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Wellmobile makes house calls

September 28, 2000

Wellmobile makes house calls



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


If you can't get to the doctor, the doctor will come to you.

That's the theory behind the Wellmobile, a 37-foot recreational vehicle that's been modified for use as a moving health clinic.

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On Thursday, state lawmakers and health care professionals celebrated the Wellmobile program's expansion into Western Maryland during a press conference at Robinwood Medical Center.

Although the actual vehicle is still on order and won't be here until the spring, people got a sneak preview by touring the Wellmobile that serves central Maryland.

A miniaturized health clinic on wheels, the Wellmobile has two small examination rooms and a closet-sized laboratory. There is an open area where patients fill out forms and are interviewed about their medical history.

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Joy Tyson, a nurse practitioner who travels with the Wellmobile, helps hundreds of people who otherwise wouldn't have access to medical care.

One of her patients was a man who couldn't find a job because his blood pressure was so high and he couldn't afford medication.

Tyson found him some free medicine and he now has a job that supports his family, she said.

Another woman came in with a lump in her breast and the clinic got her a mammogram that could show a benign tumor.

"She was scared. She came to us for help," Tyson said.

Washington County has several health clinics, including two in downtown Hagerstown, that serve people who don't have health insurance.

But the Wellmobile will be able to reach people in more rural parts of the county who can't get to those clinics, officials said.

It will have regular hours at community centers and schools, spending two days a week in Washington County and three days a week in Allegany County.

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation this year to establish the Governor's Wellmobile Program within the University of Maryland School of Nursing as a public-private partnership.

A $200,000 gift from Marla Oro, an assistant dean at the nursing school, and her husband, David, will help purchase Western Maryland's vehicle.

Services include physical exams, treatment and referral for illnesses, cancer screenings, health education, substance abuse and smoking prevention programs, immunizations, well-child care, vision and hearing screenings and detection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Lawmakers praised the program Thursday.

The Wellmobile will improve the quality of life in Western Maryland, said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany.

It's also evidence of the state's progress in the area of health care reform, he said, calling Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Del. Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, the architects of that reform.

Donoghue chairs the health care subcommittee of the House Economic Matters Committee.

Maryland was the first to implement meaningful health-care reform, the first to establish a grievance board for insurance denials and the first to implement a children's health insurance program with federal grants, Donoghue said.

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