April 11-18, 2007
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Maria Ortiz’s dream is to one day open up a seafood restaurant in her native land of Puerto Rico. The first step toward that dream was enrolling at Connecticut Culinary School (CCS) on Sigourney Street. The second was meeting all of CCS’s requirements, including being vaccinated against Mumps, Measles and Rubella.
Unfortunately, Maria didn’t have a record that she’d received this vaccination and was hard pressed to pay for getting it again as she does not have health insurance.
So last Thursday, Maria took the bus down to St. Augustine’s Church on Campfield Avenue to get her shot at the Malta House of Care’s mobile medical center.
The mobile medical center sets up shop at St. Augustine’s every Thursday from 1-5 pm. On Mondays, the Malta House van serves patients from 1-5 pm at Sacred Heart Church at the corner of Winthrop and Ely Streets and, on Wednesday’s, the van stops at St. Peter’s Church, 160 Main Street, also from 1-5 pm.
The Malta House mobile medical center is designed to provide primary care to uninsured people on a first come, first serve basis. The care offered is strictly primary care, with emphasis on untreated conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and other conditions acknowledged as prevalent in this area.
In addition, routine medications, donated and low cost purchases, are provided free of charge to patients.
Patients who require more advanced care or emergency care are referred to other facilities and physicians.
The need for the services that Malta House provides is clear. Approximately 300,000 Connecticut residents don’t have health insurance, including many in Hartford.
The mobile medical center is primarily staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. The organization’s only paid staff member is Executive Director Barbara Ruel, RN, who also serves as a nurse with the mobile medical center.
Ruel said cases similar to Maria’s are quite common among persons seeking care from the Malta House mobile health clinic.
“Employers, schools and various programs often require physicals, vaccinations and other medical services,” she said. “These are people who are trying to improve their situations but paying for the necessary medical care can be a real barrier. Fortunately, we can provide many of those services – and the corresponding documentation – free of charge.”
The Malta House of Care mobile health clinic opened its doors in July of 2006, and has grown from one half day of service to its current three afternoons of clinic operation. In that time, more than 800 patient visits have been conducted.