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Comer Gets a New Mobile Clinic -- and This One Fits Under Bridges

By Sam Cholke | November 10, 2015 5:45pm
 Comer Children's Hospital unveiled its new mobile clinic on Tuesday, which replaces an aging semi the hospital had used since 2003.
Comer Children's Hospital unveiled its new mobile clinic on Tuesday, which replaces an aging semi the hospital had used since 2003.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

SOUTH SHORE — The Comer Children’s Hospital’s mobile clinic has gotten a major overhaul — now it fits under bridges.

On Tuesday, the hospital unveiled its new mobile clinic at Excel Academy of South Shore, 7530 S. South Shore Drive, a converted RV that replaces the aging semi-truck that hospital had used since 2003.

“It was sort of falling apart, literally, and we wouldn’t have been able to continue without this,” said Felecia Morelon, the program manager of the clinic.

The old semi-trailer would head out to South Side schools four days a week and administer free immunizations, health screenings and mental health check-ups from the parking lot of 36 schools.

 Comer's mobile clinic travels to schools on the South Side and provides free vaccinations, health screenings and other services.
Comer's mobile clinic travels to schools on the South Side and provides free vaccinations, health screenings and other services.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

But it would take forever to get there, if it got there at all, according to the staff that ran the program.

Because of the size of the truck, it would often have to travel miles out of the way to find routes underneath the low set train tracks that crisscross the South Side and some days would just have to cancel entirely to do another round of repairs on the aging vehicle.

“Last year was pretty quiet years as far as repairs,” said Dr. Icy Cade-Bell, a pediatrician at Comer that helps run the program. “A lot of the problems were when you take it in for repairs, the parts are obsolete.”

The new mobile clinic solves some of the staffs’ headaches simply by being shorter and able to fit under a railroad viaduct.

Inside the converted RV, it’s a reminder how low-tech primary care medicine can be. There are two doctor’s office-style examination beds, a couple blood-pressure cuffs and cabinets full of basic immunizations and the syringes to administer them.

The $325,000 mobile clinic was funded through a grant to the Children’s Health Fund by Morgan Stanley.

“They asked, rarely does something happen unless someone asks you,” said J. Steven Austin, Midwest regional director for Morgan Stanley. “We bought the van and had it built to the specifications of Comer.”

Cade-Bell said the new mobile clinic will roll back onto the South Side’s streets tomorrow and will attempt to visit schools five days a week through the school year and make 1,400 visits with kids this year.

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