We told you about many walk-in medical marijuana clinics opening up shop in our area.
Tetra opened six new clinics in our area. Now, all but one are closed.
It left many doctors without a facility and patients confused on where to go next.
Dr. Kelly King started working with Tetra last February.
“It has really been just a nightmare for many patients,” she says.
King left Tetra after she stopped receiving a paycheck, forcing her to find a temporary facility to see her patients, who only found out about Tetra closing after visiting a clinic for an appointment.
We asked Tetra a series of questions about this. To be transparent we are posting the answers as they were written to us.
Why have all but one TETRA centers closed? Is it true that it was because of financial trouble, as one physicians is claiming?
Even though 72 percent of Florida residents voted yes for Amendment 2, there have been many challenges in providing our services to patients in need of medical marijuana. The roadblocks from the state and delays in patient access have resulted in higher operational costs than originally projected for the industry statewide, including for Tetra Health Care. We have made a decision to temporarily close some of our locations in order to focus our efforts on working directly with lawmakers to address the root of these issues, find solutions, and move forward. While this may cause some scheduling inconveniences in the short term, these patients could face more serious problems in the future without a properly executed Amendment 2. We believe that the best course of action is to ensure that all Florida residents in need have access to medical marijuana in a humane and compassionate manner.
Has it been hard for the company to adjust to state rules?
Between the legislative actions that have changed qualifying conditions, threats to doctors' professional licensure, and the state's initial delay in issuing medical cards to patients, medical providers like Tetra Health Care are facing serious roadblocks to providing compassionate patient care. Unfortunately, Florida residents in need are the ones feeling the most impact.
Did TETRA stop paying doctors and use their information to access state registry that tracks which patients were assigned to them?
Issues in the state's execution of the medical marijuana legislation have resulted in higher operational costs industry-wide. Tetra expects to make full restitution shortly.
The registry is password protected, and physicians set and control the password. However, some physicians may choose to share their password with clinical staff to expedite paperwork. If a patient was added to the registry of a doctor who no longer worked for Tetra, it would be in error. It makes no sense for Tetra to register a patient with a physician who does not work for the company.
If the clinic closed where a patient went, what are their options to received MM?
Tetra has merged locations to our MLK facility, which is our largest clinic and can see the most patients per day. We are explaining the situation to our patients and offering them a choice to either stay with their registered doctor or request that the doctor release them so they can maintain their relationship with Tetra Health Care as their medical marijuana provider. The majority of patients have chosen to stay with Tetra. Our overall goal is to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Will they have to repay the service fee, when moved to another clinic?
If a patient moves to another provider's clinic, that clinic will make the determination on fees.
For all patients who want to maintain the relationship with Tetra, the process should remain very smooth. We would set up a face-to-face consultation for them with our Tetra physician, and they would sign a medical release form that gives their previous doctor the ability to release them from their care in the registry. Then, the Tetra doctor will put a new treatment plan in place for them, so they can fill their product needs. We appreciate the trust that our current patients have put in us, and we are committed to providing a gold standard of patient care.
As of December 1, Tetra Health Care's pricing structure changed slightly to accommodate the state's mandatory seven-month face-to-face evaluation. We will honor the original price structure for any patient that came to Tetra prior to December 1.
We also spoke with King's consultant, Laurie Oliver, who initially contacted us about the Tetra closures.
Oliver is the CEO of Medical Marijuana Consultants of Florida and currently has over 120 clients in the state of Florida. They teach physicians in Florida how to integrate medical marijuana into their practices.
“The laws and rules that the state has set forth for physicians have made bringing this into their practices difficult,” says Oliver.
With the Sunshine State allowing medical marijuana in 2016, Oliver says she's been running into many situations like the one with King.
“A company, usually from out of state, comes into the area and sets up a business hiring doctors, leasing space and advertising. They offer medical marijuana exams at such a ridiculously low price -- $250 for the initial visit and $89 seven months after that. Then they pull out of the state after getting the $250 from all these patients, owing the physician money, owing landlord rent and owing advertisers for unfinished contracts,” says Oliver.
TETRA says if you're a patient who was affected by the closures and have questions, you need to visit or call its Tampa location at 2814 W Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., (813) 898-8009.