KNAU and Arizona News
10:59 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Clinic Brings Schools Healthcare on Wheels

As students head back to school, yellow buses are going to become a common sight again. But this fall, buses won’t be ferrying just students.

North Country Healthcare has just launched a new mobile clinic in a bus.

The clinic will bring primary healthcare to elementary schools in Flagstaff. 

Arizona Public Radio’s Sierra Eckert has this story…

A bright orange Frelightner bus sits outside Killip Elementary school in Flagstaff.

But, it’s not full of backpacks and lunchboxes.

It’s a mobile health clinic.

North Country Healthcare has spent the last year putting it together funded with a 400 hundred thousand dollar grant.  

Once school begins, the clinic can make rounds every week, visiting Killip, Kinsey, and Thomas elementary schools, Project New Start and the Family Resource Center

Inside, Tav Crenshaw shows me around.She’s the supervisor for the School Based Health Services Program.

“It’s like a mobile doctor’s office on wheels,” said Crenshaw, “ Only with nurse practitioners instead of doctors.”

Laminate wood floors make the clinic warm and the atmosphere, inviting.

The clinic includes a lab, two exam rooms, and a refrigerator and freezer for vaccines.  

It can also offer dental care and has the equipment for tele-medicine consultations.

“It’s awesome,” added Crenshaw. “So, there’s this big awning that comes out, like this. So, nice days in Flagstaff-which we have many of-we’re going to set up a little waiting room outside. And under here, we have a flat screen TV where we can show educational videos. 

Last week, they began enrolling students at Killip Elementary, the first school in session.

On Monday, they saw the first patients.

Frances McCabe’s eleven-year-old son is the clinic’s second patient.

“I was always wishing for a way that he didn’t have to leave school or drive to Tuba to get his medical care,” said McCabe.

Her son suffers from asthma serious enough to land him in the hospital several times a year.  “And the first few weeks of school he always gets a really bad cold,” said McCabe. “This year I wanted to prevent that, because the first three weeks of school are really important.”

From the doorway to the exam room, a voice announces, “Come on back to this room, I’m going to get your blood pressure.”

Michele Inge is one of the clinic’s two full time nurse practitioners.

In addition to a routine physical exam, Inge takes a closer look at the patient’s lungs.

“While you do that I’m going to listen to your lungs,” instructs Inge, “so hold the machine, and I want you to take a big, deep breath in (the sound of the peak flow machine) Ok, let’s do it again  …”

The nurse practitioners will be able to administer treatments for this patient’s asthma.

They can also vaccinate children, stitch minor injuries, and help with chronic disease management.

Inge explained that the four elementary schools were picked based on their need.  

Most of the schools have large numbers of students on free and reduced lunch.

“Parents in this system are working parents that have difficulty leaving work to get children to appointments,” said Inge. “The wait times in clinics can be much longer than here."

Additionally, the program allows patients to pay on a sliding scale, allowing the clinic to bring healthcare to un- and underinsured patients.

Based on projections from Flagstaff Unified School district, the clinic expects to see around 700 students enrolled in the first year.

Nurse Michele Inge says, so far, parents have been very supportive, “The whole intention of the mobile units or clincs is to provide easy access, convenience, better accessibility.”

The mobile clinic will also be seeing kids at the Coconino Health Department’s Back to School Health Fair on August 4th.

For Arizona Public Radio, I’m Sierra Eckert, in Flagstaff.