Source: The Bay Area Reporter

By Matthew S. Bajko

August 4, 2016

Opening within days of each other in prominent upper Market Street storefronts, two urgent care centers are now welcoming Castro residents in need of minor medical care.

The first to open its doors was Direct Urgent Care, 1998 Market Street, in the corner ground floor space at Linea, the mixed-use development across Buchanan Street from the U.S. Mint building. It soft-opened last Thursday, July 28 and had already seen nearly a dozen patients within 24 hours.

The location is the first in the city for the company, which began in Berkeley and now has four locations in the Bay Area. Co-owners Dr. Caeser Djavaherian and Dr. Jeff Kaufman opened their first Direct Urgent Care two years ago with the aim of providing patients a more affordable, and more convenient, alternative to a hospital emergency room.

"There is a trend toward commercialization in health care. The patient is making decisions based on quality, cost, and convenience," said Djavaherian. "Before, patients were going where their insurance companies told them to go."

On Monday, August 1, Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care soft-opened its first location in the Bay Area at 2288 Market Street, which was formerly occupied by RadioShack and is part of the Market and Noe Center. GoHealth, which also operates urgent care centers in New York and Portland, Oregon, partners with local health systems to offer care to their patients.

Its centers in the Bay Area – it plans to open 12 in the coming months, with locations in the city's Glen Park and Cole Valley neighborhoods set to open in September – are a joint venture with Dignity Health, which is based in San Francisco and operates St. Mary's Medical Center and Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. The care center accepts people with various health insurance plans or those looking to pay out-of-pocket for minor procedures.

"The Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care centers serve patients across the board – this includes patients with various health care needs and insurance," explained Chuck Kruger, GoHealth's president of the northern California market. "The partnership, itself, was created to help provide local Bay Area community members with the highest quality of care at reasonable costs. Through this, we can make health care accessible to all, and encourage residents to visit one of our centers and personally experience its culture of care, themselves."

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Kruger said the company is targeting neighborhoods with a lot of foot traffic on the street and easily accessible by transit.

"We got extremely lucky with this particular spot at Duboce and Market," he said. "It is the perfect example of where we want to be."

While the two urgent care providers are competitors, neither is worried about being able to attract patients.

"I think the market is large enough, and clearly there is a need for care easily accessible and affordable that people can access in their own neighborhoods," said Kruger.

Direct Urgent Care also accepts various health insurance plans and has priced its services to make it an affordable option for those paying out-of-pocket. It is also offering video consultations and house calls for patients that cost a flat fee of $175 plus the cost of any blood or urine tests.

"We are hoping to differentiate ourselves in the market," said Djavaherian. "San Francisco for us is a great way to access all the startups that are likeminded."

Direct Urgent Care has 15 employees staffing the Castro location. It is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, while its mobile service is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.

Dignity Health-GoHealth has hired four full-time practitioners, who are either physicians or nurses of the Dignity Health Medical Group, and one part-time person to staff its center at all times. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

It is hosting a grand opening event and ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday, August 9 for the Castro location.

"At this location, and future Bay Area centers, Dignity Health clinicians will have the resources and tools they need to ensure that all urgent care patients are treated with the same level of high-quality, low cost care that we provide to all of the patients in our health system," stated Dr. Todd Strumwasser, senior vice president of operations for the San Francisco Bay Area.