The City of Opelika has partnered with East Alabama Medical Center and Auburn University to provide health care to underserved parts of the Opelika community.
The city is providing a bus and retrofitting it to serve as a medical resource. EAMC will provide medical services from the bus.
“The Tiger Transit Company donated the bus,” said Joey Motley, Opelika city administrator. “The city has raised contributions from local churches and organizations to retrofit the bus into a mobile clinic.”
Remodeling the bus will cost about $200,000, and it will be leased to the EAMC for $1 per year. The City of Opelika will provide the bus, maintenance and a driver, Motley said.
“We’ve had buy-in from Sunday school classes with a few hundred dollars, to the two dollars [individual donations], to the large donations from foundations,” Motley said.
Many different organizations have donated. The Housing Authority gave $60,000, the Opelika Rotary Club gave $35,000, Golden State Foods gave $25,000, BVA Bank gave $10,000 and Auburn Bank gave $10,000, Motley said.
The bus is undergoing renovations in Greensboro, North Carolina, and should be in operation in the spring, Motley said.
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The bus will have a generator, two exam areas with full exam tables, an office, a rest-room and storage space. Caregivers will be able to perform basic health-care services inside the bus.
“Many of the details are still being ironed out, but we hope to be operational by late spring of 2020,” said Michael Barlow, population health manager at EAMC. “We will equip it and staff it for the perceived needs of the community, but these services could evolve over time.”
This project is similar to one in Gainesville, Florida, in which the city partnered with the University of Florida College of Medicine to create a bus that serves a similar purpose.
“We have a site visit to [Gainesville], Florida in a few weeks where we have heard great things about a mobile bus system they have in place,” said Michael Barlow, population health manager with EAMC. “We hope to glean some ideas from them on how best to be effective and efficient while providing high-quality compassionate health care.”
EAMC’s first priority is to cover underserved areas, Barlow said. They will look to expand covered areas and provide relevant services to better provide for the community.
“It will be free if you don’t have any [insurance] coverage,” Motley said. “Of course, if you have insurance, they’ll take an insurance card, but if you don’t have insurance, you can go to the clinic and get treatment.”
The bus is expected to serve Wards 1 and 2 in Opelika, though coverage can change and expand. When looking for places to expand, the city will look to include areas that have problems with transportation, low income or similar issues, Motley said.
“You can try to improve the quality of life of citizens, and this is a very needed service in certain areas of our city,” Motley said. “[The fact] we were able to do it without any taxpayers’ dollars being involved speaks volumes for the kind of community that we have.”
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