SPRING HILL — Hernando County has consistently grown into a medical Mecca, with a strong presence of nearly every field of medicine represented with top of the line specialties and specialists. So, it’s no wonder the community would attract Premier Community HealthCare Group to its list of premium healthcare providers in a move that will be complete by July.

Cheryl Pollock, director of business development for Premier, said the acquisition was initiated when Premier was awarded a Service Area Competition grant in the sum of $1.2 million to expand its practices into Hernando County. It will replace medical services previously performed by the Florida Department of Health.

Dade City-based Premier has eight locations in Pasco County.

Beginning in May, Premier will provide healthcare services to the underinsured and uninsured on a sliding scale basis, utilizing the former Department of Health facilities in Brooksville and Spring Hill. It will operate on a limited schedule until July when operations will advance to five days a week.

Once the full transition is completed, more than 8,400 patients will be served annually. But the transition is expected to be smooth since both facilities were already operating as medical offices.

“The beauty of it is both facilities are already outfitted for medical purposes and are leaving the equipment for our use,” Pollock said.

According to a press release, the Department of Health had been the “main recipient of health center funding” for 12 years. But they had “reassessed its function and role in the provision of primary care services.”

As a result, it decided to “divest itself of the Federally Qualified Health Center and the provision if primary care, dental care, behavioral care and OB-GYN services so they can focus on the delivery of core public health issues.”

The FQHC designation also allows Premier to offer a medication discount through a 340B Drug Pricing Program.

Premier decided to apply for the FQHC after recognizing the need in Hernando County. With the Department of Health pulling out of medical services, it made sense to expand their services into the county.

Community health care centers have improved patient outcomes while reducing health equality, even while serving a population that is typically sicker and more at risk.

Premier, with 38 years in operation, is a non-profit community health center that focuses on providing “high quality, affordable, accessible medical care to Medicaid or Medicare recipients, uninsured and underserved.” The expansion into Hernando County will bring the total number of Premier facilities to 10, in Pasco and Hernando.

Patients now utilizing the Department of Health for their care should make their appointment and expect to fill out paperwork upon their first visit to Premier.

For additional information including employment opportunities for the local facilities, visit www.premierhc.org.