Caring on wheels

Published 10:51 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

Bon Secours Hampton Roads Care-A-Van staff, from left, Melissa Gornitzka, Dr. Emily Leib and Gursha Holmes, stand outside the mobile unit that comes to Suffolk every Friday.

Bon Secours Hampton Roads Care-A-Van staff, from left, Melissa Gornitzka, Dr. Emily Leib and Gursha Holmes, stand outside the mobile unit that comes to Suffolk every Friday.

At first, Tony Mayo ignored his back pain.

Finally, last October, it became so intense that Mayo — who has no health insurance and a history of diabetes and back surgeries — went to Bon Secours Hampton Roads Care-A-Van.

Every Friday, the health clinic — essentially, a pop-up clinic than tours medically underserved communities across Hampton Roads — sets up shop outside Suffolk Presbyterian Church, 410 N. Broad St., from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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The 30-foot-long clinic offers free medical services to uninsured patients, with a focus on helping them manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, said Lynne Zultanky, spokeswoman for Bon Secours.

“We recognize that having access to ongoing, primary care and preventative services can make an impact on the quality of people’s health,” said Zultanky.

The diabetes rate seems to be slightly higher in Suffolk than other Hampton Roads communities, according to Dr. Emily Leib, the program’s medical director.

Typically, the mornings are reserved for walk-in patients, with follow-up appointments set for afternoons, said operations manager Melissa Gornitzka.

In 2015, the Care-A-Van treated 645 patients in Suffolk, seeing an average of 17 to 25 patients a week, Gornitzka said.

The Care-A-Van does not charge for its services or ask for proof of income or residency, she said.

Although he was first diagnosed with diabetes in 2008, Mayo said he managed to control it through medication and diet and exercise changes for the first few years.

Doctors have determined that Mayo’s spiking blood sugar has contributed to his back pain. He will have surgery once his glucose levels under control.