The Santa Clara County Health System plans to bring much-needed services to the Palo Alto-Mountain View area with a new Valley Health Center, slated to open in fall 2024.
The planned 24,500 square foot facility, located at 4151 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, will provide a full range of primary care services including mental health, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics and emergency 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 the county. 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, addressed a crowd of about 35 representatives from nonprofits 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 district. north end of the county.
“About 400,000 county residents never had a hospital or clinic of their own, until today,” Simitian said. He hit back at claims that the district was too prosperous to need a county health facility. About 90,000 residents, or nearly a quarter of the district’s population, fall below 400% of the federal poverty level, he said.
“These are families trying to make ends meet. They make these decisions about paying rent, thinking, ‘Can I put food on the table? Am I forgoing the health care that my family and I really need and deserve?’ And so, together 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 Day Worker Center of Mountain View, described the support the clinic would provide to domestic workers and day laborers. “It’s important that they have health coverage,” she said. “A lot of people don’t have medical insurance, and that would help them. What benefits a group of people benefits the community,” she added.
The location of the facility, located on the border of Palo Alto and the mountain, was considered during site selection. Dr. Angela Suarez, medical director of primary care at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Hospital and Clinics, said it would be readily available to residents and workers in the district. “The convenience of having so many services in one location close to home or work means health care is available when and where it is needed for many of our North County patients,” he said. she declared.
Luisa Buada, CEO of Ravenswood Family Health Network, described long patient wait times at clinics in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, saying non-urgent eye appointments can take up to one year and podiatry four months when scheduling appointments, such as radiology, could take 30 minutes on the phone. She echoed hopes that the county’s new facility would reduce wait times at local clinics while expanding accessibility to underserved communities.
Simitian also addressed hospital and clinic capacity issues, particularly in recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated healthcare needs. The new county health clinic would benefit neighboring districts, also reducing pressures on schedules and staff, he said.
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 an annual rental cost of one. just over $1 million.
Simitian added that the clinic’s status as a federally qualified health center makes it affordable for the county. “That means we have a reimbursement rate that will pay for services including the cost of this installation for years to come,” he said. The tax impact of the clinic will be discussed at Tuesday’s supervisory board meeting, when the board must approve the acquisition of the proposed site.
Lorenz and Suarez described the clinic’s potential service capacity. Five primary health care providers would receive a patient panel – a group of patients assigned to a specific doctor or clinical team – of 1,800 each, with most patients likely visiting the clinic twice a year. This does not include urgent care visits, which will also be available at the clinic.
Simitian addressed the scope of the clinic’s services by stating that different specialty care services would be offered two or three times a week to reach as many patients as possible. “What that means is we can do literally twice as much,” he said. “We can provide twice the range of services if we rotate the people who can be reached in 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.