Medical Partnership Receives Mobile Clinic Van Grant from CVS
Since 2018, the Medical Partnership/Athens Free Mobile Clinic has been serving the underinsured and uninsured of Athens-Clarke county and surrounding areas.
The clinic, run by Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership physician faculty and assisted by medical students, delivers care to communities with barriers to access to health care.
The idea began in the minds of Zac Adams and Hamzah Ali, both now students at the Medical Partnership. The two met Dr. Suzanne Lester, Family Medicine Site Clerkship Director, in 2017, and she helped the dream become reality.
“By bringing free healthcare to patients, we are able to meet a primary care need by evaluating and treating them,” said Lester. “It also allows us to provide continuity of care as well.”
They have seen over 500 patients since opening in March of 2018.
Once the clinic got underway, Adams said they quickly realized how difficult it was to transport all the equipment to the sites.
“We were storing all of our equipment inside the school, loading up someone’s personal truck each time we went out, and then loading everything back into the school at the end of every clinic,” said Adams.
The time spent doing all the loading and unloading would take so long that it would limit the time spent with patients. If they were short on volunteers, it made it even more difficult.
After attending a conference that highlighted mobile clinics, the team saw that several clinics had large vehicles where supplies could permanently be stored.
The clinic also joined the National Association for Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC) and started applying for grants through the organization to fund a van.
After applying for other grants and getting denied, Adams soon took notice of a $20,000 NAFC/CVS grant. Since 2015, the CVS Health Foundation has donated nearly $8 million to NAFC to increase access to quality care and support the management of chronic disease, and they awarded $3 million in grants to 130 free and charitable clinics in 2019.
Adams applied for the grant in the fall of 2018. In December of that same year, Adams received word that the Medical Partnership clinic would be one of those lucky grant recipients.
“I immediately called Dr. Lester to inform her of the good news, and we quickly realized that we were getting ready to turn the dreams of having a van into reality,” Adams said.
“I was overjoyed,” said Lester. “I was also thankful that the work we had already been doing on the mobile clinic was seen as valuable enough by the CVS Foundation to warrant this generous grant.”
After being custom built and outfitted for nine months, the new van arrived at the Medical Partnership in fall of 2019. Even though it’s only been in use for two months, the van is already benefiting the clinic and the volunteers.
“By shortening our loading in and out and set up time by having all of our gear stored in the van, it gives us at least an hour to two hours of extra time seeing patients,” said Lester.
The new van also allows the clinic to treat even more patients than before.
“In the past, we could often only fit enough materials for two exam rooms. Now we can carry enough equipment to fully operate four exam room tents,” said Adams.
The van has also provided a controlled environment where volunteers can perform point of care tests and draw labs to deliver to the hospital. This allows patients to get their blood work done at the mobile clinic instead of finding their own transportation to get their labs completed.
“This will help us eliminate transportation as a barrier to care in not only the primary care aspect, but also in providing high quality care by using lab values to supplement our visits,” said Adams.
For the future, the team is hoping to be able to convert the van into a mobile exam room. This would allow them to offer services such as gynecological exams—something that could not have been performed in the past due to privacy and terrain/weather issues.
“While we have operated in the rain before, it is difficult to work in muddy fields and still maintain the same quality of healthcare that you could receive in an office setting. By having a mobile exam room, we would be able to operate more efficiently in all weather conditions,” said Adams.
With the new van, Adams is excited about the possibility of helping even more people in the area.
“There are so many chronic conditions that we could treat and lower the burden of disease for people in Athens. We all share a passion for helping the uninsured people in Athens and finding a way to bring healthcare to them,” said Adams.