RAM officials announced Friday that the organization is pulling out of its two-decade partnership with Wise-based health care organization the Health Wagon two weeks after their latest event at the Wise County Fairgrounds.
The announcement also came on the opening day of the Virginia Dental Foundation’s annual Mission of Mercy free dental clinic — itself part of the RAM/Health Wagon clinic until 2018, when it moved to UVa-Wise as a separate event.
What was RAM in June will become Move Mountains Medical Mission when it holds its next clinic on the third weekend in July 2020.
“We feel it is the best use of RAM’s time and resources to focus on areas that lack the excellent health care that the Health Wagon, Mission of Mercy, and other organizations are able to provide in Wise County,” said RAM CEO Jeff Eastman. “We are honored to have worked with the Health Wagon and Mission of Mercy in the past and to have served the Wise community.”
RAM spokesperson Kaylen Mallard on Friday said the change shows how the Health Wagon has met RAM’s goal of developing local partnerships in communities where it has helped with medical care.
“The Health Wagon and Mission of Mercy are doing such a great job in bringing together community partners to meet local needs,” Mallard said. “There are so many other needs internationally and nationally, and we want to move on to help those other communities. RAM is there one weekend a year, while the Health Wagon is out in the communities every day.”
Mallard said RAM will still have a presence in the Appalachian region with clinics in Lee County on Sept. 21 and 22 and Gray on Nov. 1, 2, and 3.
Health Wagon Director Teresa Tyson said that the traditional partnership with MoM remains in place, with the physical relocation of the dental clinic providing better conditions for patients and staff during summer weather.
“It’s a good thing, and we’re looking forward to working with our existing partners and with new partners,” Tyson said Friday. “We’ve learned a lot over 20 years and we can do this.”
Terry Dickinson, who is overseeing the MoM free dental clinic at UVa-Wise Friday and Saturday, said that officials of the Virginia Dental Foundation and the Health Wagon are talking about how to coordinate the medical and dental events with the partnership change.
“Nobody who does a Mission of Mercy program in the 31 states where they do it has this sort of program,” Dickinson said of the combination of medical and dental services RAM has provided in Wise County. He said that underlying medical conditions can affect a patient’s dental health, and treating those conditions is as important as providing just the dental care.
“Let’s work with each other and help each other,” Dickinson said.
Tyson said the MoM clinic’s indoor location at UVa-Wise’s David J. Prior Convocation Center helps with patient comfort, and she expects to see a two-site arrangement with MoM at the college and medical and eye care at the Wise County Fairgrounds.
Within the past year, Tyson said, the Philips Foundation has provided an ultrasound machine for the Health Wagon to supplement its mobile chest X-ray van. CVS Pharmacy and the Aetna Foundation helped with June’s RAM clinic to supply health product packages to patients, and several other organizations have continued supporting the annual clinics.
“We want volunteers who have helped with RAM in the past to know that they can continue volunteering through the Move Mountains Medical Mission,” Tyson said.
Volunteers who have been volunteering at the Wise clinic are invited to volunteer at other Remote Area Medical clinics. More information about RAM’s clinics and about volunteering is available at ramusa.org.
Volunteers who are interested in continuing to volunteer with the Health Wagon at the 2020 Move Mountains Medical Mission or future outreach events can call (276) 328-8850 as soon as possible to be added to the volunteer system.