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Fueled by Philanthropy!

  • Category: Foundation News
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  • Written By: Melissa Gross
Fueled by Philanthropy!

Media Contact: Karina Rusk

The Salinas Valley Health's Salinas Valley Health Mobile Clinic has been on the move since January 2020 providing an array of free health care services to the underserved in the community, including COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. It now reports a record 500-plus visits in August.

“We are doing so much good for so many people and the public response has been overwhelming,” said Salinas Valley Health Clinic Medical Director Dr. Orlando Rodriguez. “On one side of the equation, we are delivering free health care services directly to pockets of our communities that have few, if any, easy options to get quality health care.”

With free athlete exams for school sports, COVID-19 testing and vaccine administering, the Salinas Valley Health Mobile Clinic saw more patients in August than at any time since it launched free health care services in January 2020.

The mobile clinic served 516 patients, conducted 100 sports physicals at Alisal High School, administered 158 COVID-19 vaccinations, and took 121 COVID-19 tests in August.

Rodriguez said that just as rewarding is the support from the community and donors to the hospital foundation who make sure everyone receives basic health care services.

Rodriguez has been a physician for 38 years and said that being part of the Salinas Valley Health Mobile Clinic team is one of the most rewarding experiences of his professional career.

The Salinas Valley Health Mobile Clinic was years in the making and planned prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salinas Valley Health spokeswoman Karina Rusk said that as the pandemic threat emerged, mobile clinic operations were put on pause for a short time to put safety precautions in place. During that time, the health care system pivoted and made virtual visits available, setting up computer access and support at familiar community locations in underserved areas.

“Social distancing, masking, and personal protective equipment precautions allowed us to resume regular mobile rounds,” said Rusk. “The pandemic actually helped prove how flexible the team could be in getting health care service to those in need and also provided a familiar and accessible place for vulnerable populations who may have had misconceptions or fears about going to any of the local hospitals.”

At one point during the pandemic, people were foregoing emergency rooms and visits to their health care providers.

In its time in operation, the mobile clinic has evolved and adapted by working with grassroots community groups and others to fine-tune locations, hours and services to best serve diverse populations.

“It is now hitting a stride as evidenced by the trend in patient visits,” said Rusk.

Generous donors to Salinas Valley Health Foundation provided the initial $375,000, 30-foot custom vehicle with exam rooms and on-site lab capabilities. Those initial major donors include the Sally Hughes Church Foundation and the Salinas Valley Memorial Health Service League. The hospital foundation continues to support ongoing operational costs and needs.

The clinic sets up shop at seven locations, five days a week. The August record of more than 500 visits is a testament to the value and need for these services, said Rusk. Since its launch, the clinic has served about 3,400 patients and demand has increased during the pandemic.

The mobile clinic is staffed with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, a medical assistant, licensed clinical social worker or community health advocate.

“I am truly passionate about my role at the Salinas Valley Health Salinas Valley Health Mobile Clinic because I have been giving back to my community, the east side of Salinas,” said Yesina Garcia, a bilingual community health advocate. “I am honored to serve our patients that are farm workers, undocumented and low income like my father who came to the United States for a better life. There is much meaning and connection in what we do.”

In addition to offering COVID-19 vaccines and testing, the mobile clinic also provides primary care service as well as simple urgent care, women’s health care, health screenings, immunizations, health education, and help connecting patients with resources to manage chronic medical problems.

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