Roseville residents have embraced the idea of getting medical care at a Rite Aid drugstore, so much so that Sutter Express Care will add a second exam room at the 4004 Foothills Blvd. store early next year.
"We have a lot of patients that come there because it's just easier and they don't have to fight the traffic," said Dr. Thomas Atkins, the medical director for Sutter Express Care, which operates inside Rite Aids. "In Roseville, the access in general for patients to their physicians is limited because the growth has been so steep in terms of the patient population that we've had difficulty keeping up."
The Sutter Express outfit currently has one nurse practitioner or physician assistant on duty at the Roseville Rite Aid and two others, one at 2751 Del Paso Road in North Natomas and another at 980 Florin Road in Greenhaven. They diagnose and treat such illnesses as bladder infections, skin rashes, the flu and strep throat, and they also offer weight loss and smoking cessation programs.
Atkins said patient visits have grown about 10 to 15 percent a year, with each clinic serving 6,000 to 8,000 people last year. About half of the patients pay cash, and Atkins suspects that's because they don't have insurance. The other half, he says, deduce that a visit to Sutter Express will be convenient and will cost their insurer a lot less money than a trip to a primary-care doctor.
"If you think about it," he said, "it really doesn't take a physician who trained for 13 years to manage and diagnose a cold."
Atkins said Sutter Express barely breaks even when it comes to profit, but it pays off handsomely when it comes to patient management. Such outposts, Atkins said, will become increasingly common as the Affordable Care Act rolls out.
"The retail clinic setting will help us to manage access or supplement our primary-care practices by providing access so that we can free up the physicians to see the more serious problems in the settings where it's most appropriate," he said.
Backward and forward
Lorena Martinez told me that she does things backward.
She got a degree in accounting from Sacramento State and landed a job at a Big Four accounting firm in the Bay Area. A few years later, she quit to go to cosmetology school at Federico Beauty Institute in North Natomas.
After Federico, she didn't rent a booth at a salon or work on commission for someone else. She signed up with Sola Salon Studios near Cal Expo, a kind of incubator for salon businesses where furniture and most equipment are provided. There, she was surrounded by veteran stylists.
"Everyone else that was there had come after being in the business for 20 years," said the 28-year-old Martinez.
Her salon, the Colour Bar, launched as a sole proprietorship in October 2010. Last August, she incorporated the company and hired two stylists as employees. This weekend, she'll leave her 350-square-foot studio at Sola and open a 1,400-square-foot salon at 5539 H St., Suite 70, just up the street from Selland's Market Café. Although the number of chairs will double to six, she said, she plans to add employees slowly.
Is economy really better?
The unemployment rate is dropping, but the folks over at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services are serving twice the number of people they did in 2008, a low point in the economic downturn.
"I just read one of our board reports that 50 percent of the people who came through our food program (in March) were brand new. 50 percent!" said Blake Young, the food bank's chief executive.
Young and his staff are gearing up right now for Race for the Ring, a July 13 scavenger hunt that will have participants pedaling around east Sacramento, Oak Park, midtown and Curtis Park, using clues from their smartphones to win prizes. Last year, the race raised $16,600 for the organization's food, clothing and education programs.
That amount seems tiny compared with the $800,000 that the Food Bank raises with its Run to Feed the Hungry, but a donation of $8.16 provides two hours of résumé building or tutoring. To learn more, go to www.sfbs.org and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
"We've had very consistent donors," Young told me, "but with the economy , people that were giving $100 a month are trading down to $75. A lot of people who give financial contributions to us are of average means."