Sister Sara K. Proctor, program coordinator of Catholic Free Mobile Medical Clinic (Bus!).
The Catholic Charities Free Mobile Medical Clinic (CCFMMC) was launched fifteen years ago as Catholic Mobile Medical Services (CMMS) out of concern from Bishop Robert N. Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg that more needed to be done to address the medical needs of the migrant workers and their families in the rural poor areas of eastern and southern Hillsborough County. Advocates identified three issues which prevented the farm workers from getting basic health care: time, travel, and cost. To overcome those hurdles, CMMS began operating from a bus and traveled to locations easy for people to get to. It offered health services when health centers were closed and the services were free. “With the bishop’s support we went from a borrowed bus to own our bus and having three walk-in clinics,” said Sister Sara K. Proctor, coordinator of the program. “The Holy Spirit was very much at work.”
More than 1100 patients received medical care or screenings from CCFMMC in 2015-16 totaling over 200,000 discrete services (tests, diagnostics, etc.). Sister Sarah credits the volunteers for the success of the program. “Without the volunteers, this would not be possible,” she said.
Physicians and other health and social service professionals volunteering with CCFMMC provide primary medical care; routine well woman exams; disease prevention; screenings for high blood pressure and diabetes; nutrition classes to learn to cook healthy foods and read food labels; salsa classes to help with weight problems; and work physicals. “I added work physicals to our list of services because they help people get jobs,” Sister Sara said.
Additionally, the CCFMMC bus-based services include Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center free and confidential on-site services for adolescents, women and families facing the issues of pregnancy, including pregnancy tests, limited ultrasound, options counseling, and medical and community services referrals. The bus makes regular visits to Bethel Mission in Wimauma, San Jose Mission in Dover, Good Samaritan Mission in Balm, and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wimauma.
Sister Sara said that while the CCFMMC provides primarily basic health services, there are notable, sometimes life-saving, exceptions like the time a young man visited the clinic at San Jose Mission and the doctor sent him to the hospital because of a kidney failure diagnosis. Additionally, there was a case when a doctor discovered a heart murmur on a young patient during a routine visit. The mom told the doctor she knew about the heart murmur, but did not have the resources to get additional screenings. Sister Sara and the doctor worked with a pediatric cardiologist to get the patient into surgery and today the patient is healthy. over the past 6 months the care of just two patients save the healthcare system over $20,000 dollar. “These stories are not frequent, but if we were not here to treat the small aches and pains, we would not see the life threatening illnesses,” Sister Sara said.
To volunteer or make donations to CMMS contact Sister Sara at (813) 707-7376 or (813) 645-1714.