Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 | 2 a.m.
A Las Vegas mother brings her infant to the Nevada Children’s Health Project Mobile Medical Unit in desperate need of help. The baby needs surgery on his tongue because he couldn’t latch onto her breast to feed.
There’s another problem: The mother is a refugee from Uganda with limited resources. She also doesn’t speak English.
The mobile project was able to get the infant the needed care at no cost, including communicating with the mother through a phone-translation service.
And last year, a family of eight from the Congo that spoke Kinyarwanda, a language that can’t be Google translated, needed treatment for intestinal infections. They were treated at the mobile health care center without having to leave their apartment complex.
“One of the biggest barriers refugees have is locating specialists and care providers who are willing to provide culturally sensitive care with interpretation in the family’s native language,” wrote Pamela Douglass Girgis, a pediatric nurse practitioner who helps run the clinic, via email.
“One would think this is a basic right, but unfortunately this is not reality.”
The mobile project, a blue trailer converted into a medical facility, gives free exams, referrals, medication and lab testing to any child or young adult up to age 21 who lacks health insurance or is on Medicaid. At least 60 children are seen each week at the mobile clinic, which is in a different part of the valley on weekdays.
The mobile project is a partnership between Nevada Health Centers, a nonprofit with three health care clinics in Nevada, and Children’s Health Fund, a nonprofit in New York supporting mobile medical programs across the United States. Children’s Health Fund provided startup funds and gives money every year that, along with other donations, helps Nevada Health Centers sustain the program.
Many of the patients are homeless teenagers, refugees or child sex trafficking victims, officials said.
“Many factors such as socioeconomic status, cultural understanding, language barriers and health literacy have created a gap in health care equality for a growing number of Southern Nevadans,” said Michelle Schmitter, vice president and executive director of the Nevada Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Nevada Health Centers.
The mobile center, which debuted in 2018, parks in at-risk areas throughout the valley.
On Tuesdays, it’s at Embracing Project, a center for sex crime victims ages 12-21 on East Charleston Boulevard. Many of the children and young adults seeking care suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, drug addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
On Wednesdays, the mobile health care team parks at Bossa Nova Apartments on Algonquin Drive in central Las Vegas, where there’s low-income housing and many refugee families. And on Thursdays, the health care trailer parks at Nevada Health Centers clinic for women, infants and children near Boulder Highway and Tropicana Avenue. Sex trafficking is prevalent in that area.
They stress that walk-ins are always welcome — and it goes beyond sick visits, immunizations and health screenings. They also provide counseling services in substance abuse, suicide prevention and health education.
It’s more than a career — it’s a calling, Douglass Girgis says. She runs the operation with a medical assistant, receptionist and three nurses.
“This is my passion, my dream, caring for the underserved,” she said.
Call 800-787-2568 for appointments. Or simply show up.