SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Partners for Health Mobile Medical Clinic has served more than 25,000 patients since it started roaming the valley in 2007.
A new and improved, 38-foot version of the clinic hit the streets this week, with the capacity to see even more patients.
"My community will appreciate it forever," said Gilberto "Juan" Rejón Magana, a longtime community advocate and founder of the Hartland Community 4 Youth and Families.
"Hartland needs it," he said, adding that the former mobile clinic — a 31-foot trailer manufactured in 1997 — had gotten too small for the growing needs of the surrounding communities.
"It was cramped and it was difficult to do what we needed to do," said Kurt Micka, Utah Partners for Health executive director. The new trailer will travel to 41 locations throughout Salt Lake and Tooele counties, providing a variety of health care services three days a week.
The mobile medical clinic serves the counties' uninsured population, people with Medicare or Medicaid coverage, or those who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($51,500 for a family of four).
"We don't want anybody that lacks access to care to not get a health care visit," Micka said. "Our mission is to fill the gaps in the health care system."
The effort to reach Utah's underserved populations, including refugees, immigrants and the homeless, is "just what the doctor ordered," said Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who helped cut the ribbon on the clinic at the Hartland Partnership Center on Thursday.
State Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, teaches in the Granite School District and said the mobile clinic will serve an important need, particularly when it is parked outside various schools.
"As a teacher, I know it is so important for our kids to be able to concentrate, listen and learn and they can't do that when they are hurting," she said, adding that kids should also be taught how important health care is throughout their lives, "not just when they're injured, or when they're sick or when they need to do wellness checkups."
The old clinic could get to 10 or 11 patients each day it was in operation, but, with the new one, it is possible to reach 15 to 25 every day, said Maria Zavala, the mobile clinic coordinator with Utah Partners for Health. She said two exam rooms offer more space to see more people.
"There is a lot of people who need it," she said.
Micka said the mobile clinic has two full-time medical providers who can treat acute conditions, sore throats and coughs, influenza, ingrown toenails, but also identify and treat high blood pressure and diabetes, screen for mental health conditions and do wellness exams, including pap smears and breast exams for women.
Most of the care provided by the mobile clinic is free to the patient.
"It makes a huge difference for kids and families to have access to health care in their neighborhoods," said United Way CEO Bill Crim, who also attended the clinic opening on Thursday.
The mobile medical clinic is often accompanied by Charity Vision, a separate mobile eye care clinic, which also provides a service that the surrounding communities need in the form of eye exams and glasses. Eye care is also offered at low or no cost to qualifying patients.
The schedule of locations for the mobile clinic is posted online, at upfh.org, and potential patients can call 385-204-6257 for an appointment.