FREDERICKSBURG FREE LANCE-STAR, CATHY DYSON
The Rappahannock Area Health District has received $400,000 in federal funds for a fully equipped mobile health clinic.
But before the unit hits the road — or is even purchased — officials with the local health district want to hear from the public. They plan community conversations in coming months to make sure the mobile health clinic is equipped with the features it needs as it delivers services in Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford.
“This is not the kind of vehicle that is just purchased off the lot, so we want to make sure it is customized with the appropriate features and equipment to deliver essential health care services,” said Allison Balmes–John, RAHD spokesperson. “Community conversations will help us plan accordingly.”
Money for the new mobile health unit is part of almost $7 million in federal funding recently submitted by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents the 7th District, and signed into law by the president. The bulk of the local money is going to two water improvement projects in Spotsylvania County.
The local health district plans to use the new mobile unit throughout the Fredericksburg area to treat those who lack access to health care. Services could include immunizations and testing, disease prevention and health promotion, emergency preparedness and health issues for women and children, according to news releases.
“We have heard again and again from our community that transportation can pose a real barrier to accessing health care,” said Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo, health district director, adding he’s “elated” to be able to take services on the road. “This project will allow us to overcome this barrier, bringing services to many of those most need of care.”
Access to health care has been ranked one of the top three issues in the Fredericksburg region for years, according to the regular Community Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP.
Last year, the health district partnered with Mary Washington Healthcare on the two-year CHIP which deemed access to care the No. 3 priority, after mental-health services and more affordable housing.
The plan identified several ways to get more preventive services into the community, especially among groups at high risk for high blood pressure and diabetes. It also outlined objectives to get more people tested for COVID-19 or HIV, and to offer more training, especially for the elderly and disabled, on how to use Fredericksburg Regional Transit to get to needed medical appointments.
In addition to transportation barriers, there aren’t enough providers in rural and remote regions to serve the population, Balmes–John said.
“The mobile clinic will help us address some of these issues,” she said.
Because the health district plans to get the community involved in discussions on how to best use the mobile health unit, there’s not an exact date on when the clinic will be operational.