BWWMH ready to unveil mobile health clinic

Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital will hold an open house Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to show off its new mobile health clinic.

Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital will show off the latest addition to its services Friday when it holds an open house to feature its new mobile clinic.

The open house, which will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., will allow visitors to tour the fruits of a project called “Healthcare on Wheels.”

The vehicle is a large truck whose compartment has been converted into a mobile health clinic featuring two patient rooms, a nurse’s station and a waiting area. The handicap accessible vehicle also comes complete with a retractable exterior awning.

“We’re excited. It’s an awesome experience once you’ve worked so hard to try and get something to provide greater services to your community and to see your work finally come to fruition, to see the finished product pull up with all the graphics,” Loretta Wilson of GROWestAL said of the project. “Words really cannot express. Our only hope is that the community be as excited about what we’re offering. Our work has, really truly just started.”

BWWMH will have unveil it new mobile health clinic during an open house Friday, a vehicle that is the focal point of its Healthcare on Wheels initiative. The vehicle is seen here before it was converted into a mobile health clinic.

The hospital obtained funding for the vehicle through the United States Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development in the form of a grant worth $384,742.

“This is not a construction grant that they normally fund. For us to get them to approve this construction project oriented grant, that in and of itself was an accomplishment because construction to USDA is erecting a building and not a mobile vehicle,” Wilson said of the difficulty in obtaining the funding for a project she believes addresses one of the primary needs of GROWestAL consumers. “As we’ve been in out in the rural areas through a lot of our programs that have been funded through other agencies, transportation is the primary problem. Transportation and most people are uninsured.”

“Right now we’re limited to places that have actual physical structure for us to be in. Obviously with this, we can pretty much go anywhere because we’re taking our building with us, so to speak,” Mike Marshall said of the significance of the project. “We hope to expand it to add physician and nurse practitioner coverage because that’s what it’s designed for.”

With the mobile unit complete and ready for business, the project readies to face its next obstacles. Among those potential hiccups is the absence of serviceable broadband internet coverage in the area, a necessary component for the mobile health clinic’s mission.

“Overall, we’re hoping to be able to – once we get adequate broadband coverage in the area – is add telehealth and telemedicine, so you won’t actually have to have a physician there in the clinic,” Marshall said. “They can be here or in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham or wherever. In theory you could have orthopedics one day in Sunshine and neurology the next day in Sweet Water. That’s our biggest hold up right now is broadband coverage.”

In addition to the need for broadband coverage, Wilson, Marcia Pugh and the team at GROWestAL will also face the hurdle of getting patients to access the services that are now more available than ever.

“It’s now about letting the community know that we’re so concerned about your health that we’re willing to bring it right to your front door,” Wilson said.