Foundation to launch free mobile health-care clinic

Sue Guinn Legg • Apr 15, 2013 at 9:46 PM

The St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation is preparing to launch a new mobile clinic to provide free medical care to low-income residents of underserved communities across East Tennessee.

Representatives of the Knoxville-based foundation said a specially adapted vehicle for the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic has been ordered from Lifeline Mobile and work is under way to have it fully staffed, equipped and ready to begin making regular and recurring visits to rural communities in the Tri-Cities area and across East Tennessee this fall.

The clinic will provide a full range of medical services including patient evaluations, screenings, lab work, immunizations, patient education and follow-up care on return visits to patients’ communities.

John Deinhart, staff officer for the foundation, said the clinic’s goal is to help improve Tennessee health outcomes that continue to rank among the lowest in the nation in areas including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

The clinic’s focus will be in 29 of the 36 counties served by the Knoxville Diocese that have been identified as medically underserved or without affordable health care options for the poor, uninsured and medically indigent.

“In East Tennessee what we see is the larger cities, Knoxville, Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities, are OK. But there are pockets around all those cities where people struggle to get affordable health care. The mobile clinic will be in those pockets regularly. There is a significant need in (communities surrounding) the Tri-Cities and the mobile medical clinic will be very present here, regularly,” he said.

Sister Marianna Koonce, a medical doctor and Navy veteran who formerly served as director of a military hospital ship, will serve as medical director and executive director of the mobile clinic.

Deinhart said Koonce will spend the next four to five months building a network of community partnerships with existing clinics and labs across East Tennessee and with individual doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who will provide volunteer support for the mobile clinic through the St. Luke Guild.

The St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation was created in 2011 by Sisters of Mercy, a religious community of women that has been providing teachers to Johnson City’s St. Mary’s School since the 1950s.

In 1930, Sisters of Mercy established St. Mary’s Memorial Hospital in Knoxville and two years ago sold the hospital to Health Management Associates and used the proceeds to the launch the foundation to provide direct financial assistance for education, health care and charitable services.

In November, the foundation awarded its first round of grants totalling $625,000 to 12 recipient organizations including the St. Anthony’s Bread food pantry in Mountain City, Catholic Charities’ Samaritan’s Place residential program for low-income seniors in the Knoxville area and the Diocesan Office of Health Services that will operate the new mobile clinic across the East Tennessee region.

Deinhart said the mobile health clinic will receive ongoing grant funding from the foundation.

“It will be coming this way. And it will be here regularly,” he said.

More information about the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic may be obtained by calling the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville at 865-584-3307 or emailing srmariana@dioknox.org.

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