Upgraded facility offers urgent and primary care to South Valley residents

Ribbon cutting of the newly opened Valley Health Center Morgan Hill. Photo by Calvin Nuttall

By Calvin Nuttall

After sitting empty for years, the medical facility formerly known as De Paul Health Center has been reopened and rechristened Santa Clara Valley Health Center Morgan Hill. With a $20million modernization price tag, the facility will offer urgent care services through the SCV Healthcare organization.

Photo by Calvin Nuttall

Initial services will include primary care, gastrointestinal (GI) specialty, general surgery, laboratory, radiology, pharmacy and a walk-in urgent care. The county plans to expand services to include cardiology, pediatrics, OBGYN, orthopedics, and other specialties.

“When the county acquired this facility in 2019, we had no idea that we would be dealing with COVID,” said Paul Lorenz, CEO of Santa Clara Valley Health Care at a March 15 ribbon cutting. “This facility was central to our ability as a healthcare system to secure the community. And this center is just the beginning.”

During the pandemic in 2020, the building was converted into an ad hoc overflow facility for non-acute COVID-19 patients and medical personnel. It hosted 18 beds to support the healthcare organization’s response to the virus.

Lorenz credited County Supervisor Sylvia Arenas with working to make sure services are provided, “so that we can care for this community the way it should be.”

Opened in 1989 and run as St. Louise Regional Hospital by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the hospital relocated to Gilroy in December 1999. After many years of non-operating, some of the building became De Paul Health Center. In 2018, the facility was in danger of closing when parent company Verity Health filed for bankruptcy. In 2019 it was acquired by Santa Clara County along with O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy. The total price was $235 million.

Despite the age of the building, the renovated medical facility is modern and cutting-edge, Arenas said.

Ribbon cutting of the newly opened Valley Health Center Morgan Hill. Photo by Calvin Nuttall

“If you’ve stepped in and seen how gorgeous it is, you would not believe that this was built in the ‘80s,” she said. “I’m really grateful to all of the folks who put in a lot of thought about what it means to have a dignified environment for our community. Do we want them to feel like they’re stepping back into the ‘80s, or do we want them to feel like they have a clean and open and bright environment when they come in for urgent care?”

With the opening of the Morgan Hill facility, South Valley residents with urgent care needs will no longer have to drive extended distances to San Jose to be seen, she said.

“I recently had a friend who had to drive themself from Gilroy to Good Sam and they were going through a heart attack, a minor heart attack but a heart attack nonetheless,” Arenas said. “It is so important for us to have a cardiologist here, and all of the other specialty care. It means that lives can be saved.”

In the absence of urgent care options, many residents have been forced to visit emergency rooms instead, where prices can balloon to hundreds or thousands of dollars for relatively simple care needs.

“We don’t want healthcare to be provided at an emergency room,” Arenas said. “We want folks to have primary care. It is important to have everything under one roof, especially for our residents in South County, who have had to drive at length. Five years ago, we were at the brink of losing critical medical care in the south part of this county, and now we are absolutely flourishing.”

Morgan Hill Mayor Mark Turner said the new facility will go a long way toward achieving the public health goals he has set in his new Healthy Morgan Hill initiative, which he announced during his State of the City address delivered March 13 at the Community Playhouse.

“Morgan Hill needs and deserves an Urgent Care Center that is open seven days a week, and a clinic that provides preventative care that can help make our families healthy,” he  said. “Preventative efforts go a long way in helping us to achieve our goals. A healthcare facility like this is an important part of the fabric of the community. While it’s sad to think that it might have gone away, we are grateful to know that it has been saved and will continue to grow.”

Calvin Nuttall is a Morgan Hill-based freelance reporter and columnist.