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Mobile health van to bring services to seniors in rural areas

May 08, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County's newest health care option will roll into the most remote reaches of the county later in the month.

Mobile Project: Healthcare, a 26-foot-long medical van equipped with a wheelchair lift, private screening room and reception area, will hit the road within the next couple of weeks, said Chris Bailey, director of the Falling Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Chambersburg.

The goal is to provide medical screenings for seniors in the county who don't drive or can't make it to local hospitals for routine tests like blood pressure and vision checks.

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"If you're in Chambersburg it's easy to pop over to the hospital or senior center," Bailey said.

Some parts of the county, however, are as much as an hour from a hospital and others are 25 minutes from even a doctor's office.

"We are still a big, rural county. We thought some folks that need special help would only be helped by going out there personally," said Commissioner G. Warren Elliott.

The project is a joint effort between the county nursing home and the Area Agency on Aging.

"This is the first effort of its kind anywhere in the state of Pennsylvania," Elliott said.

A $100,000 grant from the state Department of Public Welfare paid for the van as an effort to keep the elderly in their homes and avoid or delay the need for a nursing facility.

"With assessments or screenings we might be able to divert folks from the nursing home" by alerting residents to health conditions for which they should be seeking treatment before they become major problems, said Lynn Clinton, director of the Area Agency on Aging.

The van usually will be staffed with a nurse or care manager to offer blood testing, diabetes screening and other basic services as well as to refer people to organizations that can help them, if needed, with grocery shopping or house cleaning.

It will have a television and VCR to show educational videos, medical samples and storage space for some Meals-on-Wheels dry meals.

"It can be just about anything. It is limited only by our imagination," Bailey said.

As time goes on, residents may see different things in the unit, depending on what the demand is for.

Initially, the van will stop at senior centers or fire stations in 14 zones that cover the county.

Depending on what kind of screening is taking place, the van might be able to hit two or three sites a day.

Bailey expects the schedule to be flexible in the first year of operation as the department measures demand.

"We may show up in Dry Run and find three days worth of work," Bailey said.

After that, it will set up a schedule of sites it will visit throughout the county on a regular basis.

Residents will have to find their own transportation to the van site.

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