Gould expects new clinic to open in April, giving HIV/AIDS patients in Tarrant County more options for care
Tammye Nash | Senior Editor
FORT WORTH — Officials at AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles, announced on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, that basketball legend and AIDS survivor Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be lending his name to three new AHF-affiliated healthcare clinics — including one planned at AOC’s Fort Worth facilities.
The other two new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Centers will be in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Atlanta.
AOC and AHF officials had announced in late September that the boards of the two agencies had signed a letter of intent to develop the Fort Worth clinic.
AOC Executive Director Allan Gould said this week his agency is “very excited” that the clinic being planned here was chosen to be an AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Center.
“It is definitely something we had hoped for, and we are very honored that the Magic Johnson Foundation and AIDS Healthcare Foundation trust us to operate this new clinic,” Gould said. “His [Johnson’s] name will bring an even larger degree of publicity to our agency and to the work we do here. And hopefully, that will open some doors that were not so fully opened to us in the past. This can’t be anything but great news for us.”
AHF is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S., and serves more than 100,000 patients overall in 22 countries. Created in 1987, the foundation generates its operating capital through its own self-created social enterprises, including AHF Pharmacies, thrift stores, healthcare contracts and other strategic partnerships.
Johnson, who was still playing pro basketball in 1991 when he announced publicly that he was HIV-positive, is chairman and founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation. The foundation raises funds for community-based organizations focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
“Magic Johnson is not just an outstanding businessman and a sports legend. He is also a hero to thousands because of the way he lends his name to the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Gould said. “When he stepped up to declare that he was HIV-positive, he did a tremendous amount to help lessen the stigma of AIDS.”
Gould said the most important aspect of the new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Clinic at AOC is that it will “offer clients a choice.”
“I am not saying anything negative about JPS Healing Wings [HIV clinic] or the Tarrant County Health Department’s AIDS clinic. They do a great job,” Gould said. “But there are still people lining up at both those clinics every day to see a physician and get the care they need. Now there will be a paradigm shift in access to medical care in our region. Now those clients will have a choice.”
He said that the new clinic, “ideally, could see up to a thousand clients a year, once it is staffed. But I think in the first year we will see 400 to 600 patients.
What that will do is lower the number of patients going to Healing Wings and the public health clinic, and shorten those lines, that wait time. This gives those clients another opportunity to access expert, top-of-the-line, cutting edge medical care.”
Gould said the new clinic will occupy about 4,000 square feet of AOC’s facilities at 400 N. Beach St., and that it will include a pharmacy, as well.
“This new clinic will offer medical treatment and prescriptions, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay,” Gould said. “That’s a huge element that we will be bringing to the table that has not been previously available” in Tarrant County and surrounding rural counties AOC serves.
Gould said AHF first approached AOC officials about five months ago, and that AOC officials “were really honored” to be considered as the site of a new AHF clinic.
“It is something we have wanted to do for some time,” Gould said. “Having a clinic has long been an integral part of our mission, and when we moved to our new location here on Beach Street, we did so hoping that the additional square footage this new space gives us would give us the chance to have a clinic.”
But even after they were approached by AHF, “we took our time and did our due diligence,” Gould said. “It takes times to figure out if you want to be a federally qualified health care clinic or go a different route. You have to look at all the parameters involved and all the different permits and licenses you have to have. It can become quite daunting.”
Even when they announced the letter of intent in September, he said, details were still being negotiated. That’s why when AHF CEO Michael Weinstein said during his visit to Fort Worth last month that he would love to see the new clinic open on Feb. 14, 2012, “our jaws just dropped to the floor,” Gould said.
“Even under the best circumstances, the process of getting [construction] permits and rearranging the existing offices — opening by Valentine’s Day simply was not feasible.”
Still, Gould said, word of the new clinic is already getting around and “We are already getting resumés for physicians who want to come and run this clinic, from nurse practitioners and others who want to work here.
“This truly is a huge event for Tarrant County,” Gould continued. “I know there are a number of community health care clinics in Dallas, but this will be the first one in our area that isn’t run by a major medical facility. The role that AOC has been trying to foster for some time is now coming to fruition, and that speaks volumes about the respect we have built up.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.