‘Doctor’s office on wheels’ grant OK’d for NBH Hospital

A grant of $203,388 is on the table for North Big Horn Hospital District’s Rural Health Clinic to purchase a mobile medical clinic to provide primary care and occupational medicine services to outlying communities, including on-site care at senior centers and employment sites.

“We’re really thrilled about this, as it will give us opportunities to provide services to those in the district close to where they live,” said an enthusiastic Rick Schroeder, the hospital district’s CEO and administrator, on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

The funding, announced on Tuesday, Sept. 10, is scheduled under a Wyoming Primary Care Support Grant, said Keri Wagner, program specialist in the Wyoming Office of Rural Health Readiness and Response Section, Public Health Division in Cheyenne.

Wyoming Department of Health added that the North Big Horn award is among four totaling $1 million. “These grants will fund proposals to increase health-care access across the state,” said WDH.

“The next step,” Wagner said, “is finalizing award contracts, which will take at least a month. Once the award contract is finalized, awardees can begin the project and receive reimbursement for expenses incurred on a quarterly basis. North Big Horn will have three years from the effective date of the award contract to complete the project.”

Schroeder said that the district will acquire a “doctor’s office on wheels” measuring approximately 28 feet in length. It will contain a variety of medical equipment to allow personnel to provide many types of services in surrounding areas. Part of the thinking includes health fairs that would offer medical screening and health promotion activities for the benefit of participants.

The towns of Burlington and Deaver would be the first to receive visits from the wheeled medical office “that looks like a motor home,” explained Schroeder. He stated that the unit will be complete with features including medical records, a restroom, an office and exam areas. He especially is pleased that “our great respiratory therapy department” will be able to administer Pulmonary Function Tests away from the hospital.

“We’re always looking for ways to enhance our services to our communities,” Schroeder said. “We really, really believe that this (mobile clinic) is a great opportunity to expand our operations and reach out to the district communities.” The rolling clinic is to be obtained from LaBoit Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, said Janet Koritnik, the district’s marketing director.

In a related matter, Byron Mayor Pam Hopkinson began working last month to conduct a survey of the town’s residents to determine if utilizing a clinic in the town is of interest.

“We are needing to hear from those in town who think they would make use” of such an offering, she said. The town hall telephone number is 548-7490. Her initial thoughts were that part of the former Byron school, owned by Postern Capital, could be used as a stationary outreach to the community.

She added that, at her invitation recently, two hospital representatives toured the former school. Schroeder said he was advised that at first glance it appeared that a couple of rooms could be utilized with some remodeling. But with the grant in mind for a motorized unit, he indicated that it’s rather unlikely that approach would be taken.

Regarding a mobile clinic, the mayor said, “I would think by the end of the month I can talk to the most obvious people who might use the clinic. I would think that would be our senior population and those with handicaps that make traveling to a doctor difficult. But I would envision that it would also be used by families for vaccinations, sports physicals, etc. A mobile clinic could fill many needs in our community.”

Schroeder said that some years ago, before he came on board, outreach clinic visits were conducted at a site in Burlington. “They were not highly utilized,” he said, pointing out that the forthcoming transportable medical facility likely will be.

Grants besides the one for NBHHD: $243,900 to the Powell Health Care Coalition to begin work in the region to open a brand-new community health center and apply for federal Community Health Center funding; $226,500 to the Evanston Community Health Center to upgrade its facility to be ADA compliant and open an X-ray department; and  $326,212 to the Cheyenne Health and Wellness Center, Community Health Center in Cheyenne in one-time costs for capital construction to expand its facility for new dental and mental health services on-site and expansion of the pharmacy.

by Bob Rodriguez