Clinic doctors facing challenges

When the nonprofit Coastside Family Medical Clinic closed last spring, 8,000 patients were left without a primary-care physician.

In order to continue serving some of their former patients, a few of the physicians from the defunct clinic formed a new, private medical practice in Half Moon Bay — Purisima Family Medicine.

The reimbursement rates for low-income patients and those without insurance makes it challenging to provide care for many patients, said one of the physicians, Dr. Dan McMillan.

“The payment from the state and the county is not good,” McMillan said. “We have a large Medi-Cal population, and they are the hardest to serve.”

McMillan partnered with Dr. Jill Pavilscak and Dr. Vanessa Oppenlander to start the clinic, which began accepting patients in September. Several hundred patients have been seen since the doors opened, McMillan said.

Purisima’s doctors were hoping, but not willing to wait and see if San Mateo County and other medical organizations would step in to help meet the significant health care needs left in the wake of Coastside’s closing.

The county did announce this week, however, that it has received $1.7M in stimulus funding to expand services at its Coastside clinic in Half Moon Bay to accommodate more patients.

At one point, the Board of Supervisors Health Services Committee made a request of the Sequoia Health Care District, an organization that provides health care support and funding in San Mateo, to consider annexing the coastal area and offer services.

After a three-month study, Sequoia officials decided it wouldn’t be feasible, in terms of funding or support, to open a clinic on the coast.

“The clinic is not hospital-based. It’s very tough to keep a facility opened that is not -hospital–based,” Sequoia Healthcare District Board President Don Horsley said. “It would not be a viable option.”

Dr. Josefina Enriquez, a coastside physician, has also taken on a number of patients from the closed clinic — although only temporarily.

“I was hoping to retire at 70,” the 69-year-old said with a laugh.

Enriquez said she offers free clinics every Wednesday as well as follow-up exams, even to those who are uninsured, when needed.

“Health care should be a right not a privilege,” she said. “If they don’t come here, they will often go to the emergency room for care. And the emergency rooms are already overwhelmed.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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