Walmart to open health clinics on the South and West sides at two stores reopening after civil unrest

Abdel Jimenez, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read

Walmart will offer in-store health clinics at two Supercenter stores on the South and West sides that are reopening Friday after being damaged during civil unrest this summer.

The health clinics at stores in the Chatham and Austin neighborhoods are the first the retail giant is opening in Chicago after a Georgia pilot of the model, which aims to add health services to stores in underserved neighborhoods.

The stores in Chatham and Austin had been closed since being looted during civil unrest at the end of May over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, leaving fewer options for residents to shop for groceries and other necessities.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon pledged to reopen the stores, along with five other Chicago locations that closed during the unrest, at a June event with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, saying the retailer was committed to staying in the city even though “these stores, in many cases, are not profitable."

The addition of the health clinics at the reopened Supercenters fills a need in the Chatham community for greater health care options, especially services that are more affordable, said Melinda Kelly, executive director of the Chatham Business Association.

“Affordable is the key component to help our community recover,” she said.

The remodeled Walmart stores will have a staff of about 500, including those at the clinics. Each clinic will be staffed by about 60 people, including medical staff, receptionists and two community health workers who will connect patients with services, said Amber Bynum, senior director of Walmart Health Operations. Each site will have one full-time physician and two full-time dentists, Bynum said.

Services will include primary care, X-ray, diagnostics, dental exams, hearing, optometry and counseling. Prices will be displayed on monitors in the centers' lobbies and on the website. The clinics will take patients with insurance and those on Medicaid or Medicare, and bill uninsured patients directly.

Chatham store manager Patrice Gibson, 36, said the addition of the in-store clinic will make health care more accessible to people who live in the area, as many primary care clinics are either closed or run on limited hours on the weekends.

Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, said his office provided rides to older residents to the Walmart in Evergreen Park after the Supercenter in Chatham closed so they could get prescriptions filled.

His ward, which includes Chatham, Auburn Gresham and Roseland, has about four dentists, and while the Walgreens at East 95th Street and Ashland Avenue has a health clinic, it doesn’t provide the range of services the Walmart Health in Chatham will, he said.

But Deborah Harris, executive director of Action Now, which works to empower Black families on the city’s West and South sides, said Walmart’s health clinics aren’t going to fill the gap left by major hospital closures like Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Bronzeville, which plans to close next year.

She said companies looking to invest in the area should seek more community feedback to ensure they’re providing what residents need. Though primary care services are important, they aren’t enough for residents who need specialists, Harris said.

“We are taking away a major necessity (like Mercy), but bringing back a quarter of service there,” she said.

In adding medical and dental services, Walmart is competing with retail pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS.

In July, Deerfield-based Walgreens announced it would partner with VillageMD to add doctor-led clinics in up to 700 drugstores, including more than half in underserved areas. CVS offers walk-in MinuteClinics staffed by nurse practitioners in many locations and recently struck a deal with SmileDirectClub to offer teeth aligners at hundreds of locations.

In Chatham, the 6,800-square-foot Walmart Health is adjacent to the store and has six patient rooms, six dental rooms, an eye-exam room, an X-ray imaging room and diagnostics testing room.

abjimenez@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @abdel1019

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