GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — The Ohio University Women’s Health Clinic is working to bridge the gap in women’s healthcare by offering various services, including a mobile cancer screening unit.
The mobile medical unit will be in Gallipolis City Park to offer cancer screenings to women on Oct. 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Ohio University Heritage Community Clinic with the Women’s Health Clinic has provided women’s mobile cancer screening clinics throughout southeastern Ohio with the mission “to improve women’s health in the region,” according to the press release sent.
“What we do at our women’s health clinics is, on our unit we provide clinical breast exams, pap tests, pelvic exams, chemical tests, navigation as well as lots of women’s education,” said Carole Merckle, assistant director Community Health Programs and Area Health Education Center.
Merkle said the program is setup to offer women same-day services.
“We link with either mobile mammography and/or healthcare systems to be able to provide same day mammography at those clinics as well,” Merkle said. “So, it’s sort of a one-stop shop. Women can get their complete cancer screenings in at the same appointment, so there’s no room for missed opportunities.”
Offering same day services has been an effective way of care, Merkle said.
“What we’ve found over the years is when we don’t provide all these services at one time, it’s often found that women don’t go back and have the rest of the screenings completed,” Merkle said. “We started, quite a few years ago, trying to partner with healthcare systems or mobile mammography systems to make sure that we had you know, that the full screening’s done on the same day at the same appointment times.”
Merkle said this is the general practice unless something happens with the mobile mammography unit.
The screenings are offered to all women, those who are uninsured, underinsured and those insured.
“Our quality health services are provided at no cost to women throughout southeastern, Ohio,” Merkle said. “We don’t turn anyone away. We do no billing, we’re part of the Free Clinic Association, the Ohio Clinic Association Charitable Health Care Network, and we have funding that we write grants [for] and get funding through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project of Southeastern Ohio and other funders.”
Those outside of southeastern Ohio are welcome, but the funding comes from other sources.
While the unit will be setup in Gallia County, residents from the surrounding area are welcome, according to Merckle.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Merckle said.
Merkle said they have partnerships with several hospitals to ensure women have access to the proper care. She also said the mobile unit is meant to help women with the work/life balance.
The unit has worked with employers and others to setup and give women the opportunity to be seen.
“That’s another great part of that work/life balance, making sure that we’re there and accessible when women have the opportunity to have the services,” Merkle said. “We’re trying to break down those barriers to make sure that appointments and the convenience pieces built into this as well. “
Merkle said the schedule tends to fill up quickly, so she recommends making an appointment. She said if there is a walk-in, they would try to fit them in if there is space on the schedule.
Another key service the organization offers is helping women navigate further testing and/or treatment if needed and help ensure basic needs are met.
“We don’t just see them and you know, ‘we’ll see you later’,” Merkle said. “We also get the results of their tests and make sure we follow through with that and make sure that they get to their follow-up appointments and things like that, do reminders and make it easy to help them. We do social determinants of health screening for all of our patients. Trying to break down barriers to care, so finding out, do you have transportation issues, do you have a food insecurity, do you have a place to live, those kind of things as basic needs.”
The organization also offers gas vouchers for appointments, grocery vouchers and they have a pantry with food and hygiene products.
“In some instances, we’ve helped patients with utilities and other things too,” Merkle said. “It’s hard to focus on health if your basic needs aren’t met.”
Appointments can be scheduled by calling 740-593-2432 or 1-800-844-2654.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @bhively1 or reach her at (740) 444-4303 ext 2555.