Mobile clinic comes to Oceanside to provide healthcare to the homeless

A mobile clinic run by the nonprofit TruCare has moved into North County to provide free medical and dental care, and the Brother Benno Center in Oceanside was its first stop to help homeless people facing health challenges.

“It’s very exciting,” said Brother Benno Foundation community outreach coordinator Dennis Pinnick, standing outside the mobile clinic on Monday. “This is something that our founder, Harold Kuttler, had wanted for many years.”

Brother Benno’s started as a soup kitchen in the early 1980s and has been at 3260 Produce Ave since 1991. The building was once owned by Kutler, who died in 2017. It provides food, clothing, a recovery program, and other services to the homeless. But medical care was not offered until an on-site mobile clinic was launched on 31 October.

Inside the 36-foot-long vehicle, Dr. George Otanez and two medical assistants examined numerous patients, drew blood, prescribed medications and sent people to labs if X-rays or additional care were needed.

He said of the vehicle, “To me, it’s like I’m seeing a patient in a clinic,” which includes an exam room for physicals, women’s health care, behavioral health, chiropractic treatments and vaccinations, and Tools included. “It has everything I need.”

Otanez said that more than half of Brother Benno’s patients he sees have some type of skin problem, such as a fungal or bacterial infection, which he said was not surprising.

“A lot of patients don’t have the ability to shower every day,” he said. “Many of them also have foot problems because they don’t always have the right shoes and socks. There are times when I want to do more, like I wish I had some socks here that I could give them. But we need to work with other people to provide them with what they need. It’s a team effort.”

Otanez said he has been treating some patients who haven’t seen a doctor for three or four years and don’t know what their condition is.

The new mobile medical clinic serves approximately 12 to 15 people during each four-hour trip and cost approximately $600,000, funded through donations and money from the American Rescue Plan Act, administered by the US Department of Health Resources and Services was.

TruCare also has a mobile dental clinic that travels for approximately five people. Both the vehicles go to Brother Benno’s place alternately on Mondays.

Rick Pruitt, 74, was one of the patients at the medical clinic this week.

Brother Benno of Oceanside has visits every other Monday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Trucare Mobile Health Clinic.

(John Gastaldo / for the San Diego Union-Tribune)

He said, ‘He helped me a lot. “He cleared up the infection with antibiotics.”

Pruitt, who has a rare motor neurone disease called Kennedy’s disease, uses an electric scooter to get around and lives in a mobile home. He said he is a patient of Scripps Health, but his doctor’s office is difficult to reach.

Miguel Avila, 69, was also treated by Otenez on Monday. Through an interpreter, he said he was given medicine for a swollen leg and was referred to a clinic.

Another patient, who did not wish to be named, described the clinic as extremely helpful and said she had blood drawn in a vehicle to diagnose a medical condition.

Pinnick said the clinic would be especially helpful for homeless people who don’t have transportation, and it could provide ongoing care for people who have gone years without seeing a doctor.

“What we are doing is building trust with our population,” he said. “They’re going to see that it’s routine, and people are committed to helping them.”

Irene Torres, TruCare’s senior director of operations, said the mobile clinic was scheduled to visit a senior center in Paris on Tuesday and has been in a program at Miracosta College and other locations since its launch.

As for why Trucare has scheduled weekly visits for Brother Benno, he said, “This was the population with the greatest need that we found.”

The new mobile service is a return to its roots for TrueCare, which began as a mobile clinic in 1971. It has 19 health centers and WIC offices in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, Perris, Ramona, San Marcos and Valley Center. Earlier this year, it launched a health center at Casa de Amparo in San Marcos.

Truecare plans to launch two more mobile clinics in the near future and expects to be able to reach 3,500 more people annually through the expanded fleet.

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