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Modern medicine



If America can't have universal healthcare, maybe the next best thing is 24-hour medical service. Dr. Gautam Bhakta, a Central Coast Board Certified Internist, has decided to offer his patients just that.

Last year, Bhakta changed his business from accepting HMO and private insurances to charging an annual retainer fee for his patients. For just $1,500 a year - with different payment plans available - people can enjoy knowing that they have easy access to a private and personal physician who's been practicing in the area for almost 10 years.

This type of medical practice became popular in the late 1990s, when physicians in rural areas like San Luis Obispo began receiving smaller reimbursements from managed care, private insurances, and even Medicare.

Bhakta explained that, contrary to popular opinion, most of his clients are not in the upper-income bracket, but actually working middle-class people and retired seniors. He has also found that his type of practice is particularly attractive to the self-employed, who often end up paying exorbitant monthly premiums.

"If people are relatively healthy, it seems to be a benefit for those who may not be able to afford insurance," the doctor said.

But, he added, this service should not be considered a substitute for health insurance.

"We act as a personal advocate for the patient," Bhakta said of his premium service.

Bhakta's office offers a smaller practice with shorter waits and longer visits, same day or next day appointments, and he'll even make house calls.

Now all we need is a 24-hour pharmacy.

To learn more about Dr. Bhakta and whether his personalized healthcare services are right for you, call his office at 474-6110. He's located at 140 W. Branch in the village of Arroyo Grande.



To honor the town's commitment to community forest, the National Arbor Day Foundation has named San Luis Obispo a Tree City USA for the 22nd year. A celebration will be held at Laguna Lake Park on Arbor Day, Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Volunteers will be planting trees in the park, and city officials will announce the winning school children from the city's Art and Prose contest. The four criteria in becoming a Tree City include having a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program, and an Arbor Day observance. For learn more, visit ...

... To commemorate another environmental holiday, the Windrose Farm in Paso Robles will be hosting an Earth Day Celebration and Plant Sale on Sunday, April 17. Owners Bill and Barbara Spencer, who have been registered as an organic farm since 1993, will be selling basil, eggplant, pepper, and tomato plants. Plenty of information will also be available on organic farming and organic produce in SLO County. For more info, call 239-3757 or visit ...

... Eberle Winery in Paso Robles will be hosting a barbecue fund-raiser to benefit the Cuesta College Broadcast Communications Department on Saturday, April 16, from noon to 4 p.m. The annual event will feature wine tasting and tri-tip sandwiches, and will help the College to modernize its current studio and build a state-of-the-art television production facility. Contact Marcy DeGarimore at 238-9607 or Bob Hartwig at 546-3178 to learn more about this event. ...

... Cal Poly's 12th Annual Open House sets sail on April 15 and 16. "Oceans of Opportunity" invites prospective students to get their feet wet, and brings students, family, alumni, and community members together to soak in the Cal Poly experience. Call 756-7576, or visit the Open House web site at /openhouse/ for more details. ...

... The SLO Downtown Association is currently seeking groups to participate in the upcoming Fiesta de SLO Parade on June 4. Loosely based on the former "La Fiesta" event, Fiesta de SLO is a celebration of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish heritage, including live music, traditional dance, educational displays, and a salsa competition. To learn more about Fiesta de SLO, call the Downtown Association at 541-0286, pronto! ³


Staff Writer Jeff Hornaday compiles New Times' Strokes & Plugs. E-mail him at

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