Clinica Bus

Clinica Sierra Vista employee Victor Dominguez helps load one of the health provider's two 44-foot mobile clinics Thursday before setting off to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas. 

Harold Pierce / The Californian

Responding to devastating conditions in southeastern Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey, a local health provider packed two mobile care units Thursday morning and sent them into the deluge.

The units, operated by Bakersfield-based nonprofit Clinica Sierra Vista, contain examination rooms, dental chairs, bathrooms, and all the instruments and supplies necessary to respond to catastrophe — something it has been sent out of state to do for a handful of natural disasters.

“We’re going to be serving the patients of these health centers that are out of commission. They’re flooded, can’t be used and are underwater now. We’re going to go where the Texas folks tell us to go and provide a space for their care,” Clinica Sierra Vista CEO Steve Schilling said.

Clinica Sierra Vista announced the move in a press release Wednesday addressed “To Texas, with love.”

One unit is headed to the Stephen F. Austin Health Center in Alvin, a suburb roughly 30 miles south of downtown Houston. The other will travel to Sugarland, about 20 miles east of Houston.

In the past, Clinica Sierra Vista has sent teams to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which battered the gulf coast in 2005. Doctors were flown in and out on a weekly basis, Schilling said.

This time around, there are enough physicians in Texas, but nowhere to practice. Many health care centers have been rendered useless by the torrential downpours and resulting floods.

“We go where the need is,” Clinica Sierra Vista Director of Community Relations and Public Affairs Jennifer Self said. “With these mobile units, it’s easy to do.”

Schilling began organizing the response this weekend while attending a conference for national health centers in San Diego. He sought out Jose Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, who took Schilling up on his offer to send aid.

So Clinica Sierra Vista employees loaded up the 44-foot converted box trucks with cases of water, medical supplies, hand sanitizer, and other necessities before departing on the 25 hour drive.

When they arrive, they’ll leave those units there “as long as Texas needs them,” Schilling said.

And if it turns out that they need more physicians to assist with relief efforts?

“We’ll send them,” Schilling said.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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