Effective this month, El Camino Hospital will begin referring uninsured and underinsured patients to MayView Community Health Center, replacing the volunteer-driven RotaCare Clinic Mountain View that will likely close this summer.
The El Camino Healthcare District Board of Directors voted Jan. 19 to grant MayView $2.4 million over three-and-a-half years. The district will continue to fund RotaCare through June, and possibly longer, to support patients’ transition. Board member Dennis Chiu abstained from the vote, voicing a wish to fund RotaCare through December.
The RotaCare nonprofit clinic, founded by Rotarians in 1991, provides free medical care to uninsured and underinsured local residents. With an annual budget of $924,000 – supported through grants, donations and volunteers – it operated out of El Camino Hospital.
But over the past year, the clinic began seeing fewer patients with more complex cases of chronic illness. Cecile Currier, the hospital’s vice president of corporate and community health services, said MayView is better equipped to provide consistent care.
“This will ensure a long-term solution for uninsured and Medi-Cal patients,” she said. “We’re giving something up and getting something new.”
Last week, district board members questioned the hospital administration’s community outreach and overall timeline for phasing out the “beloved” RotaCare program.
“I’m concerned not only for the patient welfare, but I’m concerned for the community’s reaction,” said board member Julia Miller.
Decline in patient volume
News of RotaCare’s shaky future broke in December, when the clinic’s staff informed approximately 225 volunteers that it wouldn’t be scheduling volunteers in 2016. Toward the end of the year, RotaCare lost key clinical leadership and stopped seeing patients temporarily over the holidays. Operations resumed in the new year, but Currier said “it was a reason to take a look at what we’re doing.”
RotaCare staff had already noted a decline in patient volume, largely due to the expansion of Medi-Cal and the Affordable Care Act, according to Barbara Avery, director of the hospital’s community benefit program. When the clinic was fully staffed in 2015, it treated 548 individual patients in a six-month period. In years past, it saw upward of 2,900 annually.
“Anytime there’s a transition or change, it’s difficult,” Currier said. “We just feel that our pooling of resources … is a good, solid move.”
She said that over the next six months, patients would be given “warm handoffs” to their new medical office. Hospital and clinic staff will also partner to reach more uninsured patients throughout the district, according to Currier. When new patients arrive, MayView’s health-care enrollment specialists help prospective patients navigate the application process.
“When people have health insurance, they want to use it,” said MayView Director of Clinic Operations Harsha Mehta. “They want to have a medical home with their own doctor.”
MayView has three sites – in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. Mehta said the Mountain View location at 900 Miramonte Ave. serves approximately 80 patients per day – the highest volume of its three sites. Directly off El Camino Real on the second story of the AAA building, the office is centrally located and easily accessible via public transportation.
To support more patients within the healthcare district, MayView is beefing up staff in Mountain View and Sunnyvale. The clinic already has hired a new nurse practitioner and made another part-time provider full time. MayView plans to bring on at least one more provider.
“We’ll be able to serve more patients with this partnership,” Mehta said. “We will give them a medical home.”
For more information on MayView Community Health Center, visit mayview.org.