Mobile medical clinic brings health care to rural and underserved communities in Washington

james hanlon
The Spokesperson’s Review

FAIRFIELD, Wash. – An RV converted into a mobile doctor’s office brings health services to communities without access to care in eastern Washington.

The Range Community Clinic, a nonprofit created by Washington State University, first used the medical unit to provide vaccines to rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It now operates as a regular medical clinic, providing primary care services like screenings, prescription refills and minor surgeries.

“Most of what we do is prevention with the intention of connecting services that patients wouldn’t otherwise get, without interrupting any of the relationships people have with area physicians,” said Jamie Bowman. , one of Range’s physicians.

The mobile clinic, officially known as the William A. Crosetto Mobile Health Care Unit, is named after a deceased Othello rancher and philanthropist who donated $1 million for the project. The recreational vehicle includes two examination rooms and restrooms, as well as an admissions room and blood draw area.

He was parked outside the Fairfield Community Center on Thursday, providing physical exams to a line of teenagers keen to play school sports this fall.

“Today is going to be a huge help for families in the area,” Bowman said.

This time of year brings a bottleneck with young people trying to get their athletic physique before school starts, and often there aren’t enough openings.

“It can be a real source of anxiety and frustration for families,” Bowman said.

Fairfield, a town of 589 in southern Spokane County, lost its only doctor a few years ago and, more recently, its only pharmacist. Residents must now travel approximately half an hour to Spokane or Whitman County to receive care.

Fairfield Mayor Jamie Paden and Clerk Cheryl Loeffler have worked with Range to bring the mobile clinic to the community center every two weeks so residents can access routine care. This is the first time Range has offered this type of regular primary care to a community, and it will likely serve as a model for other rural communities with similar access issues.

Paden, who is also a volunteer paramedic, said many calls she responds to could be less serious or avoided entirely if the person simply had access to regular care before it became an emergency. “I knew what harm it could be,” she said.

Residents of nearby cities of Waverly, Latah and Rockford can also use the clinic, Paden said.

The mobile clinic also calls into the Fairfield assisted living facility, and Range plans to set up a telemedicine center in town for when the mobile clinic isn’t there.

In addition to making health care accessible, Range aims to make it affordable.

“Our model is that no matter what, we’re going to take care of you,” Range administrator Keli Riley said. The clinic offers a decreasing rate for those who do not have insurance.

In addition to Fairfield, the clinic visits the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Spokane and the Central Valley Student and Family Engagement Center in Spokane Valley.

The clinic is working to expand to other communities and is developing a unit for the Tri-Cities next year.

James Hanlon’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and members of the Spokane community. This story may be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact the editorial director of our journal.

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