The mobile health clinic provides medical care to underserved rural communities in Washington

James Hanlon
The Spokesman-Review

FAIRFIELD, Wash. — An RV converted into a mobile doctor’s office is providing medical services to underserved communities in eastern Washington.

Range Community Clinic, a nonprofit organization founded by Washington State University, is the first to use a medical facility to deliver vaccines to rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It now operates as a general health clinic, offering primary care services such as screenings, prescription refills and minor surgical procedures.

“Most of what we do is preventative, with the intentional goal of connecting services that patients wouldn’t otherwise receive without disrupting any relationships that people have with doctors in the region,” said Jamie Bowman, one of Range’s doctors.

The mobile clinic, officially known as the William A. Crosetto Mobile Health Care Unit, is named after the late Othello rancher and philanthropist who donated $1 million to the project. The leisure vehicle contains two examination rooms and a toilet, as well as a reception room and a blood test area.

It was parked outside the Fairfield Community Center on Thursday, providing physical education to a line of teenagers eager to play school sports this fall.

“Today will be a tremendous help to the families in this area,” Bowman said.

At this time of year, young people are trying to get fit before starting school, and there is often a shortage of vacancies.

“It can be a real source of anxiety and frustration for families,” Bowman said.

A few years ago, Fairfield, a town of 589 in south Spokane County, lost its only doctor and, more recently, its only pharmacist. Residents now have to drive about half an hour to Spokane or Whitman County to get help.

Fairfield Mayor Jamie Payden and Clerk Cheryl Loeffler worked with Range to bring a mobile clinic to the community center every couple of weeks so local residents could access routine health care. This is the first time the Range has offered this type of routine primary care to the community and is likely to become a model for other rural communities with similar access challenges.

Payden, who is also an EMS volunteer, said many of the calls she responds to could be less serious or entirely preventable if the person simply had access to routine medical care before it became an emergency. “I knew how damaging it could be,” she said.

Residents of the nearby cities of Waverly, Lata and Rockford can also use the clinic, Paden said.

The mobile clinic also stops at the Fairfield nursing home, and Range is considering setting up a telehealth center in the city for the time the mobile clinic isn’t operating there.

In addition to making healthcare affordable, Range is committed to making it affordable.

“Our model is that no matter what, we’ll take care of you,” said Kelly Riley, Range administrator. The clinic offers a sliding scale for those without insurance.

In addition to Fairfield, the clinic visits the Martin Luther King Community Center in Spokane and the Central Valley Center for Student and Family Engagement in Spokane Valley.

The clinic is working to expand to other communities and is developing a branch for the Tri-Cities next year.

James Hanlon’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and members of the Spokane community. This story may be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more detailed information on this matter, contact the editor-in-chief of our newspaper.

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