Patients have been informed that the West Dermatology clinic in Modesto will close effective March 31.
In a Jan. 26 letter to patients, the corporation with offices in California, Arizona and Nevada said the “realities of the health care environment for our practice have forced us to take a hard look at our viability in this locale and make this very difficult decision.”
West Dermatology has treated patients for skin conditions in Modesto since 2006. A corporate representative and an office in Southern California did not return messages from The Modesto Bee.
West Dermatology said in its letter that patients with appointments after March 31 would need to reschedule with its Fresno clinic or a physician on their insurance plan’s provider list. It advised patients who need care to call the office to discuss their situation.
The closure means fewer options for Modesto patients who need a dermatologist. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, there’s a chronic shortage of dermatologists just about everywhere in the U.S. The association cited a figure of 3.5 dermatologists for every 100,000 residents.
Sutter Gould Medical Foundation, serving about 250,000 patients in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, has three dermatologists on staff, one in Modesto and two in Stockton. The Modesto physician, Michael Zang, is not listed on Sutter Gould’s website as accepting new patients.
As other staff dermatologists have moved on in recent years, Sutter Gould has referred some of its patients to the West Dermatology clinic at 413 E. Orangeburg Ave.
Spokesman Craig Baize said the group had a contract with West Dermatology for several years. It recently was notified the clinic was closing, he said.
Baize said the primary care doctors of affected Sutter Gould patients can refer them to the other dermatologists in the group’s network or specialists that contract with the group.
But the choices are limited.
Besides the two staff dermatologists in Stockton, Sutter Gould has a contract with Advanced Skin Institute in Turlock. “I believe (another) agreement is in the works but has not been finalized,” Baize said. “We constantly evaluate our network to see where we can increase access.”
Because of the intense sunlight, Central Valley residents often hear advice to wear sunscreen or clothing to avoid damage to their epidermis, which can lead to different forms of skin cancer.
West Dermatology said it offered Mohs micrographic surgery to remove cancerous lesions, lab services and other skin treatments to Modesto-area patients.
Its letter to patients last month did not elaborate on the reasons for closing the Modesto office. It’s often difficult to recruit specialists to Modesto because of the imbalance between privately insured patients and Medi-Cal recipients in the Valley.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.