BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer email@example.com
Day one at Clinica Sierra Vista's newest Bakersfield location was "a little chaotic" but 24 hours later, patients and staff members alike appeared to have acclimated to their new surroundings.
Tuesday morning, the day after the building opened for business, about a dozen people waited in rows of chairs lining the Greenfield Community Health Center's sunny front room and staff members guided patients into one of 10 barely-used exam rooms.
The center saw about two dozen patients on its first day. When the clinic reaches full capacity it is expected to serve about 5,800 people annually, and Steve Schilling, Clinica's CEO, expects that number will be higher.
Clinica, which provides health services in Kern, Fresno and Inyo counties, was the second largest federally qualified health center in the country and the largest in California in terms of number of patients served last year. In 2012, Clinica saw more than 152,000 patients in medical, dental and behavioral health services, but served nearly 200,000-plus people with preventative services and other programs taken into account, according to administrators.
The nonprofit has rapidly expanded in recent years in anticipation of an influx of patients as more people gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Between the launch of Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, and the expansion of the Medi-Cal program, thousands more Kern County residents are expected to have access to health insurance next year. Kern County Department of Human Services personnel estimate they will receive about 38,000 new applications for Medi-Cal.
Clinica will open a new site in Fresno Friday and launch another location in Bakersfield next year. Including the two sites opening this week, Clinica has 29 health, six dental and six behavioral health centers.
The new health center sits at 9001 South H St., in the backyard of the "Welcome to Bakersfield" sign on northbound Highway 99. Administrators said the location will alleviate congestion at some other sites.
Decorated with vividly-colored naturescapes, the 10,204-square-foot building features soft arches and earth-colored stone. Glass partitions with images of farm workers and mountain peaks top privacy dividers at patient stations. All medical records are electronic.
A medical assistant will register patients at the front desk and accompany them throughout the appointment.
"Now we're meeting the patient in the front, getting all the information and getting to know the patient just a little more so in the back they're kind of more comfortable, more open," said Evangelina Ramirez, the center's medical assistant coordinator.
The project's price was just under $4 million, Schilling said. A grant from Kern Health Systems covered about $3.25 million of the project and the California Endowment kicked in half a million dollars for equipment, furniture and supplies.
In addition to "cradle to grave" primary care services, the center will offer a Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, behavioral health services and personnel to help patients with insurance enrollment and disease management. The clinic's grand opening will be Thursday afternoon.
The new center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and walk-ins are welcome. The center accepts all insurances, except for HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente, and has a sliding fee scale for the uninsured. Call 328-4260 for appointments.