January 23, 2024
Central Health Opens New Capital Plaza Specialty Clinic
(Austin) – Patients with low income and challenging health conditions like emphysema, sleep apnea, or generalized infections now have a new, convenient destination on their journey back to good health.
Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district, has opened a new location in Capital Plaza, near I-35 at 51st Street, for specialty medical care. This new clinic offers treatment for lung and respiratory disease (pulmonology), gastrointestinal disease, and infectious disease, and palliative care to help improve the quality of life for patients with advanced disease.
The Central Health Capital Plaza Specialty Clinic is part of the hospital district’s expansion of services and direct practice of medicine to repair significant gaps in Travis County’s safety-net healthcare system. The Texas Legislature gave the hospital district permission in 2019 to provide direct patient care, while also continuing to purchase healthcare services from area clinics and hospitals for Travis County residents with low income.
Central Health serves more than 150,000 people in Travis County with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level – about $60,000 for a four-person household. The hospital district’s Medical Access Program, or MAP, covers specialty care for its members, but Travis County has historically lacked enough specialty care doctors to meet the needs of county residents at any income level. For those who rely on the safety-net healthcare system, the gaps have proven to be impossible to fill with purchased services alone.
“For years, our patients have faced unacceptable wait times for even common specialty care – weeks or months to get appointments for everything from allergies and bronchitis to cancers and ulcers,” said Dr. Alan Schalscha, Central Health’s chief medical officer. “Central Health realized it could only solve this problem if we built our own clinics and hired our own physicians, nurses, and clinical support staff.”
Last November, physicians and clinicians employed by Central Health began delivering care in several specialties, including foot care (podiatry), wound care, and gastroenterology, at the Central Health East Austin Specialty Clinic. This site on East 2nd Street is co-located with a primary care clinic for adults, children, and families operated by CommUnityCare, Central Health’s affiliated network of community health centers. CommUnityCare has also expanded services in the area with its new clinic at Pathways at Chalmers Courts, through a partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, which is about four blocks from the East Clinic.
Later this year, Central Health will open its specialty care hub at the former Rosewood-Zaragoza (R-Z) Health Center, located on Webberville Road at Pleasant Valley Road, which was first opened as a city/county health facility in the 1970s. All three of these locations – Capital Plaza, the East Clinic, and R-Z – are in neighborhoods that a high percentage of MAP members and others with lower incomes call home, as illustrated in Central Health’s biennial Demographic Report.
By late 2025, more primary and specialty care for patients in need will be provided at Central Health’s new combined clinical and administrative headquarters at Hancock Center, at 41st Street and IH-35, where the hospital district is currently remodeling the former Sears flagship store.
“These specialty care needs were identified by Central Health over the past two years as we developed our Healthcare Equity Plan,” said Dr. Cynthia Brinson, vice chair of the Central Health Board of Managers. “The Healthcare Equity Plan found that existing providers and clinical settings in Travis County could meet less than 30 percent of our patient population’s need for specialty medical care. Our board and staff are committed to changing this.”
Patients who qualify for MAP can ask their primary care providers for referrals to Central Health’s specialty care services.