Santa Clara County Unveils Plan for New Palo Alto-Mountain View Area Primary Health Care Clinic | News

Santa Clara County Health System plans to bring much-needed services to the Palo Alto-Mountain View area with a new Valley Health Center set to open in the fall of 2024.

The planned 24,500-square-foot facility, located at 4151 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, will offer a full range of primary care services that include mental health, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics and urgent care with laboratory, pharmacy and imaging services, available on site.

“For the first time in our county’s 172-year history, people in need of affordable health care will be able to get that care at a county facility, when they need it, where they need it, right here in North County, County Supervisor Joe Simitian said at a news conference Thursday.

Simitian, who has long advocated for a full-service health clinic in District 5, spoke to a crowd of about 35 representatives from nonprofit organizations and health care providers; community leaders; and elected officials from Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, which are part of District 5. To date, none of the county’s three hospitals or 10 full-service health care clinics exist in the north end of the county.

“Approximately 400,000 county residents have never had a hospital or clinic to call their own until today,” Simitian said. He refuted claims that the district was too prosperous to need a district health facility. Roughly 90,000 residents, or nearly a quarter of the district’s population, fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty line, he said.

“These are the families trying to make ends meet. They make those decisions about paying rent, wondering “can I put food on the table? Am I giving up the health care that my family and I really need and deserve?’ And so, with our partners, many of whom are here today, we will be part of the solution for these families,” Simitian said.

Maria Marroquin, executive director of the Mountain View Day Worker Center, described the support the clinic will provide to domestic and day laborers. “It’s important that they have health insurance,” she said. “Many don’t have health insurance and this would help them. What’s good for a group of people is good for the community,” she added.

The location of the facility, located on the border between Palo Alto and Mt., was a consideration in site selection. Dr. Angela Suarez, medical director of primary care at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Hospital and Clinics, said it will be easily accessible to residents and workers in the area. “The convenience of having so many services together in one place close to home or work means health care is available when and where it’s needed for many of our North County patients,” she said.

Luisa Buada, CEO of Ravenswood Family Health Network, described the long wait times for patients at the Palo Alto and East Palo Alto clinics, saying that non-urgent ophthalmology appointments can take up to a year and podiatry appointments can take up to four months, while appointments, such as radiology, can take 30 minutes over the phone. She hoped the new county facility would ease wait times at local clinics while expanding access to underserved communities.

Simitian also addressed challenges with hospital and clinic capacity, particularly over the past few years as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated health care needs. The new county health clinic will benefit neighboring counties by reducing scheduling and staffing pressures for them as well, he said.

When asked about the cost of the facility, Paul Lorenz, CEO of Santa Clara Health & Hospital System, said it would likely be a $20 million tenant improvement with annual lease costs of just over $1 million.

Simitian added that the clinic’s status as a federally qualified health center makes it affordable to the county. “That means we have a recovery rate that will pay for the services, including the cost of this facility, for years to come,” he said. The clinic’s fiscal impact will be discussed at the Board of Supervisors meeting this Tuesday, when the board is scheduled to approve the proposed site acquisition.

Lorenz and Suarez described the clinic’s potential service capacity. Five primary care providers will receive a patient panel – a group of patients assigned to a particular doctor or clinical team – of 1,800 each, with most patients likely to visit the clinic twice a year. This does not include emergency visits, which will also be available at the clinic.

Simitian addressed the scope of the clinic’s services, stating that various specialty services will be offered two or three times a week to reach as many patients as possible. “That means we can literally do twice as much,” he said. “We can provide a range of services that is twice as large if we change the people that can be accessed at this clinic.”

Advocating for as many specialist services as possible, particularly in mental health services, Buada supported this approach. “People like to stay close to the community they know,” she said.

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