Oroville Mercury-Register

Chico Immediate Care closes its doors

- By Jennie Blevins jblevins@chicoer.com

>> Immediate Care Medical Center Chico had its last day in business on Feb. 17.

“If it doesn’t make money it will go out of business,” owner and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Brad Smith said. “What people don’t understand is that the doctor’s office was built on the back of one person, me.”

Smith, who was a general practition­er doctor, decided to retire after Immediate Care shut down. The clinic was opened in November 1983 by Dr. Roy Grossman. Smith bought the clinic in 1993.

“I’m 68 and gave half of my retirement,” Smith said. “The financial damage comes down to one man, me. The guy who got hurt is Brad Smith. I love the community. I got attached to the community and wanted it taken care of. For years we weren’t reimbursed by the cost of the clinic.”

The clinic was seeing 100,000 patients per year since the Camp Fire.

“We did so much business people thought we were an institutio­n,” Smith said. “We were losing $100,000 per month. I tried to negotiate with the insurance companies and try to get them to compensate for the increased costs. The insurance industry has lobbyists in Washington, D.C. They offered 3% to raise the rate. This wouldn’t pay for inflation.”

Smith said there is a primary care shortage in the United States and no one is going into primary care these days. He said many went into that industry in 1982 when he was attending school at University of California, Davis.

Smith said in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Immediate Care set up an extensive and expansive COVID-19 testing site offering PCR tests with results in 15 minutes.

“They offered us $9.63 to reimburse for testing costs,

but the tests cost over $25,” he said. At the clinic a $100 office visit brings the total to $103 which doesn’t cover anything.”

On the day of the Camp Fire in 2018, Smith said he had spent $500,000 creating a primary care business in Paradise.

“We were hurt by that, but in 2019 we had recovered,” Smith said. “Patients then stopped going to doctors at the beginning of COVID-19. The operating income fell 50% in one month and the market shut down.”

One of the alternativ­e clinics he suggests is to go to Prompt Care, but “there is no one good answer of where to go.”

Smith said the majority of Immediate Care’s employees were able to find

new jobs in health care. Smith organized job fairs in the clinic’s conference room for employees.

“Several employees had several job offers before we closed,” Smith said. “We brought in Oroville and Enloe and Rolling Hills to give presentati­ons. Employees had job opportunit­ies. We announced the closure on Friday and several employees had jobs by the next Tuesday. It’s hard to find healthcare people to hire and my people were gold. There are no shortage of jobs in the medical field.”

Smith said he has decided to step down.

“I can’t practice medicine anymore,” Smith said. “It’s a broken system. People who work the hardest

 ?? JENNIE BLEVINS — ENTERPRISE-RECORD ?? The former Immediate Care Medical Center Chico clinic is pictured Thursday in Chico. The clinic closed Feb. 17.
JENNIE BLEVINS — ENTERPRISE-RECORD The former Immediate Care Medical Center Chico clinic is pictured Thursday in Chico. The clinic closed Feb. 17.

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