Health & Fitness

Merced County has shortage of medical doctors. Will this help?

Two clinics in small Merced County communities are expected to expand health care offerings in a county that struggles to keep doctors.

Livingston Community Health’s new Live Well Campus and Castle Family Health Centers’ Winton clinic are set to open this month, offering new health care access to patients.

New clinics matter in Merced County because it has one of the worst shortages of medical professionals in California, ranking almost last in the state with 45.4 physicians per 100,000 residents. The statewide rate is about 77 doctors per 100,000 residents, according to the 2016 Community Health Assessment.

Castle Family Health Centers, a system of healthcare clinics throughout Merced County, will open its clinic on March 18 at 6029 N. Winton Way, according to officials. The Livingston Live Well Campus relocation to 600 B St. comes with a larger building that will offer new types of care.

“The new facility will result in increased availability of medical, dental and behavioral health care services for Medi-Cal members in Livingston and the surrounding area,” Central California Alliance for Health CEO Stephanie Sonnenshine said in a news release.

More than half — 51 percent — of Merced County residents, or about 127,000 people, use Medi-Cal, according to a recent study from the Merced County.

Both clinics were developed in part with help from the Central California Alliance for Health, according to news releases.

Castle’s clinic in Winton will provide primary dental services in addition to an array of medical care services while creating 30 new jobs, officials said in a news release.

“We are delighted to expand our services in Winton to improve access to healthcare in the communities we serve,” Castle clinics’ CEO Ed Lujano said in a release. “We pride ourselves on meeting patients where they’re at in order to provide them with convenient access to quality care.”

Livingston Community Health was established in 1970 and has ties to Stanford University. CEO Leslie Abasta-Cummings said the new clinic fits into a network of clinics that serve residents across Merced and Stanislaus counties.

“Our goal is to ensure that every person who walks through our doors receives quality care regardless of their ability to pay,” she said in the release.

Reporter Thaddeus Miller has covered cities in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2010, writing about everything from breaking news to government and police accountability. A native of Fresno, he joined The Fresno Bee in 2019 after time in Merced and Los Banos.