“I just wanted to thank you so much for your kindness and help today with my daughter. She came in with strep throat. It means a lot to see people in the medical profession that are still so kind. Also, the two other staff members you have are great. Thank you and God bless.”
This was a message sent by Angie Smith, a parent whose child was examined in the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile recently, to nurse practitioner Wendy Beck. It mirrors the sentiments of many parents whose children have been seen at the mobile health unit.
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile was formerly a mobile dental clinic that has been remodeled to serve as a mobile health care clinic for Bradley County Schools.
It stops at three schools in the system: Ocoee Middle School (Mondays), Waterville Community Elementary School (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), and Black Fox Elementary School (Thursdays and Fridays).
“ The Care Mobile has been a vision in our office for the past three years,” said Andrea Lockerby, Bradley County Coordinated School Health director. “When the Ronald McDonald House Charities called and said ‘we have a mobile, and you are looking for a mobile … are there any medical partners we could work with there?’ Then we had an idea that this could become a reality.”
The medical partner in Bradley County is SkyRidge Medical Center, while Children’s Hospital at Erlanger is the Hamilton County medical partner. Coordinated School Health also became a partner with the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
United Way of Bradley County became involved in the project as organizers were looking for start-up funds. Application for a grant from the Bradley Memorial Health Endowment Fund was made, and that grant was approved for 2012 to get the program started. The program began in Bradley County in January.
“This would not be possible without the Bradley Memorial Health Endowment Fund grant, and I really think this is what the vision was for the Bradley Memorial Hospital funds … to help with programs like this,” Lockerby said.
The unit contains two examination rooms. It also has a wheelchair lift on the side. It is one of 44 similar Ronald McDonald Care Mobile clinics around the world.
Lockerby said while the Care Mobile is only parked at the three schools, the Bradley County School system decided this past week to open them up to other schools. It will require transportation to one of the three sites, but they are located strategically so they are not too distant from other schools.
“This takes the care to the next level,” she said.
Lockerby said that all schools have a nurse, whether full-time or part-time, on campus, but these nurses cannot prescribe medications or perform strep tests. The nurse practitioner on the mobile unit can do so if necessary.
“District-wide, our nurses see about 55,000 students a year, and a student probably averages seeing a nurse about five times a year,” she added.
Many of these children do not have their own doctors, so having this available is, as Charlene Cofer, principal at Waterville Elementary, said, “a Godsend.”
“Many times we will talk to a parent about a child who is missing too much school and they will say they don’t have the money to take them to the doctor,” Cofer explained.
“The economy hasn’t been good so a lot of parents are struggling right now, so, this is wonderful to be able to offer this service.”
While the Care Mobile is not limited to those who may be struggling financially and can’t or don’t have a family doctor, that is the major focus of the program.
“First and foremost, we are here for students who do not have medical care … that’s the main priority,” Lockerby said.
“We are not here to take over care from a child’s doctor at all. If the child has a doctor, that’s who they need to see, but we do have a pocket of those children without medical care, for whatever reason, in our community.”
Jane Kaylor, executive director at the Ronald McDonald House Charities, said Care Mobile program is designed to remove all barriers that families face to get healthcare for their children.
“After operating the Care Mobile as a dental program for eight years, we have discovered that the barrier of access, simply getting the child to the doctor during office hours, is one of the most significant barriers that can be removed by having healthcare brought to the child where they are — at school,” she said.
“Our goal is to help the children who are not getting their healthcare any other way, and to keep them in school.”
Cofer said by having the service available at the schools, it helps with attendance.
“I am sure this will help us address attendance. We don’t want to take parents to campus court because of truancy and I think this will help keep the children in school,” she said.
Matt Ryerson, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Bradley County, said he knows the Care Mobile will meet a very important need.
“The lack of access to healthcare has been a major hurdle in the healthy development of children here in Bradley County and around the world,” he said.
“This one collaborative program will have a significant impact on the healthcare crisis here in our community.
“We are honored to partner with Erlanger, SkyRidge, Bradley County Schools, Ronald McDonald House and all the cooperative partners on this initiative as this project is so directly tied to the legacy of Bradley Memorial Hospital and United Way of Bradley County,” he added.
For more information on the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, contact Lockerby at the Bradley County Schools at 476-0620, or Kaylor at 778-4331. Cathy Jennings at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger is the Care Mobile Coordinator, and she can be reached at 778-4954.