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Organizations Partner To Offer Free Medical Screenings


Editor's note: Because of the threat of severe weather, this event has been postponed until early next year.

A full day of medical services for people who cannot afford to pay will be offered this weekend in Pensacola. “It’s a day of serving the poor and vulnerable. Many people who have never seen a physician before will be able to come and get a physician check-up” said Jules Kariher, the Chief Advocacy Officer for Ascension Sacred Heart Florida.

It's called the Medical Mission at Home, and it happens Saturday, October 19, at the Brownsville Community Center in Pensacola. “We have Medical Mission at Home events in every ministry in all the states in the country. So this is a really neat event. It’s our second one here in Pensacola.” The first Pensacola event was held two years ago.

This year there will be more screenings and health care professionals available at no charge. There will also be referral services to make sure patients can have a medical home and access to health care long after this one day event is over. “When my son is sick, I take him to a pediatrician right down the street who has seen him ever since he was a baby. Many of these folks don’t have that kind of a physician. So when they leave this event, they will have a follow-up appointment at Community Health (Northwest Florida), and they will have a physician that they can call their own that will get to know them, know their history. And that’s really the purpose of the event.”

Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital will be partnering with Community Health Northwest Florida during the event. “We are going to be able to forward those patients over to Community Health (Northwest Florida) so that we can make that patient our primary care patient” said Sandra Donaldson, the director of Patient Engagement for Community Health Northwest Florida. “We, as the providers, will be able to more thoroughly assess that patient and get them channeled into their own provider. So these types of events are very important. To be able to get into the community where patients can assess our services. And then that way we can get them into our offices and be able to continue their services by offering a wealth of other resources that our organization offers.”

Community Health Northwest Florida used to be known as Escambia Community Clinics, and is a non-profit offering comprehensive healthcare service to medically underserved people in the Pensacola area.

Some of the screenings and referrals offered at the Medical Mission at Home include dental checkups, mammograms, blood glucose tests for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure checks. Vision screens will be offered with free reading and prescription glasses for patients. HIV tests will also be offered. “That’s (from) the Department of Health" said Kariher. "They are another partner with us for this event and they are going to be coming with their HIV van where you can get a free screening if you choose. The Department of Health is also coming with Hepatitis A vaccines. We have a huge Hepatitis A outbreak in Florida (and) folks that come will have the opportunity to get a vaccine.”

People who attend will receive a bag of food for their family while supplies last, and Community Health Northwest Florida will offer assistance for people in need of social services. “What we’ve been able to do is go out in the community and meet families where they (live)" said Donaldson. "By offering resources, whether it’s from housing, food or utilities, those things that will otherwise keep them from being healthy. So when we are able to speak with these patients we are able to learn so much about them. (Things like) ‘I have diabetes and, by the way, I’m homeless’. ‘I’m pregnant and, by the way, I’m in an abusive relationship’. So how can we as, not only an organization but as a community wrap our resources around these patients to be able to identify their needs and focus more on those things that are keeping them from being healthy."

After the Pensacola medical mission event two years ago, Donaldson said 100 individuals were referred to Community Health Northwest Florida. "And that (includes) dental, women’s health, primary care (and) vision. So meeting these patients at these types of events is imperative for us to be able to make that initial contact. If we do these things well, then these types of events would be obsolete.”

The Ascension Sacred Heart Medical Mission at Home is Saturday at the Brownsville Community Center on West DeSoto Street in Pensacola. All services are free and everyone is welcome. If you have medical records available you are asked to bring them, however you do not need to bring anything with you including ID. You will be asked to fill out a registration form. The event runs from 9am until 3pm.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.