Health on wheels

Island Health Care goes mobile and offers incentives to employees who bike to work.

Island Health Care has added a mobile health van to provide more space to see patients. Because it takes up parking spots, the clinic has provided incentives for employees to ride bikes to work. - Brittany Bowker

You may have noticed a 34-foot RV parked outside Island Health Care, a community health center at the Triangle in Edgartown. The refurbished van will serve as a freestanding clinic next to their current site.

“We’re using it for extra space,” Island Health Care’s CEO Cynthia Mitchell told The Times. “We are such a small facility, and the demand for health care is so big, so having this additional space is going to allow us to see more people.”

The van journeyed to the Island on May 22. It was a gift from Duffy Health Center, a health clinic for homeless people in Hyannis. The mobile health center served the Barnstable County for 10 years.

“The mobile health clinic served us well,” said Duffy Health Center CEO Heidi Nelson in a press release. “We will continue to serve patients from all across Barnstable County; however, the service is no longer in alignment with our long-term strategic plan.”

“It was a very generous gift,” Mitchell said, “We will use it well.”

The mobile health clinic provides a fully equipped exam room, a small nurses’ station, an area for lab work, and a consulting space. According to Mitchell, it will take a few weeks to be fully functional, as repairs and refurbishments continue.

“It’s not going to drive around,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to stay right where it is.”

The RV takes up four parking spots next to the building, which inspired Mitchell to start a new initiative for Island Health Care employees.

“This is the book we gave them,” Mitchell said, holding up an orange paperback by Peter Walker called “How Cycling Can Change the World.”

Island Health Care implemented an alternative transportation program, offering a monthly stipend for employees who stop driving their cars to work.

“We have 31 people who work here full- and part-time,” Mitchell said. “Eleven have made the commitment.”

“I park offsite and walk to work,” Kathleen Samways, director of QI/Enabling Services, said. “It increases my activity level, which is great.”

Medical records clerk Priya Esposito also committed to finding alternative ways to get to work. Like Samways, she also parks offsite and walks.

“If we were going to take away precious parking spaces, we had to give something back,” Mitchell said.