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Low-income have new place in Ceres for medical, dental care
Golden Valley Health Centers invest $3 million into facility
Golden Valley
Local officials like Supervisor Jim DeMartini and representratives of other officials joined Golden Valley Health Center staff members in dedicating the new medical office at 1920 Memorial Drive in Ceres. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

About 8,000 new patients will now not have to leave Ceres in search for physician and dental care with the opening of the second Golden Valley Health Center across the street from the closed Memorial Hospital campus.

"We are very, very proud of this new facility," said Golden Valley CEO Tony Weber at Wednesday's Ceres Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and offering of free pizza.

It will take about a year to fully staff the 8,300-square-foot facility at 1920 Memorial Drive, Ceres.

"Recruiting and retaining provider staff is really, really challenging. It's a national challenge but it's especially difficult in the Central Valley of California," said Weber. "When we are fully staffed we'll have probably 30 FTEs here, four full-time medical providers, two full-time dentists, a behavioral health staff and we'll be serving over 8,000 new patients and doing over 25,000 visits a year out of this facility.

"Our goal is and has always been to provide access to those who need quality health care at an affordable price. We believe everybody should be able to receive quality health-care, and not only quality health-care but quality of facilities. We try to put facilities together that are as nice as any facility that you would go to in any kind of private practice or hospital. I think we've done that with this facility."

Weber said he wants the new facility to be the place where patients prefer to come as well as the kind of place providers would want to work.

Golden Valley has been in Ceres for years at a facility at Third and North streets but has been unable to keep up with demand for service. About 80 percent of the patient load is covered by Medi-Cal but Golden Valley is open to all. About 10 percent of those seen have no medical insurance and the remainder is a combination of Medi-Care and private insurance.

"It's not unusual for us to have more than one site in a community," said Mary-Michal Rawling, Director of Governmental Affairs for Golden Valley Health Centers. "We have three in Merced, five in Modesto, three in Turlock."

"We want to be a healthy community and that is one of the goals the Chamber is striving towards ... to bring a more healthy atmosphere to Ceres and so having you as a partner here in our community is a natural fit for us," said Renee Ledbetter, president of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce.

County Supervisor Jim DeMartini spoke and said 25,000 visits is "tremendous" given that county clinics collectively provide 175,000 visits a year.

"I don't know what Stanislaus County would do without them," said DeMartini. "They provide valuable access to medical care that the county would not be able to. They've done a great job and it's a good organization."

Chief Financial Officer Lue Thao said Golden Valley purchased the building for $500,000 and that $2.5 million was invested into it.

At full capacity, the center will accommodate up to four primary care providers and two dentists. In total, Golden Valley will employ 30 people.

One of the new clinicians being hired to treat patients at the new site is Family Nurse Practitioner Jennings Lee. Lee was born and raised in Modesto and attended Downey High School. He graduated in the pioneer class of UC Merced with a bachelor's degree in human biology and completed his clinical training at Samuel Merritt University in Sacramento.

"My parents are immigrants from Laos," said Lee, who along with his nine siblings, had difficulty helping their family navigate the healthcare system. "We received medical care - but it wasn't quality care - because of the cultural and language barriers we faced."

Golden Valley is currently providing dental care at the new site and will start seeing patients with medical needs in August. Individuals interested in making an appointment can call: 1-866-682-4842.

Golden Valley Health Centers is a network of 27 health centers including eight dental sites. Its 800 employees provide comprehensive primary care to more than 111,000 patients in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

Its mission since 1972 has been to serve the most economically vulnerable population in the region. GVHC is a not-for-profit organization. No patient ever is turned away for inability to pay.