Photo Gallery: CHP mobile medical van provides services at NARH
NORTH ADAMS -- Although it may not resemble a common doctor's office, Community Health Programs deployed a "relief services" van, with a doctor and other staff, to the campus of North Adams Regional Hospital on Wednesday.
The 35-foot van, which is medically licensed, offered primary, preventative, and some triage medical services to walk-in patients on Wednesday. Dr. Michael Caplan, of CHP's Lee family Physicians, was onboard and had help from two medical assistants, according to Gina Shultis, a spokesperson for CHP.
The van was parked in front of the NARH emergency department with the consent of hospital staff.
While it doesn't provide emergency services, the van can provide a range of other basic services, such as testing blood pressure, or direct a patient to the proper healthcare facility for treatment for his or her ailment. CHP usually deploys the van twice a week, providing the same primary and preventative care, in various South County locations.
"We were set up to provide full primary care," Caplan said.
While the service is temporary, Shultis said " we are in collaboration and constant communication with BHS and ECUhealth care" to assess the community's needs.
There are currently no plans for the van to come back to North Adams, according to CHP's CEO Bryan Ayars. The van could be brought back, however, if it takes several weeks for the Northern Berkshire Family Medicine Practice, which was closed when NARH shut its doors, to reopen, Ayars said.
CHP stepped in for some assistance because "with the temporary closure of the family medicine group, the existing groups are just slammed," according to Ayars. With several physicians working under Northern Berkshire Family Medicine, "that's a lot of patients that were planning to see their provider."
"We wanted to make sure people have access if they needed it," Ayars said.
Berkshire Medical Center worked with CHP to bring the van to North Adams to provide some services to North County. Earlier this week, BMC completed an application for a license to operate a satellite emergency department out of the former NARH facility.
"We had worked with CHP and asked if they would assist...by providing temporary on-site assistance for patients through their mobile unit, and greatly appreciate their services in helping Northern Berkshire residents," said Mike Leary, a spokesperson for BMC.
The van was utilized by some patients on Wednesday, but Caplan worried some North County residents may not have been aware of the service.
"CHP is trying to be helpful in a difficult situation," Caplan said. "I think there are probably a lot of people out there who aren't getting the medical care they need."
In addition to immediate medical care, CPH, which is based in Great Barrington, is aiming to help North County residents access health insurance.
"We have sent up 4 enrollment specialists either on the van or deployed in that area to assist individuals who are in need now of accessing health insurance," Shultis said.