Sentara Does a Very Good Thing

Courtesy Sentara

by James C. Sherlock

Sentara brass will not believe that I wrote that headline. We have a history.

But right is right.

A Sentara mobile care unit will start June 1 to provide primary care service two days a week in two separate locations in Petersburg.

The people of Petersburg desperately need it. That city is rated the Commonwealth’s least healthy jurisdiction.

Without good primary care, a health system never has a chance.

The partners in providing the mobile unit are Sentara, Potomac Health Foundation and Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center Auxiliary.

Congratulations to all of them.

Exam Area. Courtesy Bill Atkinson Progress-Index

Sentara has made a recent long-term commitment to mobile care in underserved communities.

The initiative began during COVID and has quickly expanded. This vehicle is the fourth of its mobile care fleet. The others serve Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

The unit that will serve Petersburg contains two exam areas. All serve both Medicaid-insured and uninsured patients.

Sentara has announced that:

This new model of care provides neighborhood-level access to primary care and behavioral health services while also focusing on addressing the root factors that greatly influence a person’s health and well-being beyond the care that we deliver inside of our medical facilities.

Sentara has not yet released details on the behavioral health services to be offered.

But it well knows that the mission is harder than it may sound. Sentara will have to build trust in among Petersburg residents who have not had a history of good medical care and may not trust what will happen when they show up to be examined.

The city and the patients’ Medicaid Managed Care providers must make every effort to assure them.

Locations, dates and times:

Petersburg Public Library
201 W. Washington St. Petersburg, VA 23803
When: Every Thursday (and reportedly one other day TBA)
Time: 2pm – 5pm

The Hope Center
827 Commerce St., Petersburg, VA 23804
When: Every Thursday (and reportedly one other day TBA)
Time: 10am – 1pm

Bottom line. The Governor/Mayor Partnership for Petersburg, of which this is one of the 49 initiatives, continues to make important advances.

Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel spoke for the Governor at the ceremony.

His Virginia Department of Health will need to see how well this goes and assess demand for primary care in excess of what Sentara’s mobile system winds up providing. Petersburg remains a prime target for a primary care Health Enterprise Zone on the Maryland model.

For it is primary care where the return on investment will be found in improving the health of the people of Petersburg and other underserved Virginia communities.

By the time many residents arrive as patients at Bon Secours’ Southside Regional Medical Center (a basket case when Bon Secours charitably took it over) many have been too sick for too long from undiagnosed chronic illnesses.

The emergency room must not continue to be where chronic illnesses are first diagnosed and treated only when they have done their damage.

Secretary Littel’s ambitious program to re-invent Virginia’s $14 billion in Medicaid Managed Care contracts promises innovations starting next year to better support such primary care programs as mobile care and to strengthen quality and accountability.

But this is about Sentara and its partners. They should be proud of themselves for stepping up.

All Virginians thank them.