A firehouse clinic is such a good idea it has us wondering– why aren’t there more of them? The Firehouse Clinic (FHC) recently opened its doors in Hayward, CA, east of San Francisco. The health center represents an innovative collaboration of the Hayward Fire Department, Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center (under the direction of CEO David. B, Vliet), Acute Care Hospitals, and Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. FHC is a full-service primary and preventive care clinic co-located on the grounds of a newly constructed fire station in South Hayward. Over 3,800 patient visits are projected for the first year and will likely keep going. Most would agree that it makes sense in healthcare to shift patients away from more costly and crowded emergency rooms to be treated in a primary care setting. And nationally nearly 40 percent of emergency department visits among the general population are primary care sensitive in nature and thus even preventable, according to a NACHC fact sheet.
“We need primary care services that are open at the right time, accessible to the people we serve, doing things that they need,” explained Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras to the ContraCosta Times in a recent interview.
Common visits to the FHC include: Ear, nose and throat infections, urinary tract infections, asthma, bacterial pneumonia, hypertension, cold and flu symptoms, tuberculosis tests, blood pressure checks and wound care, conditions that, all too often, are inappropriately and more expensively treated in an emergency room. FHC plans to add dental services later this year.
In addition to medical services, including follow-ups to emergency room visits, the FHC is also focused on population health services, such as navigating patients to the best insurance program available and to a medical home for chronic care, if necessary. Medical staff will also provide referrals to specialty and behavioral health care, and provide discharge follow-up for residents in a defined geography within 48 hours of discharge from Acute Care.
So why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? We asked Lori Baptista, Director of Policy at Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, Inc. “The FHC is the first of its kind in California, and to our knowledge, this particular model is the first of its kind in the nation as well,” she explained. “This model—which has since gone through a few iterations–was first conceived by Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director (ACHCSA) Alex Briscoe and as this idea was an innovative, out-of-box concept, it required bringing together many different partners, government agencies, unions, and other entities throughout the county. The final project has generated a great deal of national, state, and local interest and excitement–and it is ACHCA’s plan, as well as that of TVHC, the city of Hayward and other healthcare stakeholders throughout the county to replicate this model in the years ahead.”
We hope so.