HANFORD – If your crying child has an earache after you and your family walk out of the new Hanford Costco, there may eventually be a walk-in clinic you can go to just a few doors away.
Adventist Health wants to put a rural health clinic in the new shopping center.
Randy Dodd, vice president of business development for Adventist Health Central California, announced the health care network's intentions at a joint Hanford City Council/Hanford Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night.
Dodd requested, and received, a change in Hanford's proposed zoning ordinance update to allow for a health clinic in the shopping center, which is designated as a regional commercial zone.
Under current zoning, the clinic wouldn't be allowed at the location.
The proposed update hasn't been adopted yet. It still has to go through a public hearing process before it goes to the City Council for a final vote.
In an interview, Dodd called the Costco center "an important location for us."
Dodd said the center presents an opportunity for Adventist to put a new rural health clinic in the Hanford/Lemoore area.
Dodd said that the rural health clinic designation is important because it increases reimbursement rates, particularly for the increased number of Medi-Cal patients in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.
The landmark health care law expanded Medi-Cal eligibility in California.
Dodd said the number of Medi-Cal patients has increased 10 percent to 12 percent under the new law.
Dodd said that some of new Medi-Cal clients were formerly uninsured.
According to Dodd, a quirk in the way government officials determine what is or isn't an urban area has made it difficult to put a new rural clinic near Hanford and Lemoore.
Dodd said that officials add up the combined populations of Hanford, Lemoore and Armona. He said that has ended up classifying much of the area as urban, making it impossible to put a rural clinic there.
"It just took that whole area off the table for us," he said.
However, the Costco center is far enough to the east that it still qualifies as rural.
Dodd said Adventist has been looking for ways to increase access and convenience. He sees locating in a shopping center as a good way to do that.
"I think the key thing is Costco and the whole shopping center is going to attract a lot of people to that area," Dodd said. "It frees up our ability to serve this population."
Milton Teske, Kings County's public health officer, said that locating clinics in shopping centers is part of a nationwide trend to increase health care access and availability.
Teske said the idea is to keep people from putting off care until they are so badly off that they have to go the emergency room.
"This move to expanded outpatient care is really the way you avoid overburdening the more expensive inpatient care and emergency department care," Teske said. "It's really the wave of the future."
Teske also works as an emergency room doctor with Adventist Health.
Teske said the walk-in capacity wouldn't make the clinic a full-blown urgent care facility, but would still allow walk-in service for some kinds of health issues.
He mentioned a crying child with an earache who might need antibiotics immediately.
Teske said the clinic might have extra physicians on duty to see walk-in patients.
"There are many times where minor or not-so-minor things come up where you want the care right now," he said.
Dodd said the clinic would also offer traditional appointments made in advance with doctors.
Dodd said that Adventist would be moving forward with the clinic "as quickly as we can come to terms with it."
Rick Telegan, co-manager of Pinnacle Pointe LLC, the Fresno-based firm that owns the property at East Lacey Boulevard/Highway 43 where Costco is located, is on-board with the idea.
Telegan said it would increase access to care for residents living in east Hanford.
"We're going to try to accommodate it," Telegan said. "I'm not aware that there are any medical facilities currently located in the eastern half of the city of Hanford."