A new health center on wheels will increase health care access for communities across Riverhead and the North Fork and provide primary and preventive care for those who need it most.
The initiative was launched by Hudson River Health Care, a community health provider with three centers on the East End — Riverhead, Greenport and Southampton — and a total of nine in Suffolk County serving over 185,000 patients annually.
The mobile health center has been operating throughout central Suffolk for the past year, expanding to Riverhead and the North Fork in September, said HRH Care public relations and editorial manager Jeffrey Palmer.
Palmer said the mobile health center is “a very large van” with a fully equipped medical exam room inside. A variety of services are provided, including comprehensive medical consultations, blood pressure readings, some type of cancer screenings, vaccination and nutrition consultations.
Fully bilingual doctors, nurse practitioners, other nurses and nutritionists staff the van, Palmer said. The mobile health center will accept adults and children to be seen.
Patients can be seen regardless whether they have health insurance or not, Palmer said. He added that HRH Care works on a sliding fee scale based on family size and income to determine fees.
“We serve absolutely everyone. We want to provide primary health care for those who don’t have easy access to it,” Palmer said. “After patients have been seen in mobile health center, we can follow up with them at the health center and even arrange transportation if needed.”
HRH Care canvasses the area and makes agreements with community organizations, farms, vineyards, mental health organizations and any other groups that are interested in the service. HRH Care then prearranges a visit on a specific day to go and park the van at a certain location for patients to be seen there.
“Our hearts tell us that ensuring health care access for all is essential for improving quality of life, and the right thing to do,” HRH Care president and chief executive officer Anne Kauffman Nolon said in a statement.
Palmer said that HRH Care operates several health centers in the Hudson Valley where they also have a mobile health center in partnership with Archcare in that region. He said that the results “were so great and had had so much success” there, that they wanted to do the same for Suffolk County.
Palmer said the van was first purchased through funds raised at the HRH Care Foundation’s annual Honoring the Hands benefit.
At this year’s benefit, celebrated in July at Martha Clara Vineyards, HRH Care partnered with Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, Long Island Wine Council, Long Island Farm Bureau, Jonathan Russo and Deborah Grayson, and Ron and Joanne Goerler of Jamesport Vineyards to raise funds to expand services for communities across the North Fork region, said Palmer.
Together they raised $70,000 to cover the operational costs of the mobile health center van for the year, said Palmer.
North Fork Spanish Apostolate executive director Sister Margaret Smyth, one of the organizations that has partnered with HRH Care so their mobile health center can go to their location in Riverhead, said she welcomed “with open arms” the initiative.
“What a wonderful future we have to look forward to, when the North Fork is known as the healthiest place to live in the United States,” she said.
Palmer said HRH Care believes the mobile health center can make a difference in people’s lives, and added that “the best cure is prevention.”