by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | March 02, 2021
Walmart, which announced in September its intention to open up more clinics, may now be downsizing that number along with plans to expand into imaging and other healthcare services.
Initially planning to build 125 clinics this year as part of its goal to open 4,000 by 2029, the retail giant now plans to open only 22 this year, according to Insider
"There is less commitment to the strategy," one Walmart employee close to the healthcare operation, told Insider on the condition of anonymity. "What you have today is an organization that's playing the waiting game — waiting for a core strategic choice to be made."
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The slowdown was chalked up to leadership changes, competing business priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic and the complexity involved with building up a large healthcare operation. While two current employees said Walmart did not plan to build a set number of clinics this year, several say that healthcare is still a priority for the company.
Walmart’s plans to build 4,000 clinics was approved in 2018 by the company board at a cost of $11 billion, with the first one-stop shop set up in 2019. The company expected to offer transparent prices for services such as primary care, dental exams, vision tests, counseling, X-rays, and diagnostics, and aimed to become "America's neighborhood health destination,” according to Insider.
While Walmart would not confirm to Insider that it was scaling back healthcare plans, it said it continues to “experiment” with Walmart Health Centers and says the pandemic has reaffirmed its commitment to healthcare, with the launch of pharmacy curbside delivery, COVID-19 testing sites and vaccine administration as proof.
"Walmart customers want high-quality, preventive, affordable and accessible healthcare, and they trust Walmart to provide it," Marilee McInnis, a Walmart spokesperson, told Insider in an email. "Even during this difficult year, we launched Walmart Insurance Services, acquired CareZone technology to accelerate our digital offerings, elevated our top Health and Wellness leadership position, and increased our focus on racial equity in healthcare."