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VOL. 128 | NO. 208 | Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mobile Health Clinic Hits Streets to Help Homeless

By Michael Waddell

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Baptist Memorial Health Care and Christ Community Health Services rolled out a new state-of-the-art mobile health clinic earlier this month, and the larger, modernized vehicle will give Baptist Operation Outreach the ability to treat more of the area’s homeless population in need of medical care.

Baptist Memorial Health Care and Christ Community Health Services have rolled out a new state-of-the-art mobile health clinic to treat the area’s homeless population.

(Baptist Operation Outreach)

The organization’s previous mobile clinic, dubbed simply “The Van,” had been in use since 1997, and is much older than that, as it had been originally gifted in used condition. The vehicle became exclusively used for treatment of the homeless in 2003, but after nearly a decade of service the van was badly in need of replacement.

“It was in pretty bad shape. We could only go 30 miles per hour, and it would not climb hills very well,” said Jan Taylor, program director of Baptist Operation Outreach in partnership with Christ Community Health Services. Taylor previously had to map out routes to and from event destinations to avoid the steeper hills.

“There also was no heating and air for the cab driver, so many times in the summer the temperature in the cab could be 110 (degrees),” she said.

The old clinic also featured only one exam room and there was also only one provider, so that limited the clinic’s ability to see more patients.

“The new bus has two exam rooms and an extension that gives us more space to move around,” Taylor said. “We now staff one doctor and one nurse practitioner on the bus, so we can serve more homeless patients.”

The primary physician at the new clinic is Dr. Tim Potter, and the nurse practitioner is Mitzy Smith.

The new bus also includes its own router and antennas, which allows staff to better access patients’ electronic medical records through laptops. Clinics and hospitals across the country are converting to use of electronic medical records as part of compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

“We also have new exam tables, more storage space for our medications, an emergency cart with a defibrillator and EKG machine, and a Hoyer lift to take on patients in wheelchairs,” said Taylor, who explained the lift also would be used in emergency situations for moving patients on stretchers from an ambulance to the bus.

Baptist Operation Outreach officials worked closely with Farber Vehicles of Columbus, Ohio, to design the vehicle, including functional spaces, countertops and color schemes.

“It’s very bright and colorful for the patients because we want to add some cheer into their lives while providing them with needed medical care,” Taylor said.

The overall cost for the new clinic was slightly more than $300,000, and it was funded through a grant from the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation.

Taylor expects the clinic to see an average of 35 to 40 patients per day, compared to about 20 to 25 patients per day at the old van. Last year, Baptist Operation Outreach served more than 3,000 patient visits providing primary care across the city in the mobile clinic, and Taylor expects to grow that number by at least 500 to 600 patients next year.

One of the first patients to receive care at the new clinic was William Larkett, who had a large grapefruit-sized growth removed from his neck last week after being referred by the clinic to Baptist specialists.

“They do great work here. They make you feel like you’re somebody,” said Larkett, who had the growth on his neck for approximately 14 years but had been without a permanent home and unable to afford medical care. “They’ve helped turn my life around, and I feel like a king spiritually and physically.”

He plans to complete a drug treatment program on his road to recovery.

Each week the mobile clinic is parked at the Memphis Union Mission at 383 Poplar Ave. on Mondays and at 69 N. Cleveland St. on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and it visits the Salvation Army on Jackson Avenue on the second and fourth Wednesday afternoons of each month. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We are also looking into being able to go to some other sites since we know that our new vehicle will be able to make it safely to those new locations,” Taylor said.

The clinic will also be in use for the Baptist Operation Outreach Thanksgiving Day event at the Memphis Cook Convention Center and the “Tree of Faith, Hope and Love” event for the homeless at 60 N. Cleveland in December.

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