Washington, D.C.'s Whitman-Walker Clinic plans to begin charging patients for some services and to sell off some of its property to help erase a projected $800,000 budget deficit, The Wall Street Journal reports. Clinic officials plan to reduce the organization's 285-person staff and slash administrative overhead, which is estimated to save about $1 million annually. The clinic also will sell two transitional housing facilities and a property that houses administrative offices. Housing tenants will be moved to other clinic properties.
Clients of the clinic also will start paying fees for some medical services beginning in November, clinic officials said. Fees will be assessed on a sliding scale for some services, and the clinic plans to more aggressively seek reimbursement from private insurers. While low-income patients will still be offered many services free or at very low cost, patients who can pay could be charged as much as $166 for a gynecological exam, $169 for a basic sexually transmitted disease screening, and $95 for an HIV antibody test.
Officials at the clinic, which provides HIV care as well as general health services for the region's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, approved the cost-saving measures to avoid curtailing services or even closing one or more of the clinic's regional offices. Clinic staff say Whitman-Walker is expected to have zero cash reserves by the end of the year and that the clinic's line of credit has been cut to $600,000, about half its previous limit. The deficit resulted from both rising demand for the clinic's services as well as a drop-off in private funding for the organization. Fund-raising peaked at $7.3 million in 1999 but has slid in recent years. Clinic officials hope to raise $1 million from the annual Washington AIDS Walk on October 1. Last year's event brought in about $100,000, while the 2001 event, held shortly after the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York, raised just $4,000.