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Bracing for Coverage

blog healthcareSanta Cruz Women's Health Center to open new clinic in Live Oak

On Jan. 1, 2014, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes into effect, close to 9,000 Santa Cruz County residents will become eligible for Medi-Cal insurance coverage for the first time. And just as many will be able to purchase affordable health plans through the state's new health insurance exchange, called “Covered California.”

In preparation for the thousands of newly eligible patients, the Santa Cruz Women’s Health Center (WHC) announced on Monday morning, Aug. 5 a $6.8 million deal to open a second state-of-the-art clinic in Live Oak.

The downtown WHC health center, which currently serves about 5,000 local women and children, aims to double its service capacity with the new clinic over the next five years, opening its doors to men as well, says Leslie Conner, WHC executive director.

Construction on the 9,000-square-foot clinic is set to commence later this month at the East Cliff Village shopping center, Conner says—an area of the county with a high population of low-income people anticipated to acquire access to Med-Care with the new year.

The health center's expansion will be funded with a $1.5 million pledge from Dominican Hospital, which will transfer its impacted pediatrics program on Fredrick Street to the new site when it opens, a $1.5 million pledge from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center, a $2.5 million low-interest loan from the Dominican Hospital parent company Dignity Health, and smaller amounts from other local organizations.

The WHC has already received a federal grant that will facilitate a government mandate that the clinic serve an additional 3,000 county residents, though Conner says they intend to go well beyond that.

“The new location will help to serve about 10,000 local residents, overall,” she says.

Conner says the pillar of success here is the collaboration between Dominican Hospital and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation to make this expansion possible.

“This is really an equal partnership between the two local hospitals and our clinic to serve more low-income families when they're eligible for Medi-Cal in 2014,” she says. “These are hospitals that compete, and here they are working together to strengthen healthcare access, and strengthen us so we can be there for the community.”

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), a champion of the ACA, attended the Aug. 5 announcement at WHC. He commended the WHC—which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year—for responding to the county's unmet healthcare needs, calling Santa Cruz County a trend-setter in healthcare standards for the nation.

“This county is leading in the women's movement [for healthcare] in America,” Farr said. “The women are setting the pace, and it's been initiated by this clinic.”

Photo courtesy of Sienne Hayes of WHC. Those pictured, from left to right: Dr. Larry DeGhetaldi, CEO of Sutter Health's Santa Cruz Area healthcare services, Dr.Nanette Mickiewicz, president of Dominican Hospital , Executive Director of WHC Leslie Conner, CEO of Central California Alliance for Health Alan McKay, and Rep. Sam Farr.

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