haven (two sites), Dundee (two sites), Lake Wales, Mulberry, Frostproof, Haines City and Mulberry in Polk County and in Wauchula and Avon Park in neighboring counties.

In the coming fiscal year, which starts Feb. 1, grants will add up to about $9 million of the $29 million budget, Claussen said. While $9 million sounds like a lot, the clinic must come up with the rest of the money, most of it from payors – Medicaid, Medicare, insurance and sliding-scale rates from patients, she said.

David Duke of Frostproof, who has served on the 15-member volunteer board of directors for 30 years and is now board president, said he is one of the few clinic patients who pays full rate because he has a good-paying job. In the past, he has worked as an aviation paramedic but is now responsible for business development for an aeromedical transport company.

“Community health clinics are the nation’s safety net for those who have nowhere else to go for healthcare,” Duke said. “There are sliding-fee scales; you pay according to your income. Sometimes it is free if you truly cannot afford it.”

Duke described the board’s reaction to the perfect score as ecstatic.

Although the federal agency has had a review process in the past, the site visits are relatively new and this is only the second site visit for Central Florida Health Care, Duke said.

“Our first HRSA visit was about three years ago. We learned a lot from it; which is the purpose of the reviews,” Duke said. “We had some things we had to work on and were grateful to learn about some things we should have been doing. In the last three years, we put those changes into practice; Ann (Claussen) and the team pulled it together.

“Not many community health centers can put together a perfect score, but we did it,” Duke said.

Marilyn Meyer can be reached at marilyn.meyer@theledger.com or 863-802-7558.