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Care-A-Van keeps on going

A mobile clinic is making improvements to its services for underserved Suffolk patients.

Bon Secours Hampton Roads Care-A-Van is a 38-feet-long mobile clinic that tours medically underserved communities in Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads. The clinic specializes in primary medical care and is equipped to treat both acute and chronic conditions.

Care-A-Van sets up from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Hoffler Housing Complex on East Washington Street the first Friday of the month. It returns to Suffolk on Fridays for the rest of the month at the Salvation Army on Bank Street.

Inside the van on Fridays are two doctors, three nurses, three medical assistants and two patient registrars that do the driving. Patients receive immediate care and individually tailored treatment plans.

“Anything you would go to a regular physician for, we can take care of in the van,” said Melissa Gornitzka, Care-A-Van operations manager.

A new van is being custom built by Mobile Specialty Vehicles to replace one of the two vans currently used by the clinic. The $400,000 replacement will be 40 feet long and is expected to be put into service this winter, according to Gornitzka.

“I’m excited about the new van,” she said. “I can’t wait.”

She said the new van will have more refrigerator space to better store patient immunizations for flu season.

“When the flu season rolls around, we will have those vaccines available,” she said.

In 2016, Care-A-Van saw 842 Suffolk patients. These patients were eligible to receive free care if they were uninsured. They included many diabetics that received treatments to reduce their blood sugar levels to safer and healthier numbers.

“Bon Secours is committed to the health of our community,” said Lynne Zultanky, Bon Secours Hampton Roads Administrative Director. “We believe that primary care is the base of that pyramid. We want to make sure patients are getting the care that’s necessary to improve their health and keep their health.”

Patients that require more specialized care are referred to a practitioner suited for their needs. Care-A-Van arranged 151 patient referrals in 2016 for conditions such as kidney damage.

“It’s taking the needs of the patient and making sure you’re doing everything within your means for that patient to give them the best possible outcome,” Gornitzka said.

Care-A-Van has a pharmacy assistance program that allows uninsured patients to qualify for medications at no cost. Patients received 392 medications through the clinic in 2016, and 97 percent of the patients that applied for pharmacy assistance were approved, Gornitzka said.

“It’s taking down barriers to health care,” Zultanky said.

Care-A-Van is applying for a pharmacy distribution license with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. This license will allow the clinic to write prescriptions and dispense medications, rather than wait to receive them from pharmacies and deliver them to patients.

Gornitzka hopes that her vision of dispensing medications will come to fruition in 2018.

“It’s to give the patient the best possible experience,” she said.