City Okays Loan; Interim Urgent Care Center Operating

GUSTINE – An urgent care service backed in part by a city loan has opened within an existing medical practice in downtown Gustine.

The Community Health Centers of America (CHCA) plans to operate a free-standing urgent care in the former Horisons Unlimited Health Care at 554 Fifth St. and has secured a $100,000 loan from the city as well as a $100,000 commitment from the non-profit Legacy Health Endowment to launch that enterprise.

But the discovery of asbestos in the former Horisons building has extended the renovation time frame, the City Council was recently told.

As an interim solution, RAN Health Services – which has ties to CHCA – has embedded an urgent care component to its Gustine clinic to make walk-in services available to the general public.

“The urgent care is operational,” said Naresh Channaveerappa, who is the chief financial officer for CHCA and RAN Health Services. “Once the building is complete and CHCA is able to take over that part of the business, it will operate on its own.”

Channaveerappa said hours at the local practice have been extended. The RAN clinic and urgent care are open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 8-5. Later Friday and Saturday hours will be added as the need dictates, Channaveerappa told Mattos Newspapers.

He estimates the renovation of the Horisons building, which RAN Health owns and will lease to CHCA, will take about a year to complete.

Legacy Health Endowment, a non-profit created in 2014 from the net proceeds of the sale of Emanuel Medical Center, identified the need for an urgent care in Gustine and partnered with CHCA, said Endowment Executive Director Jeffrey Lewis.

The overall goal, he added, is to bring a greater range of services – including behavioral health – to Gustine as part of the endowment’s overall mission of enhancing healthcare services to the 19 ZIP codes of Merced and Stanislaus county served by the foundation. Those areas include the greater West Side.

“We began with giving access to an urgent care setting, so if you don’t have a primary care provider you can walk in and get access to care,” Lewis commented. “The goal in Gustine and other rural communities is to begin to create health care and mental health solutions which people who need help can access without the fear of having to pay a large deductible or co-pay.”

Lewis told the City Council in September that the collaborative goal is to eventually build out a complete community health care center in Gustine, with primary care, urgent care, and services such as an imaging center and behavioral health services.

Legacy Health is also working on initiatives to partner with pharmacies in its service area where lower-income residents can access prescription medications, insulin, and diabetic test strips at a nominal cost. Each program would be offered through a selected pharmacy. Lewis said, by way of example, that the endowment hopes to open a charitable pharmacy in the near future in Livingston.

Community Health Centers of America had initially approached the city asking for a $200,000 loan, but council members voiced reservations about that proposal.

When Legacy Health became involved and committed $100,000 to the project, the council moved forward and approved a $100,000 loan at its Oct. 1 meeting.

Staff noted that local physician Dr. Nandeesh Veerappa started RAN Health with a similar loan and repaid the obligation without incident.

The CHCA loan will be repaid over 60 months starting in January 2021, at an interest rate of 3 percent or its investment fund return rate plus 1 percent – whichever is higher.

This article was originally published in The West Side Index & Gustine-Press Standard.