CheckUps to close 23 Wal-Mart in-store clinics

NEW YORK Walk-in clinic operator CheckUps has confirmed that it has closed 23 clinics in Wal-Mart in four southern states, according to published reports.

The clinic operator, which last year added 20 clinics to the first three it acquired in Florida, was unable to pay its bills, according to the New York Times. The company, the paper claimed, was unable to pay its nurses and vendors, and owes over $100,000 to Medtracker Personnel, a Louisiana employment agency that supplied the clinics with nurses.

Wal-Mart began testing in-store health clinics in September 2005 as part of a push to offer less expensive health-care alternatives. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s chief executive, said last year that the chain could serve as landlord to as many as 2,000 clinics by 2014. “We are working to reopen the clinics as quickly as possible, whether or not they are operated by CheckUps,” Wal-Mart representative Deisha Galberth said.

To populate the space in its stores, Wal-Mart leases in-store space to outside non-emergency medical operators, such as CheckUps. The clinics provide basic preventive and such health services as cholesterol screenings and treatment for sore throats. Wal-Mart has leased space to about 80 clinics in stores across the country, including the CheckUps clinics now closed. They are all operated by independent firms, including 13 by RediClinics and two by hospital companies in Wisconsin and Florida.

“It was necessary to do a restructuring on relatively short notice,” CheckUps spokesman William Armstrong said of the closures. CheckUps operated clinics in Wal-Mart stores in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Wal-Mart said Monday that it was concerned about the impact on clinic customers. “It is obviously not a good thing that CheckUps has decided to close,” said Galberth. Wal-Mart had also reportedly been discussing making leasing deals with independent clinic operators that would be affiliated with local and regional hospitals, Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association, told the Times.

For its part, CheckUps still holds the lease on the spaces and chief executive Jack Tawil is working with investors on plans for going forward. “They’re hopeful to continue in as many of the existing venues as they can,” Armstrong stated.

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