Historically, Polk County Government has taken an active role in providing funding for healthcare and promoting partnerships with community health care providers relying on their strengths in the provision of health care services to the county’s “medically indigent”. Our County’s concerned citizens initially made the commitment, as far back as the 1920’s, to fund indigent health care. Thus began the operation of Polk General Hospital. The Hospital operated continuously from 1926 until 1995, a period of 69 years.
In 1995, acting upon the recommendation of a consulting firm, the Polk County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) voted to close Polk General Hospital, reducing the level of indigent health care funding, after 69 years of providing health care to indigent residents. The County continued to operate 5 outpatient clinics, providing primary care services, and some specialty care services. The County also began contracting with area hospitals to provide a portion of the care previously provided by Polk General Hospital. In December 1997, the BoCC approved a contract with MGT of America, Inc., a consulting firm, to conduct a management study of all County Departments, including the Human Services Department. The MGT study recommended among other things, that the County consider privatization or the outsourcing of the Family Healthcare Clinic in Bartow and the operational return of the two Primary Care Clinics in Lakeland and Winter Haven to the County Health Department. Thus, Management began looking at other innovative ways to deliver health care services to the indigent residents of Polk County. We turned to our neighboring Hillsborough County, and patterned a Plan based on their proven innovative Model. The Polk HealthCare Plan was presented, to the BOCC, by the Human Services Department, Community Health and Social Services Division during a Board Work Session on Tuesday, July 20,1999 and was unanimously approved by the Board during regular session, the following Tuesday, July 27, 1999. This Plan represented a major change in the provision of health care services to indigent eligible county residents. The primary intent was to provide an emphasis on a continuity of care in the most cost effective setting, taking into consideration a high quality of health care and geographic access. Over the next several months the County phased out of the clinic operations and began contracting with community based medical providers through the Polk HealthCare Plan, using a managed care model. The County recognizes that the goal should be to manage and control health care costs rather than be controlled by runaway costs.
Polk County is federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and, in addition, has been declared a Medically Underserved Area (MUA).