By Stephen Smoot
One of the major challenges of rural health care comes when those who need care live in remote areas and lack access to transportation.
According to PBS correspondent William Brangham, access plus other obstacles create significant barriers to those who want or need health care. “You can’t just apply one particular fix to this,” he says. Then adds, “It is a whole slew of societal factors that make it very, very difficult.”
Brangham also shared that preventative care serves as a critical need because too many rarely, if ever, see a physician regularly until their 60s and 70s.
This month, Pendleton Community Care has teamed up with the West Virginia University Cancer Institute to address one facet of the problem. They are bringing “Bonnie’s Bus” to Riverton from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 13.
Jamie Hudson, director of Pendleton Community Care, shared that interested women can still schedule appointments. The number for making an appointment is 304-358-2355, ext. 1149.
She explained that “screening is not free. They do bill insurance.” Those who lack health insurance may meet criteria to have some or all of the cost covered by grant funding. Basic criteria includes having a permanent residence in West Virginia and being over 40. Those who have not yet reached their 40th birthday may need to meet additional criteria.
Hudson said, “The whole point” is “to make sure we have health care in rural areas.”
Additionally, services provided on Bonnie’s Bus are limited to screening. They cannot provide diagnostic or other more involved services or treatments.
Pendleton Community Care, as a Federally Qualified Health Center, has a mandate to serve those with the least access and highest barriers to health care service. As Hudson describes, FQHCs focus on “providing quality care, getting required screenings, encouraging them to get preventative health care, and being there if they need something more acutely.”
These centers receive funding to work with “underserved areas or populations” to provide preventative care. Low income patrons can qualify for discounted services and/or medications on a sliding scale until they reach 200 percent of the poverty line.
Partnering with mobile health care facilities represents a logical extension of those mandates.
Later this year, PCC will provide flu shots to immunize those who desire them. COVID immunizations may be available, depending on government guidance on them. Hudson said, “We never know what the recommendation will be on COVID.”
In an effort to maximize health care resources, PCC recently collected survey information that was sent to every potential patron of the clinic. “We want to find out if they used this facility or not, and if they didn’t, find the reasons why they didn’t. If they did, are there other services that they needed,” Hudson said.
“Sure, there are things we can’t do, but we will be reviewing all of the suggestions.” She said that the board will then “see what can be done.”