St. Louis Health Department

The director of the St. Louis City Department of Health, Pam Walker, has announced her retirement after eight years in the position.

In that time, she has overseen health initiatives, a citywide, secondhand smoking ban, and major changes in St. Louis’ healthcare landscape — including the closure of Connect Care, a clinic that provided urgent care and specialty appointments to people without insurance.  

(Via Flickr/Rosemary)

The St. Louis-based safety-net healthcare provider ConnectCare will close its remaining facilities at the end of next week.

The Smiley Urgent Care Center, along with ConnectCare’s radiology, pharmacy, laboratory and preventative services will all close on Nov. 15.

The nonprofit organization, which served patients regardless of their ability to pay, had already discontinued outpatient specialty care and transportation services last month.

This article fist appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Only months after closing its specialty clinics, ConnectCare informed workers on Friday that it was eliminating the rest of its services on Nov. 15. The results will be a huge hole in the region’s medical safety net, officials say, noting that the urgent care center was on track to handle medical visits to about 17,000 patients.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Joyce Simms has been a St. Louis ConnectCare patient in the pulmonology program for four years.  Because she has asthma, she sees her pulmonologist, Dr. Barbara Lutey, as often as every three months.

In August, Simms received a registered letter from ConnectCare telling her that the pulmonology clinic was closing. But Simms did not experience even a hiccup in service. She learned that she would be able to continue to see Lutey, but her appointments would be at the Center for Outpatient Health, a facility run by Barnes-Jewish Hospital on Forest Park Avenue.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The reduction of health programs at ConnectCare will go beyond important specialty medical services and will extend to the crucial transportation network that has made it possible for some patients to get treatment at the site at 5535 Delmar Blvd.

Health planners said they will be scrambling to figure out which medical systems can provide specialty care to the more than 10,000 patients being displaced by ConnectCare’s decision. The planners promise to find transportation to alternative facilities.

St. Louis may have missed out this week on a share of Race to the Top stimulus funds to improve public education, but it is a big winner on the health-care front. The federal government announced Thursday that it was extending through 2014 an unusual program that has provided about $25 million a year for funding area community health centers.