Alcorn, NRMC: Get on the bus

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 29, 2012

NATCHEZ — When it comes to basic health care, it’s time for the people of southwest Mississippi to get on the bus.

Those who do might not have to go anywhere, but they just might get a referral to a doctor.

Alcorn State University’s Natchez Campus and Natchez Regional Medical Center have partnered to take the Alcorn mobile health unit into the rural areas of Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilkinson and Claiborne counties to make access to health care easier for rural residents.

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“(NRMC) approached us with a concern about their desire to reach the underrepresented population in rural southwestern Mississippi, who don’t have easy access to basic health care,” said Ruth Nichols, senior director of community outreach and partnership development for Alcorn.

“Many of our citizens in southwest Mississippi don’t even have a primary care physician.”

The mobile health unit will make stops at places like churches, community centers and store parking lots, NRMC Director of Marketing Kay Ketchings said.

“Part of the hospital’s goal has been to expand our community outreach efforts,” she said. “We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t have the ability to bring it there like Alcorn does with their mobile unit.”

The mobile health care units will offer free blood pressure screenings, body mass index and bone density screenings, and will offer educational materials to patients.

In addition to providing basic health care to constituents, Nichols said those who use the mobile units will be given information about what kinds of routine screenings they may need. Those screening may include colonoscopies or mammograms, Nichols said.

Because the mobile units can’t provide that level of health care, they will provide referrals to doctors who can.

But Ketchings said those referrals won’t necessarily be to doctors associated with NRMC.

“One of the main things we wanted to do when we go into these areas was not let the local health care providers feel threatened,” Ketchings said.

“If they say, ‘I have never had a screening I need,’ we have a resources directory for that county that has all their health care providers listed, and we will tell them to take it, find (a provider) and establish yourself as a patient.

“The most important thing is making health care accessible for people.”