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Archdiocese of St. Louis to open free, mobile, medical clinic for rural patients

The mobile clinic will start in Washington and Franklin counties in December 2018.
St. Louis Archdiocese
The mobile clinic will start in Washington and Franklin counties.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is partnering with Rural Parish Workers and Catholic Charities of St. Louis to open a mobile clinic so people who are uninsured can have access to free primary care services.

After two years of planning, the three organizations hope to have the clinic running in December.

Working with a team of volunteers, Sister Marie Paul Lockerd, is a primary care physican  who  Archbishop Robert Carlson asked to establish the clinic. And she will  will serve as the primary physician for the clinic. There will be one other primary care doctor and nine nurses.

“This is going to be volunteer-driven so that will save us the money that we can utilize for patient care,” Lockerd said.

The mobile clinic will start in Washington and Franklin counties. An estimated 14 percent of the residents in Washington County are uninsured. In Franklin County, an estimated 11 percent of residents are uninsured.

“These are your working poor, the ones that have jobs and are trying to make a living,” Lockerd said. “The statistics in Washington County, for example, only 68 percent graduate from high school. It’s definitely one of the poorer counties in Missouri and that’s why we want to start there.”

Lockerd pointed to the overuse of emergency rooms. She hopes the clinic will be able to serve uninsured patients who might otherwise rely on the more costly emergency rooms for primary care.

“We hope to save tax dollars from people who would normally end up in the E.R. and have to be a write-off for that emergency room,” Lockerd said.

The mobile clinic staff will collaborate with local agencies who offer free medical services to ensure they’re providing the most care in the most efficient way.

“There’s a mammogram truck that comes for free mammograms, so we will utilize those services,” Lockerd said. “We don't want to compete with services and we want to work with all of the other health care systems in the local area.”

The team will use a specially equipped RV for the clinic, and they are working with area parishes to establish logistics for when and where the clinic will be available and how to reach potential patients. 

The mobile clinic team is also working with the three main health care providers in St. Louis: Mercy, SSM Health and Ascension for services like X-rays imaging and medical record management. In the future, Lockerd said she would like to expand services to provide more acute care.

“There [are] many physicians who have offered their services, but we’re going to start with just myself and one other physician,” Lockerd said. “We hope eventually to be able to have speciality physicians.”

Follow Emma on Twitter @ems_lorraine