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Neighborhood Health Care: Cincinnati Health Department questions why centers are closing

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CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Health Department wants to know why a local health services agency is suddenly closing after 40 years, forcing the city to scramble to help thousands of patients losing services.

Assistant city health commissioner Joyce Tate told WCPO she is very concerned about the mysterious circumstances around the shutdown of Neighborhood Health Care, Inc.

“It's been a key staple within the community, so it's going to be a huge loss," Tate said.

The big question is:

Did Neighborhood Health Care even reapply for a $1.4 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to stay open in 2014?

The local agency announced on Dec. 19 that HRSA did not approve its funding application for 2014.

That’s not exactly correct, a spokesperson for the federal agency told WCPO.

Neighborhood Health Care did not submit an “eligible application," HRSA’s Martin Kramer said.

Neighborhood Health Care was eligible to reapply, Kramer said, but he declined to elaborate.

“That would be an enormous disappointment because we were all under the impression that the grant was submitted,” Tate said.

“In fact, many of us wrote letters of support for that grant."

Tate said the federal money could have gone to another city clinic if Neighborhood Health Care didn’t want it.

What’s more, NHC did not accept the federal agency’s offer of a $400,000 extension that would have kept it open through April. That would have enabled patients to maintain their services while looking for a new provider.

Tate said she has worked with Neighborhood Health Care for years and was told that it did apply for the grant. If so, she's very interested to find out why the local agency didn't get it.

"The surprising thing is that they didn’t get it.  None of us really know why right now. We certainly would like to know, but we also know they've struggled over the last couple of years and that’s a possibility that that was part of the equation," Tate said.

In its Dec. 19 statement, Neighborhood Health Care acknowledged it had “struggled in recent years with operational infrastructure and rightsizing.”

"if they didn't submit the grant, then we know why they didn’t get it, but if they did submit the grant and they did not get the grant, I’m sure they will get some type of official feedback," Tate said.

NHC serviced uninsured families through centers in Walnut Hills/Evanston, Norwood, Harrison and Downtown, along with school-based programs at Rockdale Academy, South Avondale, and Hughes Center.

All are due to close Tuesday.

NHC said it serviced 4,000 patient visits per month.

WCPO left messages for board members from Neighborhood Health Care but no one has responded.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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