A new county clinic will be created on the Palo Alto-Mountain View border after the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved its lease on Oct. 18.
The county clinic will serve as a public health care center and be part of Santa Clara Valley Healthcare, an organization dedicated to fulfilling county health needs. It’ll be open to the public in late 2024 and provide services ranging from behavioral health care to emergency care.
“The county health-care system focuses primarily on what we call ‘safety net clients,’ or safety net patients,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Joseph Simitian said. “Meaning, folks of modest means who may not have the ability to access health care or high quality health insurance products.”
Currently, there aren’t any public primary care clinics in the county’s fifth district, which stretches from Los Gatos and parts of San Jose to Mountain View and Palo Alto and encompasses roughly 400,000 residents.
“It’s been [this] way for 172 years, since the county was first incorporated,” Simitian said. “It’s a real hardship on people in my area.”
Simitian said he’s been advocating for a county clinic in the Fifth District throughout his nine years as a supervisor.
Simitian said “misperceptions” regarding the prosperity of North County citizens have given way to concerns about whether building a clinic is necessary and profitable. However, because over 90,000 county residents earn less than the federal poverty limit, a full service clinic is critical, he said.
The public clinic will be required to provide health care for all Fifth District residents under state law, including uninsured and Medi-Cal patients. Medi-Cal is California’s branch of the national Medicaid program, which reduces healthcare costs for low-income families.
“I’m not sure that anyone thought that [the clinic] makes good business sense,” Simitian said. “The irony is that if we don’t provide these services, it becomes harder and harder for lower income folk to hang on in the economy that we’ve got.”
Valley Health Center Sunnyvale — the next closest county clinic — sees nearly 6,000 residents per year and is at full capacity, with an average appointment wait time of 34 days, Simitian said in a press release.
“The Sunnyvale clinic is not easily accessible for a lot of folks,” Simitian said. “But the other challenge at the Sunnyvale clinic is that there are long, long wait times to get an appointment because it’s overbooked.”
The clinic will provide primary care, mental health, OB/GYN, pediatrics and urgent care services for all ages, as well as lab, pharmacy and imaging facilities. The clinic will also have diabetes education, behavioral health services, medical social services and perinatal services, according to Dr. Angela Suarez, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Hospitals primary care medical director.
Over the next two years the clinic’s 24,500 square-foot building undergo rehabilitation and various tenant improvements in order to provide specialty care resources that equate what private health-care providers offer, Simitan said.
“With good health, all things are possible,” Simitian said. “Your ability to reach your fullest potential personally, professionally, academically is a function of good health. I’m hoping that we will make it a little bit easier for people to keep themselves and their families healthy.”
The new primary care clinic will be located at 4151 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, and is projected to open in the fall of 2024.