Eight area walk-in clinics put most services on hold

Minn.-based operator awaits a state approval

February 22, 2005|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Eight walk-in health care clinics in the Baltimore region have had to put most services on hold temporarily while the company that runs them waits for a state approval it wasn't aware it needed.

The MinuteClinic sites, which opened inside Target stores last summer and fall, aim to offer quick care for people suffering from common ailments such as sinus infections. But the nurse practitioners there haven't been able to diagnose problems or write prescriptions since Feb. 12, when MinuteClinic Inc. said it discovered that the Maryland Board of Physicians needed to approve the operation.

The board and the company expect approval tomorrow. Until then, clinic nurses can answer questions or suggest over-the-counter medications, said Linda Hall Whitman, MinuteClinic's chief executive officer. She said the clinics have remained open.

"We hope to resume our full range of patient services later this week," she said.

The Maryland Board of Nursing has approved the clinics, but the Maryland Board of Physicians hasn't, and it also has jurisdiction because physicians are involved, although none is on site.

The physicians' board was concerned that the company had only one supervising physician for the Baltimore region, said the board chairman, Dr. Harry C. Knipp.

It wasn't a question of quality, he said, but one of geography. The board wanted to ensure that when patients with more complicated cases are referred elsewhere, they don't have to drive far.

"We had no problem with the concept; we had no problem with any of the people involved," Knipp said. "We just wanted there to be more docs for better geographic coverage."

Whitman said the Minneapolis company has added a second supervising physician and also has a list of local doctors - not on the payroll - to whom nurses in the clinics can refer patients.

MinuteClinic has treated 4,440 people since its launch in the Baltimore area. It hopes to have more than 200 locations in 20 cities by 2008.

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