Originally published in Mercury News.

By Rebecca Parr

August 15, 2014

HAYWARD — New patients sometimes have had to wait months for a routine appointment at the Hayward Wellness Clinic, something that should change when the center moves Monday to a larger site at Southland Mall.

“We’re so popular, we didn’t have enough room” at the old site on Winton Avenue, said Dr. Steven Chen, clinic medical director. “We were able to convert a few rooms to have more exam rooms. We added evening and weekend clinics, and we still were not meeting the need. We were bursting at the seams before the Affordable Care Act and demand has only increased since.”

The new 23,000-square-foot center will have more than twice as many exam rooms, increasing from 13 to 32, and four procedure rooms.

“We built this brand-new site thoughtfully and with a wellness focus from the ground up,” Chen said. “We have ergonomically friendly furniture. We created larger exam rooms that are more family friendly, accommodating not just an individual, but family members and caretakers.”

Another benefit of the larger space is that adult patients will be able to see specialists at the clinic, rather than having to travel to the Highland Hospital campus in Oakland, as they have in the past.

But the benefit patients at the old clinic were talking about the most this past week was parking.

“The new clinic is more convenient for me; there’s free parking,” said Ana Cardenas, of Hayward, a mother of four.

“And I can go shopping! I may end up spending more,” she said, laughing.

The clinic is part of the Alameda Health System, which also runs Highland, San Leandro and Alameda hospitals; clinics in Newark and Oakland; Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro; and John George Psychiatric Hospital.

Tessa and Richard Cosby, of San Leandro, said they are looking forward to the larger clinic and more parking.

“The lot here can get cramped,” Richard Cosby said.

Hayward resident Andrew Nelson said the parking fee at the old clinic was only 75 cents an hour, but it was a hassle to pay.

“It’s a lot faster to get in the lot than out. It can back up when you’re trying to get out,” he said.

Visiting the clinic at the mall excited his 9-year-old daughter Violet. “We can do back-to-school shopping at the same time!” she exclaimed.

The clinic saw more than 27,000 patients last year. Its cramped space has limited staff, making it a challenge sometimes to see children quickly when they’re sick, said Dr. Rupa Srivastava. “It’s been hard,” the pediatrician said.

Chen said he could not hire more medical help because he didn’t have the space for them. But, he said, “We would never turn anyone away who needs to be seen.”

The new clinic will be divided into health care teams, which could include physicians, midwives, behavioral specialists and health educators.

“It will be great for patients,” said Chen, a family medicine doctor. “We can see not only a new mother, but also her newborn. We can arrange appointments for family members around the same time. It’s more convenient for patients, and it’s better for the providers, because we can talk with each other about our patients.”

Four rooms will be designed for group sessions, with a kitchen in one that will be used for healthy cooking demonstrations.

Chen sees the clinic helping patients to manage their own health. He said he sees 12 patients together for mutual discussion of obesity.

“They’re listening to each other,” he said. “They’re the experts; they understand how that illness manifests itself in their lives. That’s peer knowledge that I can’t know because I don’t have that condition.”

Edited on June 11, 2018.