Written by Donald A. Promnitz
Kaweah Delta Medical Center is preparing to turn two of its locally run clinics into federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in an effort to promote greater patient access and battle the region’s physician shortage.
The move would — if approved — result in the transformation of Kaweah Delta Family Medicine and Urgent Care centers into the Sequoia Health and Wellness Centers. The decision was made last December. According to Dr. Ryan Gates, director of population health management and vice president of clinical integration at Sequoia Integrated Health, this would mean better quality of care for patients on MediCal, who make up 56 percent of the population in Tulare County.
“There’s funding available and resources available through the federal government to help improve and expand access to care through HRSA (the federal Health Resources & Services Administration),” Gates said. “And through that mechanism, the vast majority of opportunities and resources are provided through federally qualified health centers for the community.”
Gates added that the transformation of the centers into FQHCs would have the further bonus of adding new primary care physicians to practice in the Valley. Through FQHCs, Kaweah Delta would be able to directly employ physicians, allow doctors to participate in federal loan and retaining programs and other perks for new doctors.
“All of these benefits Kaweah Delta cannot participate in without an FQHC,” Gates said.
In order to receive FQHC status, Sequoia Health and Wellness Centers will be establishing a board of directors, with at least 51 percent of its members being patients at the centers. The transition is expected to be complete in January 2020. Gates will then take on the position of CEO.