Almanac

News - November 3, 2010

Consolidation of public health clinics ahead in South County

Uninsured and impoverished residents of southern San Mateo County will have more physical space for medical exams in a new clinic to be built with funds from the Sequoia Healthcare District.

The county Board of Supervisors on Oct. 19 approved a grant of $6.3 million from the district to the county public health system for the purpose of consolidating into one clinic the three existing facilities that offer free or low-cost medical treatment — two in North Fair Oaks and one in Menlo Park.

The district granted $3.6 million to the county for this new clinic in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 budget years, said public health spokeswoman Robyn Thaw in a statement. This new grant raises the total to $9.9 million.

The Sequoia Healthcare District, which includes Atherton, Woodside, Menlo Park and Portola Valley, derives its funding from property taxes.

About $5.6 million of the district's total grant will subsidize patient treatment, with the remaining $4.3 million to be used to build the clinic, Ms. Thaw said.

The three existing clinics handled about 69,000 outpatient visits for about 19,000 people for the 2009-10 budget year, said public health spokeswoman Robyn Thaw.

The new clinic, which will be larger than the three clinics combined, is likely to be situated in North Fair Oaks and should open for service in two to three years, Ms. Thaw said. With 33 percent more examination rooms, outpatient visits are expected to rise to 91,000 a year for 26,000 clients, she said.

(North Fair Oaks is an unincorporated and largely Latino residential area bordered by Middlefield Road, U.S. 101, Atherton and Redwood City.)

The current clinics are "overwhelmed," said Jean Fraser, chief of county public health. The uninsured and indigent will be covered in 2014 under the recent federal health care reforms, Ms. Fraser said, but until then, they will need a place to go for medical care.

"Sequoia Healthcare District's additional grant to pay for care will help us bridge the gap for these individuals," Ms. Fraser said.

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