By ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH, The Daily Sun, Dec 30, 2022.
MURDOCK — With approval from Charlotte County, the Virginia B. Andes Volunteer Community Clinic will buy a mobile medical unit to help underserved areas of the community.
The nonprofit recently asked the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners for $750,000 to purchase a 33-foot mobile medical unit. The coach would be driven to designated “critical need locations.”
Clinic CEO Suzanne Roberts recently proposed the mobile unit concept to the County Commission.
The bus will operate five days a week in locations including Englewood at Tringali Park; Punta Gorda at South County Regional Park and near the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition facility in Port Charlotte — all places where it can be difficult for low-income residents to access health care, mental health and other medical services.
“All patients would be referred to our standing Virginia B. Andes Clinic for follow up and ongoing medical care,” Roberts said. “To leverage our ability to expand the VBA Clinic Mobile services, we have established a community partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County.”
She called it a “successful collaboration” that has helped uninsured Charlotte County residents to “have the opportunity to receive a variety of public health services two days a week.”
The County Commission approved the purchase. The legal department will work with Roberts’s team to draw up a contract.
Roberts presented information and statistics about the vehicle, which will also be used for disaster response for clinical services and outreach. Those services could include immunizations, distribution of resources, wound care, diabetic support services, primary care, semi urgent care, wellness, specialty and pharmacy needs, mental and behavioral and substance-abuse needs.
The local health department team could also use the mobile platform to provide education, testing, and treatment on targeted emerging threats to protect the community.
“All services will be provided at no cost to patients,” Roberts said.
The clinic will coordinate transportation through an existing partnership with Charlotte County Transit for patients to receive transportation to and from the medical clinic, she said.
The clinic said there may be more than 30,000 uninsured residents in Charlotte County.
“Each (clinic) visit saves $1,600 in prevention services,” Roberts said. “They (patients) can come to for their ongoing health care and for unmet health care needs…There are no other services in regard to mobile health care in our community. We would be securing multiple sites.”
It’s estimated to cost an average of $420,000 per year to operate the mobile unit with about 2,100 visits. Roberts said for every dollar spent, $12 is saved in health care-related services.
The clinic has a wellness program that helps patients with smoking cessation. They have a diabetic program that gives patients a glucose monitor, monthly test strips and lancets.
The Hepatitis C Program is in partnership with the drug manufacturers to assist uninsured patients to receive free medication for treatment. ShorePoint Health Port Charlotte donates the complex testing needed.
There’s also a cancer detection program that offers mammograms and needed diagnostics for free through Project Detect.
Once the new mobile unit is operational, it will help patients access those clinic services and resources.