Medical care on the road

Health Watch

What does a big blue bus have to do with helping the sick? Plenty, if you’re teenager who can’t afford to see a doctor. It’s one hospital’s solution to treating those on the fringes for free.

This is the new face of the uninsured and the homeless.

Kids, almost 40 percent without a home are under the age of 18. And that leads to a new problem when it comes to healthcare.

Lisa Lestishock, RNM, Teen Van – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford said, “You would think that in our country all of our teens would have healthcare. But, as time goes on we’re actually seeing that the needs are increasing.”

And that’s where the big blue bus comes in, better known as the teen van. For more than 20 years, this doctor’s office on wheels has provided care to those between ten and 25. With support from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, all care and medicine are free.

Erika Roland Fernandez said, “I was really surprised that it was free.”

That allows the teen van to focus on those in need.

Megen Vo, MD, Interim Medical Director, Teen Van – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford said, “We can be out in the community meeting kids where they are.”

Nathalie Servin, Social Worker, Teen Van – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford said, “One of the students I’ve been working with, he is 18 years old. He is currently homeless.”

Doctor Vo said, “40% of our patients either are homeless or have been homeless.”

So far, the van has treated more than 45 hundred patients since it started. Onboard are a doctor, nurse, nutritionist, and social worker to address the various needs of the patients.

Lisa Lestishock said, “Every kid that comes to the van gets a pretty comprehensive assessment.”

With a return rate of 70 percent, the team is able to develop a level of trust with patients.

Erika Roland Fernandez said, “Sometimes many teenagers do feel alone. With the social worker, I was able to talk to her about personal problems.”

And that makes all the difference for the teen van’s young patients.

The teen van provides care at schools and community centers within the San Francisco bay area.

Several other programs caring for the underserved are offered in cities across the country.

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