Skip to main content.

Migrant health in Solano County: Medical and dental care on wheels

Fellowship Story Showcase

Migrant health in Solano County: Medical and dental care on wheels

Picture of Richard Bammer
Photo via Flickr
County Family Health Services sends mobile clinics to Dixon Migrant Center, Vacaville, Rio Vista
News Bank
Friday, September 30, 2016

The idea is to bring medicine to the people, especially to the homeless, the poor and migrant workers, where they live and work. Literally to the streets of Solano County. 

County Family Health Services operates two mobile clinics, medical and dental, housed in gleaming bus-sized vehicles, as ways to reach out to those in need, in keeping with the agency’s mission to help the uninsured, low-income, and the medically underserved. The mobile services are in their inaugural year. 

A physician assistant assigned to the mobile medical clinic, Alex Duplantier, with help from two medical assistants, provides primary and urgent-care services, pregnancy tests, lab referrals, diabetic treatment, physical exams. Besides ordering medications for patients, she can also order medical screenings, risk assessments and referrals to primary care physicians. 

When the van made its weekly Wednesday visit at the Dixon Migrant Center earlier this month, she noted the common medical conditions afflicting residents at the Radio Station Road center. 

Among the adults who work the area’s vast farms and ranches, they include repetitive motion and “overuse” injuries, diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease), allergies, liver and kidney disease, cuts, and more common ailments such as colds, sore throats, flu. Among their children, as with all children, the more common ailments are colds, sore throats, flu, cuts and scrapes. 

The center — an abandoned U.S. Navy installation on the far outskirts of Dixon now operated by the Yolo County Housing Authority — is home to some 80 Hispanic families and the site of Dixon Migrant Child Development Center. The mobile clinics drop by every Wednesday afternoon during the center’s seasonal occupancy, April to early November. (The mobile clinics also make once-weekly stops in Vacaville, on Tuesdays, and in Rio Vista, on Thursdays.) 

FHS employees in the mobile dental clinic provide essential dental services for children and adults. 

Wednesday, Dr. Sukhjinder S. Dhillon and Amy Packer, a registered dental assistant, staffed the clinic on wheels and prepared to examine center resident Maria Marin, the mother of two, who sat in the chair as Packer took X-rays of her teeth and gums. 

Most clients have health insurance, Medi-Cal, but if they do not have medical insurance — either Medi-Cal, Medicare or Healthy Kids, Partnership HealthPlan of California, or Covered California — “They have to apply for health insurance,” said Patrick Stasio, a health assistant with the Public Health Services division of Solano County Health and Social Services Department. 

Seated on Wednesday in a bare room in the center’s main offices, the congenial 84-year-old Navy veteran said the migrant adults suffer from other medical conditions, too, including obesity, heart problems, and high blood pressure. 

He recounted the story of a recent client, a 55-year-old woman who drove a tractor for a living and, at 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 300 pounds, suffered from obesity, diabetes, sleep deprivation and breathing problems. 

The children he encounters, as he helps parents fill out Medi-Cal forms, are typically afflicted with respiratory problems, asthma and allergies, and sometimes medical problems brought on by exposure to chemicals and pesticides adhering to their parents’ work clothing worn into the home after a long, tiring day, he said. A former Navy corpsman who retired as a master chief petty officer, he was not specific, however, and provided no documents to confirm his statements. 

“Their health has been neglected,” asserted Stasio about the migrant workers. “Their diet is sometimes poor. It’s hard to pinpoint (why they suffer from the medical conditions they have).” 

But, he added, “The mothers are very conscientious of their children’s health care.” 

“These folks are not stable,” continued Stasio, a native of Visalia, a Central Valley farming community. “After November, they might move to New Mexico, Arizona, Texas or go to Florida. If they get Medi-Cal here, they don’t get health care if they move to Arizona or New Mexico or Texas. If we had a national health-care program for migrants, it (their health outcomes) would be a lot different.” 

Shelli Cannon-Dekreek, a health services manager for FHS, noted the mobile dental clinic did not begin providing services at the center until August, because the county “was in the process of hiring a dentist that would be specifically assigned to the van and he (Dr. Sukhjinder S. Dhillon) came on at that time.” 

Since Aug. 24, Dhillon and Packer have provided dental care to 12 migrant farmworker patients. 

Meanwhile, since early May, Duplantier and her staff have provided care to 88 clients at the center, 31 males and 57 females, noted Cannon-Dekreek. 

By ages, the numbers break down this way: Newborns to 6 years, 23; 7 to 18 years, 8; 19 to 55 years, 50; and 56 years and older, 7, she added. 

Based on other data Cannon-Dekreek provided, on a typical Wednesday visits to the medical vans range from 2 to 4 to 8. 

At press time Thursday, Cannon-Dekreek could not be reached to provide budget figures for the clinic’s daily operations or how much the fully-equipped vans cost upon delivery to county officials. 

What do the mobile clinics offer? 

Solano County Family Health Services operates a mobile medical clinic, which provides primary and urgent-care services, pregnancy tests, lab referrals, diabetic treatment, and more. The van is staffed with a physician assistant and a Spanish-speaking intake worker. To contact, telephone 553-5509. 

The mobile dental clinic, staffed with a dentist and registered dental assistant, provides essential dental care. 

To contact, call 469-4670. 

Van schedules 

• Mondays: To be determined 

• Tuesdays (all but the second Tuesday of each month): Epiphany Lutheran Church, 300 West St., Vacaville. Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

• Wednesdays: Dixon Migrant Center, 7290 Radio Station Road, Dixon. Hours: 3 p.m. to dusk during the center’s seasonal occupancy, April to early November. 

• Thursdays: Rio Vista Cares, 628 Montezuma St., Rio Vista. Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

[This story was originally published by News Bank.]

[Photo by Ed Bierman via Flickr.]