UF added a new stop to its Mobile Outreach Clinic last week. Every Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., workers will station the mobile unit at Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC) off of Hawthorne Road.
The clinic aims to reach those without insurance or adequate insurance who often do not have access to them.
The clinic provides similar medical care as a primary doctor, including treating abscesses, ordering diagnostic tests and prescribing medication. The clinic also serves as an access point into other UF Health programs.
Each patient also receives a community care coordinator. Dr. Grant Harrell, medical director of the Mobile Outreach Clinic, said these coordinators are undergrad students trained to address lack of transportation, unstable housing and other social barriers that prevent people from accessing medical care.
“Patients who come to the mobile clinic don’t just get typical primary care experience,” Harrell said. “They also get the opportunity to have that care coordinator who functions like an advocate for them as they try to work towards managing their health issues.”
Around 80 percent of long-term health issues arise from social concerns such as access to housing, jobs, good food, safe places to exercise and social support, according to Harrell.
Through these care coordinators, the clinics seek to address these social concerns as well as basic health needs.
The mobile clinic travels to Highlands Presbyterian Church on Tuesdays, Gainesville Community Ministry on Wednesdays and GRACE Marketplace on Thursdays.
Harrell said they would keep the clinic at GTEC as long as it continued to help. He said he hopes the clinic can begin to add more permanent infrastructure.
But facilities aren’t the ultimate goal.
“You can only do so much in a clinical environment,” Harrell said. “You really need to empower individuals to take charge of their personal health but also empower them to bring health education to their circle of influence, outside the walls of the clinic.”
The City of Gainesville and UF are looking to install a more permanent medical base in East Gainesville.
Mayor Lauren Poe along with city commissioners Saco and Hayes-Santos each submitted proposals to use money from the American Rescue Plan to fund a medical center on the east side of the city in partnership with UF.
“A top priority for UF Health is addressing health inequities and disparities and, accordingly, expanding access for underserved populations in Gainesville and surrounding areas to better address these issues and improve health outcomes,” UF Health said in a statement last month.
UF Health said it identified a lack of after-hours and weekend medical care and is actively planning with Alachua County stakeholders about using university-owned land between SE Hawthorne Road and Southeast 8th Avenue.