As the need for health care services continues to grow across the country, a small California city is rethinking where residents can seek out treatment without worrying about long lines or costly hospital bills.
Government officials in Hayward, Calif. and Alameda County have begun construction on a newfangled fire station that will not only address home emergencies, but medical concerns as well. The Firehouse Clinic combines a local firehouse with a stand alone health clinic, creating cost-effective access to primary and emergency care for local residents, City Lab reports.
The new care center is part of a larger plan created by Alameda officials to build similar health portals within its 150 square-miles within the county. The project, which began in 2012, identified 14 sites within seven jurisdictions that could potentially serve as an alternative health care center.
Kyle Elliot, an architect behind the design and partner at WRNS Studio in San Francisco, explains how the idea stems from the reputation of firefighters, who are often entrusted in communities.

“There’s an EMT on site, typically, in a fire house. It makes a good symbiotic relationship to place a clinic,” Elliot said. 

The firm designed a prototype for Hayward, free of charge, in partnership with Public Architecture, a firm focused on social design. The team also collaborated with six California healthcare and emergency organizations to determine guidelines in creating accessible and reliable health care centers.

The location of the pilot clinic caters to an important part of Alameda County, serving a larger community of low-income and uninsured families in the Tennyson Corridor. Officials plan to encourage locals with limited healthcare benefits or little access to visit the 2,400-square-foot space before heading to the hospital, for both emergency and preventative care.

More than 5,000 patients are expected through the door during the first two years, according to Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. To serve the influx of patients, the facility will house 7 exam rooms, staff will extend clinic hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and guarantee appointments within 72 hours of a request.

“Firefighters traditionally have a great relationship within the community. The trust and respect we have is incredible, said Melinda Drayton, battalion chief at Oakland Fire Department. “The familiarity is there for them to come and get the care they so desperately need without having to use the 911 system.”

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