Mobile medical clinic brings health care to Washington's rural, underserved communities
Fairfield Mayor Jamie Paden, who also is a volunteer EMT, said many calls could be less severe or prevented if the patient simply had access to regular care
FAIRFIELD, Wash. — An RV converted into a movable doctor's office brings health services to communities without access to care in Eastern Washington.
Range Community Clinic, a nonprofit started by Washington State University, first used the medical unit to deliver vaccines to rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it is operating as a regular medical clinic, offering primary care services like screenings, prescription refills and minor surgical procedures.
"Most of what we are doing is prevention with an intentional goal to plug in services that patients wouldn't otherwise get, without interrupting any of the relationships that folks have with doctors in the region," said Jamie Bowman, one of Range's physicians.
The mobile clinic, officially known as the William A. Crosetto Mobile Health Care Unit, is named for a late Othello rancher and philanthropist who donated $1 million for the project. The recreational vehicle contains two exam rooms and a lavatory, as well as an intake room and blood testing area.
It was parked outside the Fairfield Community Center on Thursday, providing physicals to a line a of teenagers eager to play school sports this fall.
"Today is going to be a tremendous help to families around the area," Bowman said.
This time of year brings a bottleneck with young people trying to get their sports physicals before school starts, and often there are not enough openings.
"It can be a real source of anxiety and frustration for families," Bowman said.
Fairfield, a town of 589 people in south Spokane County, lost its only physician a few years ago and, more recently, its only pharmacist. Residents now have to travel about half an hour to Spokane or Whitman County to receive care.
Fairfield Mayor Jamie Paden and Clerk Cheryl Loeffler worked with Range to bring the mobile clinic to the community center every couple of weeks so locals can access routine care. This is the first time Range is offering this kind of regular primary care to a community, and it will likely serve as a model for other rural communities with similar access issues.
Paden, who is also a volunteer EMT, said many calls she responds to could be less severe or prevented entirely if the person simply had access to regular care before it became an emergency. "I knew what a detriment it could be," she said.
Residents from the nearby towns of Waverly, Latah and Rockford can use the clinic too, Paden said.
The mobile clinic also makes stops at Fairfield's assisted living facility, and Range is considering setting up a telemedicine center in town for times when the mobile clinic is not there.
In addition to making health care accessible, Range aims to make it affordable.
"Our model is that no matter what, we're going to take care of you," said Keli Riley, administrator for Range. The clinic offers a sliding fee scale for those who don't have insurance.
Besides Fairfield, the clinic visits the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Spokane, and Central Valley Student and Family Engagement Center in Spokane Valley.
The clinic is working to expand to other communities and is developing a unit for the Tri-Cities next year.
James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.
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