Specially designed van will be a doctor’s office on wheels
The medical mainstay of downtown Niagara Falls will soon be offering essential health care services at neighborhoods across the city thanks to an innovative program being funded through a city grant.
The New York State Department of Health last week granted regulatory approval to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for the purchase of a mobile van in which to operate an extension clinic. Memorial will collaborate with community service agencies and other organizations to provide primary care, nutritional counseling, women’s health services and COVID-19 testing and vaccinations using the specially designed, fully equipped mobile clinic.
Those and other services will be tailored to meet the specific needs of the at-risk populations the mobile clinic will serve, said Memorial Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sheila K. Kee.
“This extension clinic will help us address health care inequities that have been clearly identified in economically challenged neighborhoods,” Kee said. “We’ll be able to greatly improve access to primary care and other desperately needed services by bringing those services right into those neighborhoods.”
A report prepared last year by the health care section of the Niagara Falls Social Justice Commission, which was co-chaired by Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo, documented some startling inequities in Niagara Falls ZIP codes. For example, 97% of African-American adults living in 14305 had not had a primary care visit the previous year while 45% of all residents in that ZIP code recorded an emergency room visit – the second-highest percentage in the city.
Moreover, statistics show African Americans in 14304 are living 18 years less than Whites.
The health care report, which was submitted to Mayor Robert Restaino, also identified areas with high rates of substance abuse and behavioral health issues as well as low rates of influenza vaccination.
“These are some frightening numbers and widespread areas of concern. We envision the mobile van extension clinic as an important component of a citywide care coalition working to address these issues,” Ruffolo said.
Memorial will purchase the van using CARES Act funding through a grant from the city.
“The approval of this grant allows Niagara Falls residents the opportunity for access to care that those residents, currently lacking personal methods of transportation, may otherwise go without,” Restaino said. “I am happy to help lend support where it is needed most within the community and look forward to continuing the joint effort with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.”
The mobile clinic is another example of hard work paying off as the city seeks new and innovative ways to meet community needs, Restaino added.
The van will feature a fully equipped exam room, intake room, wheelchair-accessible bathroom and a hydraulic wheelchair lift, all of which will meet accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. Also included will be wireless access to the medical center’s electronic health record system.