It's been seven months since El Camino Hospital closed the doors on Mountain View's RotaCare clinic, but patients in need of affordable health care services haven't had to search far for a replacement. The MayView Community Health Center has been the thriving and busy clinic for the uninsured, the successor of RotaCare for those who need to see a doctor but can't afford it.
MayView, which runs clinics in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto, provides primary and preventative care -- everything from immunizations and health screenings to acute care and management of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension -- to patients who need it the most. More than 50 percent of the clinic's patients are on Medi-Cal, and another 40 percent are either uninsured or "under-insured," meaning their insurance plan doesn't cover enough of the costs for health services, according to Harsha Mehta, the director of clinic operations for MayView.
At MayView, centrally located in Mountain View on the second floor of the AAA building at 900 Miramonte Avenue, the cost of service is never a problem. All visits to the clinic, regardless of how extensive the services or lab testing, will cost between $20 and $40, Mehta said, and patients pay on a sliding scale based on what they can afford. Patients pay at the end of the visit, and the fee gets waived entirely if patients don't have the means.
"We don't work with a collection agency or follow people around," Mehta said. "If you cannot pay us at the end of the visit, that's okay."
MayView is one of seven local nonprofit organizations that benefit from the Mountain View Voice's annual Holiday Fund. Donations are divided equally among the nonprofits and are administered by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation at no cost, so 100 percent of contributions go to the recipient agencies.
Starting in January this year, MayView transformed into the primary destination for primary care among low-income patients in Mountain View, after the El Camino Healthcare District decided to shut down the Mountain View RotaCare clinic, which offered free services to the uninsured. District staff cited the declining number of patients as the main reason for the decision, due in part to the dwindling number of low-income residents in the area and the increase in insured residents thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
The health care district agreed to redirect all RotaCare patients to MayView, and provide $2.4 million in grant money over the next three years to ramp up staffing and services at all of its clinics. Since January, MayView has served close to 1,400 patients who transferred from RotaCare, and more than double the number of uninsured patients. Many of the people coming in likely wouldn't have seen a doctor if they didn't have an affordable option like MayView, making it an important health service for the city, Mehta said.
"We sometimes get patients who haven't seen a doctor in five years," Mehta said. "And when they do come in, they get diagnosed with things like full-blown diabetes."
MayView's operates on a $5.4 million annual budget, which goes towards paying its 55 staff members and supplies for the clinics. In recent months, patient visits to MayView have reached a historic high of nearly 1,916 in August alone, and continues to trend upward from the end of last year.
Close to 70 percent of the patients who come into MayView are Latino, making it essential to eliminate any cultural and language barriers that may stand in the way of serving patients. About 80 percent of the clinic's staff speak Spanish, and services can be provided in Hindi, Telugu, Russian, Sinhalese, Farsi, Turkish, Gujarati and Punjabi. While being able to communicate is important, Mehta said staff are also keenly aware of the cultural differences and the role health care plays in other countries.
MayView has had no trouble putting the extra money from El Camino to good use. Since the transition, MayView has increased access to immunizations and vaccinations, and is now open for evening hours three days a week at both the Mountain View and Sunnyvale locations -- a boon to those working full-time who can't afford to miss work for a doctor's appointment. The grant money also helps pay for additional staffing at the clinic, and increased in lab costs, which have doubled in recent months, according to Barbara Avery, El Camino's community benefits director.
Although the transition and grant funding is ongoing, Avery said the hospital is pleased with how the transition from Rotacare has gone so far. MayView has been a strong partner in making sure affordable patient care is available to everyone in the community, she said.
"They are so philosophically aligned with us about patient-centered care and not turning people away. That's the core of how they operate, and I think that's why it's worked so well," Avery said.
Looking toward the future, Mehta said MayView plans to make going to the doctor even less of a pain by having volunteer specialists provide services for patients. MayView still has to apply to state and federal regulators to change its scope of practice to include specialist care, but is already on the right track after recently receiving approval to provide cardiovascular care at the clinic. Next up will likely be endocrinology, optometry and rhuematology specialists, Mehta said.
With any luck, MayView will be able to provide all of these specialist services in-house instead of referring patients to Valley Medical Center in San Jose.
"If you have to go to Valley Medical for specialists, your whole day is gone," Mehta said. "And for many of the patients we serve, they can't afford to miss work."