Walmart closes all health clinics leaving potential gaps in rural medical care

Dan Gooding
Tuesday 30 April 2024 22:55 BST
People walk near the entrance to a Walmart Supercenter on February 20, 2024, in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
People walk near the entrance to a Walmart Supercenter on February 20, 2024, in Hallandale Beach, Florida. (Getty Images)

Walmart announced on Tuesday that it is closing health centers across five states along with a virtual health offering, calling it a “difficult decision”.

The 51 in-person Walmart Health sites and virtual clinics did not have a “sustainable business model” that would allow the supermarket giant to continue running them, the company said.

The company added that it was going to put learning from the project, which began in 2019, into its 4,600 pharmacies and 3,000 vision care centers into stores across the United States.

“Our priority will be ensuring the people and communities who are impacted are treated with the utmost respect, compassion and support throughout the transition,” the company announcement read.

“We do not yet have a specific date for when each center will close but will share as soon as decisions are made.”

Walmart Health lists Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri and Texas as states where in-person clinics are offered, meaning six states rather than the announced five.

There are concerns that the move will leave patients in rural areas without access to affordable healthcare.

“One of unique things was they were focused on stores located in underserved communities. It’s disappointing that Walmart wasn’t able to make it work because these patients need care and don’t have as many options,” Ateev Mehrotra, a professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School who researches retail health clinics, told CNN.

The closures are an about-turn after the company announced last year that it planned to double the number of clinics.

“We understand this change affects lives – the patients who receive care, the associates and providers who deliver care and the communities who supported us along the way,” the announcement said.

Walmart said it would now work on the continuity of care for its patients and would help staff affected by the changes, with the option to transfer to another company store or location.

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