UTICA – The Chalmers P. Wylie Veterans Ambulatory Care Center of Columbus was at the Utica Public Library on Friday with its mobile unit. Local veterans were able to learn about health care services available through the Veterans Administration and visit with Physician Assistant Madonna McPherson.
“The mobile unit will be traveling around to rural areas,” said Alvin Burzynski, APR, public affairs for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Columbus. “We want to make sure that all veterans are fully aware of the benefits that they may be entitled to, so this gives us an opportunity to bring information, participate in interaction and education with our veterans that may be a little further away from the Newark community-based outpatient clinic or our ambulatory care center in Columbus, Ohio.”
The mobile care unit will be able to provide basic primary care examinations for veterans, make referrals, give prescriptions, and set appointments if further consultation is needed.
“Veterans who are not enrolled in the VA system will have the opportunity to enroll and learn about the eligibility process; there are certain criteria that must be met for veterans to enroll in the VA health care system,” said Burzynski.
“I know that a lot of service members, who enlist, come from rural areas and statistics have shown that 50 percent of them come back to their home of record,” he continued. “So we have a lot of service members who most likely will be returning from supporting the global war on terrorism and we want to make sure that they are fully conscious of the benefits that they are entitled to. ... And we are focusing on not only the global war on terrorism veterans, but veterans from previous engagements of conflicts and those that have served during peace time, even peace-keeping missions.”
Last year the mobile unit was purchased by the VA, but this year is the first year the unit has been out to service the veterans.
“We hear from county veteran service offices stories of veterans who want to come in but for one reason or another, whether it be health or travel [difficulties] they can’t make it to the clinic,” said Matthew Francis, ambulatory care center mobile unit coordinator. “This is a great way for the VA to reach out to the veterans instead of having them come to us.”
The mobile clinic also has television were health-related videos are played for patients who are waiting. The unit is also equipped with an exam room, wheel chair lift, restroom, lab area and small waiting area.
If further treatment is needed, appointments can be made directly at the mobile site for further treatment or testing. “There are somethings that are restricted but for the most part I can make all of the appointments that someone would need right out of here,” said Francis.
“Once [the mobile unit] is actually 100 percent operational, we have a lab area where we will be able to draw blood and take it back to our clinic for processing,” said Francis.
As of February the mobile care center has been out two to three times a month but the VA hopes to increase its use to a regular basis.
“What we are doing out here right now is just signing up new patients; enrolling new veterans into the main healthcare system. Future plans for this, call for this to be its own team and there will be full-time staff and this will be out almost everyday,” said Francis.
“I think this is fantastic,” said Utica Mayor Larry Friesel. “We do have a lot of veterans in town that will use it. ... I was really impressed by the unit.”
Also Friesel said that the mobile unit will be back every three months to see patients. “And when they come back they will be here from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day. I think it’s great. I know it will take a while for the word to get out and for people to start taking advantage of it, but once they do I think [the unit] will have plenty,” he said. “Its not just for Utica, its for any veteran in the area — its for the entire area; any veteran.”
The next stop for the ambulatory care center unit is scheduled for the Knox County Veterans Picnic, June 14, at 11 a.m., at Riverside Park in Mount Vernon.