For years, it's been a burden for some patients to get to the Kern County Public Health Services Department's clinics in outlying regions of the county.
In some cases, patients without transportation must walk a mile down Weedpatch Highway from Arvin to get services. In others, like Mojave, patients must pass through metal detectors in a government building to access care — something not everyone is willing to do.
Amid budget cuts, it has become harder to fully staff clinics across the county on a full-time basis, Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine said.
Enter the bus.
The gleaming, $330,000, 40-foot-long behemoth, which came by way of Ohio, boasts two exam rooms, an ADA-compliant bathroom and a sleek, contemporary design.
“This is an exciting new venture for public health,” Constantine said Tuesday while unveiling the new mobile clinic. “What is behind me this afternoon is more than a medical mobile clinic. This represents a significant shift in how Public Health responds to the community.”
The bus will serve as a mobile clinic for public health staff to take to rural outlying towns like Shafter, Lake Isabella, Ridgecrest, Mojave, Arvin, Lamont, Wasco and Taft to supplement existing brick-and-mortar facilities.
Services provided will include immunizations, tuberculosis testing and reproductive care services, among other things.
“It will make it much easier to obtain services,” Kern County Assistant Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan said. “We realize that our brick-and-mortar clinics aren’t necessarily the most convenient locations. Families sometimes have to walk down very busy streets for miles with their strollers in order to get to our services, and now we’ll be in much more conveniently located areas.”
It also frees up resources because it alleviates the need for the department to have full-time nurse practitioners stationed at every clinic around the clock, Constantine said.
And in the event of a catastrophe that requires a public health response — like the 2016 Erskine Fire, for example — it can be transformed into a mobile command center with a wifi internet connection and real-time patient data.
The mobile clinic will be operational and coming to outlying communities by June.