The message at the top of The Health Wagon’s website tugs at the heart: “Poverty doesn’t go away when the world goes to pieces. It gets worse. Your help is urgently needed.”
The Health Wagon has been providing mobile health services in Southwest Virginia since 1980. It’s the oldest mobile clinic in the nation, serving Lee, Wise, Scott, Buchanan, Dickenson and Russell counties and the city of Norton, reaching more than 4,000 patients annually.
Fortunately for the poverty- stricken of Southwest Virginia, there’s a long list of medical services delivered free of charge to be found at thehealthwagon.org.
With your support, foundation grants and help from the Appalachian Regional Commission, The Health Wagon recently opened a $1.35 million clinic site in the Dickenson County Technology Park in Clintwood, adding a new field of constant care: optometric services. The new site is equipped with telemedicine facilities.
While The Health Wagon, in cooperation with local and statewide organizations, has provided eye care services at its annual clinic in Wise County, the new clinic will be the first of The Health Wagon’s sites to provide regular eye exams, related diabetic and glaucoma eye screening, and prescription glasses services.
The University of Pikeville’s School of Optometry will send faculty and students every Monday.
“If patients have an eyeglass prescription less than a year old, we can use that to make new glasses,” said Clinical Director Paula Hill Collins. “While we don’t do eye surgery, the University of Pikeville team can make referrals to specialists.” The clinic also offers services found at the Wise clinic site, Collins said, including physical exams, sports physicals, urgent care, women’s health care and telehealth. Women’s health services will be offered on Thursdays and Fridays.
The clinic will also introduce a digital X-ray capability, Collins said, which will allow an off-site radiologist to review imagery directly from the clinic.
The Health Wagon was founded by Sr. Bernie Kenny with the order of Medical Missionaries of Mary. She came to the Appalachian mountains at the request of the Richmond Catholic Diocese and began dispensing health care from her Volkswagen Beetle.
It continues to strive to meet the unique challenges of health care delivery to the medically underserved and indigent in rural Appalachia.
Through the use of this innovative mobile health unit, health care doors are opened to many needy individuals, families and communities — doors that would have otherwise remained closed.
The success of The Health Wagon is due to your support, not just in donations, which may be made at the website, but in volunteer opportunities — including secretarial work, cleaning, pre-exam interviews and data entry among others.
And if you’re a medical professional, The Health Wagon offers a means of serving the indigent through tours from one to three weeks, working in mobile clinics.
You can make a difference in helping The Health Wagon provide compassionate, quality health care to the medically underserved in our area.