CHP mobile health van serves pediatric patients

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PITTSFIELD — Telehealth visits have surged during the coronavirus pandemic, but for pediatric patients, necessary medical care cannot always be provided remotely.

That's one reason why Community Health Programs launched a mobile practice for its young patients. On Friday, two vans with medical supplies on hand to see young patients through in-person visits hummed in the parking lot of Morningside Community School.

The vans provide a mobile, clean environment for doctor visits away from the CHP Berkshire Pediatrics offices at the Medical Arts Complex, said mobile health unit coordinator Katie Race.

"Our families, they didn't want to go into the hospital; a lot of people were so afraid to go into those crowded areas," she said. "To have this, it really is private; you're the only one in the area, and it takes a huge stress off."

One adult and one child are allowed inside each medical van to see a practitioner, she said. Patients and their caregivers are screened for flulike symptoms before they are allowed inside for their appointment.

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Vaccinations are given to infants and children on a schedule. Dr. Jacqueline Jones, a pediatrician who was seeing patients at the mobile health van Friday, said it is important that families stick to their immunization schedule during the pandemic, in order to help keep preventable pediatric illnesses from surging after COVID-19 subsides.

"It's so we don't get through COVID and then have outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles," she said. "That was one of our biggest fears."

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Race said CHP Berkshire Pediatrics practitioners have provided about 500 "child well-visits" from the mobile health vans since the program launched in mid-March.

Later, Jones said, "our families today are stressed, and it's nice to provide some familiar faces."

Lyndsey McDermott agreed. She brought her 1-year-old son, Luca, to the mobile medical van Friday. She said telehealth visits have fit the medical needs of her daughter, who is 3. Given Luca's age, it was key to make sure he was hitting developmental benchmarks.

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The middle school teacher said she has been trying to prevent her children from being exposed to the virus.

"It's the stress of not knowing if someone who's been around them has been sick," she said.

Outside the mobile health van and away from the traditional doctor's setting, she said she tried to see the bright side of the pandemic wherever she can find it.

"Assuming we never have another global pandemic, I will never, ever get this time with my kids again, so I'm just trying to breathe it all in, process it to the best that I can and let it ride," she said. "All I can do is take the best measures that I can to protect my family, by limiting their exposure, and not going into really public places."

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle and 413-496-6296.


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