MILTON — Nearly 50 Valley residents took advantage of Geisinger’s mobile health services bus Tuesday to get some lab work and a quick check-up at a stop in Milton.

Geisinger’s mobile lab is making the rounds across Geisinger facilities in the Valley and northeastern Pennsylvania as a way to close the gap for patients who have been missing preventive care screenings or preventive health care.

Theresa Krumbine, manager of Community Medicine Service Line Best Practice Team, said the mobile unit is still in its infancy but has become a popular destination.

“We have only been doing this for a month, so we’re still testing the waters,” she said. “We’ve had almost 50 on the schedule today, and only a few have canceled. We’ve been busy.”

One of the unit’s primary focuses is diabetes management and prevention. Systemwide, Geisinger cares for more than 45,000 patients with diabetes annually and sees an average of 500 new diabetes diagnoses a month, according to a news release from the health care system. With patients perhaps missing appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Geisinger has narrowed the travel time and brought the care to the patients, Krumbine said.

“This is very nice, very convenient,” said Wayne Wetzel, of West Milton, after his screening. Wetzel said he does like to visit the clinic in person, but the stop Tuesday was welcome. “If I have questions, I like to talk to a doctor, but to just get some information or lab work, this is awesome.”

Krumbine said many patients feel more comfortable in the mobile unit, especially during the coronavirus outbreak.

“For some patients, it’s a safer zone out here,” she said. “Not that our clinics aren’t safe, but patients feel safe here. They are able to get the care they need without being exposed to the clinic.”

The mobile unit allows for blood to be drawn, urine samples collected, height and weight checks, blood pressure screening and eye exams. There is also the capability to do a mammogram.

All patients were prescreened for COVID-19, Krumbine said. In accordance with COVID-19 precautions, patients are contacted and scheduled for appointments on the bus. Before boarding the bus, patients will be screened by having their temperature taken and will be required to wear a mask. Appointments are being separated to allow for appropriate social distancing and additional cleaning between visits.

Working in a different atmosphere than a normal lab can present a challenge, phlebotomist Leanne Gross said.

“It’s enjoyable,” she said. “The quarters are a little bit different, the layout is a little different, but so far it’s not bad.”

Lorie DeGreen came from Watsontown for her appointment and enjoyed the short trip to Milton.

“It’s a great idea,” DeGreen said of the lab. “It helps a lot of people know where they stand. Good they came here, we don’t have to travel far.”

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