Alex Community Health Centre debuts its new mobile medical clinic

The Alex Community Health Centre debuted its new mobile health clinic on Tuesday. The new bus comes with many upgrades to provide better service to vulnerable Calgarians.

'When an individual steps on that bus, we meet them where they're at'

The Alex Community Health Centre has a new mobile health clinic staffed with a doctor, nurse and client support specialist. Here, social worker Ange Neil, left, chats with Dr. Deb Putnam. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The Alex Community Health Centre debuted its new mobile health clinic on Tuesday.

The new bus — which replaces the old community health bus that was out of commission for a year — comes with Wi-Fi, better access to the health centre's medical records and improved space for medical and social service care, thanks to support from public funding and private sources like Telus.

Besides providing support and care at no cost to vulnerable Calgarians, it also will deliver medical, social and mental health services to youth as it shares duties with the Alex Youth Health Bus on regular visits to high schools.

"When an individual steps on that bus, we meet them where they're at, what their needs are, and address any of their presenting issues, and so that's the best part about it," said Joy Bowen-Eyre, the centre's CEO.

'A huge impact'

Dr. Deb Putnam has worked as a family physician and doctor at the Alex's Youth Health Centre for more than five years.

"We can see such a huge impact that we make by going to the kids," she said. 

Putnam added the bus has become an important part of the lives of vulnerable Calgarians.

"We try to be a one-stop shop and we create a real community," she said.

Dr. Deb Putnam says mobile medical care has a big impact on the community. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"Some wouldn't have graduated from school, wouldn't have been able to get out of abusive or unsafe environments and would have had difficulty getting free of addiction."

The current youth bus rotates between eight schools, four days a week, and the new bus will allow the centre to visit an additional six schools, three days a week, Putnam said.

"We hear repeatedly from the youth that if we didn't go to the schools, they wouldn't be accessing care.… We know that these kids are likely going to have difficulty going elsewhere for care sometimes, so when they come on the bus, we want to provide them with whatever they need."

Whether dropping in for a snack or in-depth mental health counselling appointments, the youth buses impact the community, Putnam said.

The new bus will also provide care to adults, two days a week. 

Ange Neil is a former client of the Alex who now works as a social worker, referring clients back to the organization. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"The medical bus can help patients who are diabetic and need to get their labs checked regularly, and maybe wound care that they need to have followed," she said.

Ange Neil, a previous client of the Alex, said they now work as a social worker in the community — often sending clients to the Alex for help.

"I think it is necessary in breaking down the barriers that people face in accessing typical health services," Neil said.

Neil said they know a lot of transgender clients, especially youth, who refrain from accessing health services because of fears of transphobia.

"There's a lot of kids that fall through the cracks and they miss out on their health needs — especially our homeless youth," said Neil. 

With files from Dave Gilson