Desert Healthcare District Board Approves Purchase of Mobile Medical Unit
The Desert Healthcare District Board of Directors unanimously approved the purchase in the amount of nearly $ 340,000 on Tuesday mobile medical clinic, which will be used to meet health needs in underserved areas of the Coachella Valley.
The desert has seen an increase in the use of mobile units during the COVID-19 pandemic, that have made testing and vaccinations more accessible to residents of areas with fewer health facilities.
The district and its partners plan to continue health awareness through the mobile unit, as well as provide educational opportunities in these areas, according to a feasibility study by the district.
The board directors each expressed their support and enthusiasm for the mobile unit, saying they could see the potential benefits.
“I have been organizing in the east of the Coachella Valley for over 10 years, and the difficulties that people have to have to see their doctor, to go to see specialists, it is a real test,” said the Vice-President of the Board, Karen Borja. “It’s one of those little deliverables of meeting people where they are rather than asking people to extend resources, time, energy.”
What will the mobile unit look like?
The mobile unit will be a commercial, rugged, straight-frame Ford F-650, and it will be equipped with tools you will find it inside a health facility, said Alejandro Espinoza, district chief of community engagement. Facilities include two examination rooms with beds, toilets, diagnostic kits, and cabinets for storage and supplies.
The vehicle will also be equipped with air conditioning, an awning that can extend over several feet to provide shade, as well as a generator and solar panels for electricity. Espinoza said the vehicle could deliver power between eight and ten hours.
The vehicle’s length from bumper to bumper is 40 feet and its width from exterior wall to wall is 100 inches, according to documents provided by the district.
The total cost of the unit is $ 336,500. The Coachella Valley Resource Conservation District will provide $ 175,000, while the remaining dollars will come from Desert Health District grants, according to Espinoza. The total annual operating and depreciation costs are estimated to be between $ 73,000 and $ 81,000, according to Espinoza.
It will take about six months before the unit is fully built and can begin to circulate in the Coachella Valley.
District is already pushing mobile efforts
Espinoza looks forward to healthcare and education opportunities when the vehicle hits the road. Already, the Desert Healthcare District has made mobile efforts across the Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative he created last fall to create and implement an equitable response to COVID-19.
“Through the work we have done so far with the Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative, we have demonstrated the need for a model that brings services directly to a community, to people who would not normally have access to medical services in due to various reasons, ”said Espinoza, stressing the proximity of services and the opening hours of the facilities.
The Desert Healthcare District has previously sent mobile units to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to hard-to-reach areas such as Mecca and Thermal, and has seen success, according to CEO Conrado Bárzaga.
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In the 92254 zip code which encompasses Mecca, nearly 72% of residents aged 12 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, while Thermal’s 92274 zip code reported nearly 61%, the data shows. published on May 18.
Bárzaga previously told the Desert Sun that the district was “bringing vaccines to where people live and work” by working with employers to organize clinics during working hours, organizing smaller vaccination events in specific communities and increasing the hours and days Operating.
The district is also considering the mobile unit to have a projector to show educational presentations and videos to make it a “classroom on wheels,” Espinoza said.
The variety of services, he added, will have “considerable advantages”.
The unit will also be used by district partners
Several community partner organizations will also have the opportunity to use the mobile unit for medical and educational purposes. These organizations include:
- Coachella Valley Medical Volunteers
- Pueblo Unido
- UC Riverside School of Medicine
- California State University, San Bernardino Nursing Program
- Coachella Valley Rescue Mission
- Galileo Center
These organizations were not able to easily reach underserved communities due to a lack of basic facilities or infrastructure in areas such as mobile home parks, homeless settlements and fields. agriculture, according to the district feasibility study.
Ann Marie Cheney, a faculty member at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine, saidduring the public comment Tuesday that the school had previously partnered with a mobile unit, which brought “great success.”
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Cheney’s previous research shows that there is a need for services to be brought directly into communities as there are “so many barriers, including deportation fears to access brick and mortar structures,” said declared the faculty member.
Cheney leads a group of medical students involved ina street medicine program that aims to provide services to the Mexican Latin American, immigrant and indigenous communities of the eastern Coachella Valley.
“Community members appreciated the students taking the time to come to their community and learn about their health needs,” Cheney said.
Not only will the mobile unit ‘break down barriers to access’, but Cheney said it could create an opportunity for medical students to reflect on a potential residency or practice in the eastern part of the valley, or to inspire local youth to pursue medicine.
Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.