GREENSBORO — Layoffs at a local nonprofit health care provider won’t mean the end of treatment for the poor and uninsured, officials say — but it is the latest in a series of funding and staffing blows to a once healthy safety net for Guilford County’s most vulnerable.
Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine announced last week that it will lay off 35 staff members, including seven doctors. The announcement was the latest chapter in a yearslong story of financial trouble for the organization, which serves poor and uninsured adults and children at four locations in Greensboro and High Point.
The cuts, effective Feb. 1, will take the organization’s staff down to about 120 people — about half of its 2010 level. Officials with the organization say its doctors treat 39,000 children and 11,000 adults annually. While they say no patients will be dismissed from the practice, the layoffs are the latest in a series of funding and staffing reductions that included the closing of the HealthServe Community Clinic in August.
Among the tough blows to the medical provider and its mission: loss of funding from Guilford County and Cone Health and the state’s decision last year to not expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage, which could have extended coverage to most of the clinic’s uninsured patients.
Brian Ellerby, CEO of Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. Neither could Chester Brown, the organization’s former chairman of the board; he resigned last week. But Guilford County officials said they were saddened to hear the news.
“It’s a continuing problem for the community, and we need to watch and be aware of the effect,” said Merle Green, director of the Guilford County Department of Public Health. “We’re still doing what we can for the poor and the uninsured, especially for children, through the health department. But we can’t do everything.”
Last year, Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine received recognition as a federally qualified health center after years of trying. But the recognition and the federal money that came with it had strings — it would have to be used to serve homeless patients and those in public housing. That mandate is narrower than the group’s general mission of serving the poor and uninsured.
In September, the organization received a two-year, $758,333 grant to create a new clinic — Family Medicine at Eugene — at the site of the HealthServe Community Clinic that closed just a month earlier. That was to be followed by another $650,000 this year for the creation of the new clinic. The Cone Health Foundation also pledged $458,662 for general operation of the clinic and $150,000 for the clinic’s pharmacy.
But that funding isn’t sufficient to do the much broader and more expensive work undertaken by Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine at the height of its operation — serving more than 50,000 patients annually, more than 70 percent of whom had no insurance.
For more than a decade, Guilford County had a public/private partnership with Moses Cone and High Point Regional health systems to operate three clinics for the poor through what was then called Guilford Child Health and Guilford Adult Health. The programs served about 35,000 children and 18,000 adults annually.
The county paid about $1.6 million into Adult Health each year; the two health systems paid a combined $3.5 million. The county paid about $1.8 million into Child Health. The hospitals and other funding covered the balance of that program’s $9.6 million budget.
Struggling financially, the county withdrew its funding in 2012 and began instead putting money into operations like its Evans-Blount clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, which now sees about 250 patients a week with two doctors and a nurse practitioner.
With the public/private model dissolved, the hospitals also scaled back funding and began looking to put money into new clinics of their own.
This year Cone plans to open another clinic for adults.
The county is also part of the Guilford Community Health Care Network, through which poor patients who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid can get treatment at many hospitals and practices throughout the Triad.
“There is a lot being done,” Green said. “But it’s still not enough for the need that is out there.”