Monday, April 22, 2024

Cascade Mobile Clinic meets patients in their communities

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LEAVENWORTH – For just over a year, Cascade Medical has been working outside its traditional brick-and-mortar, bringing the clinic to patients by way of wheels. The Cascade Mobile Clinic stations itself in Plain or Peshastin every Tuesday, so patients don’t have to make the trip to downtown Leavenworth.

“We're increasing access to care, especially to those that have barriers to access, whether it's transportation needs, financial needs, scheduling needs. We have to open up more opportunities so people can work around their daily schedule,” said Pat Songer, Cascade Medical’s COO and Chief of EMS.

From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sam Linn, PA-C (physician assistant, certified), will treat patients inside the Mobile Clinic, an ice-cream truck-shaped vehicle complete with a restroom, waiting room, exam room, and all the equipment needed to perform basic medical care.

“It’s just kind of a first line, simple way for patients to get in for things that are urgent but might not require an emergency room. It wouldn't require any kind of imaging, but just need to get in and be seen,” said Linn.

 

For the Mobile Clinic, convenience and visibility is the key to promoting a healthy community. When Linn parks in Peshastin, she can treat patients at the fruit packing facility on their lunch break. The Mobile Clinic’s team is bilingual, which has allowed them to start conversations about healthcare with Spanish speakers who have avoided the hospital due to language barriers. 

“So we kind of get their foot in the door so to speak and see them, and then we can get them transferred to establish care with a provider long-term at Cascade, at the main clinic,” said Linn.

As the Mobile Clinic overcomes time and language barriers, it also actively educates people about how to access care more affordably. While the Mobile Clinic isn’t a free clinic, it gives Linn and her team an opportunity to educate the public about Cascade Medical’s financial assistance program, which can help patients receive affordable care at the Mobile Clinic and beyond.

In Plain, parents will take their kids to the Mobile Clinic for minor injuries or immunizations after picking them up from Beaver Valley next door. On snowy days, patients can make the short trip to the clinic instead of taking a winding, icy road into town. Its small operation also offers patients the benefit of privacy.

“We really enjoy being the front desk, and being the medical assistants, doing the check in and doing the appointment from start to finish just to get people in and out. It’s a more personal experience, I think,” said Linn.

The Mobile Clinic team is small, but its impact has been mighty, thanks to enormous help from the community and team at Cascade Medical. Mike Pirotto, who assists Plain residents with tasks like shoveling or grocery deliveries, will coordinate visits to the clinic when he notices a community member in need of medical attention, such as unusually high blood pressure. When Linn prescribes medicine, he’ll drive patients to pick it up.

“It's just been really great to get to know more of the community up there and know that we can get eyes on someone or listen to their lungs or listen to their heart or things like that from so much closer to where they live,” said Linn.

At the hospital, a team of departments helps ensure the Mobile Clinic has everything it needs each Tuesday. Family Clinic Director Whitney Lak ensures the team has all the necessary medical equipment stocked, the housekeeping team sanitizes the rooms, the maintenance team is checking the vehicle and emptying the sewer tank, and IT is making sure the team has remote access to the medical system. That way, all Linn’s team has to do is find a level parking spot, set up the sandwich board signs, plug into a generator or Fire Station power, unlock cabinets, log into the remote desktop, and see patients.



How the Mobile Clinic got its Start

The idea for the Mobile Clinic started a few years ago, when CEO Diane Blake saw the area’s staggering poverty levels in a Community Health Assessment (CHA). 

The 2019-2021 CHA looked at federal poverty levels, as well as households that earned above those levels, but not enough to afford “a barebones household budget,” which is labeled as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). Federal poverty and ALICE rates in Peshastin were 50 percent, rates in Dryden were 64 percent, and rates in Leavenworth/Plain were 40 percent in 2018.

“And that, coupled with feedback we had about the challenges with transportation and other ways to connect with services in general, really put us down the road of starting to think differently about how we best serve the community and whether there were opportunities to take our services on the road, so to speak, and meet patients where they're at,” said Blake.

Cascade Medical Foundation (CMF), which has purchased $1.8 million in medical equipment for the hospital since 1992, rallied behind the idea. The foundation raised over $200,000 through grants and community fundraising events, helping make the Mobile Clinic a reality.

“We did a lot of advertising before we went out, through social media, through letter campaigns, and things like that, and it was very favorable. I mean, the people community really, really felt like we needed something like that, especially for the surrounding areas outside of Leavenworth,” said Bob Adamson, one of CMF’s board members at large.

How to Get Treatment:

As the Mobile Clinic continues to gain traction within the communities it operates, Cascade Medical hopes to expand its services and hours of operation. Currently, services are provided between 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on alternating Tuesdays in Peshastin (Fire Hall, 8493 Main St.), or in Plain (Lake Wenatchee Fire Station, 19015 Beaver Valley Road).

For those interested in seeking care, the Mobile Clinic accepts walk-ins, or appointments can be made by calling 509-548-5815. The team advises new patients to reach out prior to visiting in order to establish care and streamline the visit.

The Financial Assistance Program is available to patients seeking care both at the Mobile Clinic and the main clinic. More information can be found by speaking to a financial counselor: 509-548-3436.

“It's available for people who are uninsured or who have insurance, but maybe they have a high deductible or a regular deductible that they're struggling to meet,” said Blake.

More information about the Mobile Clinic and financial assistance can also be found at cascademedical.org. 

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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