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Mobile clinic arrives to provide health care to homeless in Oceanside

A mobile clinic run by the nonprofit organization TrueCare set up shop in North County to provide free medical and dental care, and its first stop was Brother Benno’s Center in Oceanside to help homeless people facing to health problems.

“It’s so exciting,” Brother Benno Foundation Community Outreach Coordinator Dennis Pinnick said as he stood outside the mobile clinic on Monday. “It’s something our founder Harold Kutler has wanted for many years.”

Brother Benno’s began as a soup kitchen in the early 1980s and since 1991 has been located at 3260 Production Ave. in a building that once belonged to Kutler, who died in 2017. It provides meals, clothing, a recovery program and other services for the homeless, but had not offered medical care until the mobile clinic will debut on the site on October 31.

Inside the 36-foot-long vehicle, Dr. Jorge Otañez and two medical assistants examined several patients, drawing blood, prescribing medication and referring people to labs if they needed X-rays or further care.

“For me, it’s the same as seeing a patient in a clinic,” he said of the vehicle, which includes an exam room and equipment for physical exams, medical women’s health, behavioral health, chiropractic treatments and vaccinations. “He has everything I need.”

Otañez said more than half of the patients he’s seen at Brother Benno’s had some sort of skin condition, such as a fungal or bacterial infection, which he said wasn’t surprising.

“Many patients don’t have the opportunity 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 have to work with other people to provide them with what they need. It’s teamwork.

Otañez said he treats patients who haven’t seen a doctor in three or four years and who may not know what conditions they have.

The new mobile medical clinic serves about 12 to 15 people during each four-hour visit and costs about $600,000, which was funded by donations and money from the American Rescue Plan Act administered by US Health Resources and Services.

TrueCare also has a mobile dental clinic that serves approximately five people per visit. Both vehicles go to Brother Benno’s every other Monday.

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

Brother Benno from Oceanside is visited by TrueCare Mobile Health Clinic every second Monday from 8am to noon.

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

“They helped me a lot,” he said. “They cleared an infection with antibiotics.”

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

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

Another patient who did not want to be named described the clinic as extremely helpful and said he had blood drawn from the vehicle to diagnose a medical condition.

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

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

Irene Torres, TrueCare’s senior operations manager, said the mobile clinic was scheduled to visit a senior center in Perris on Tuesday and has attended an event at MiraCosta College and other locations since its launch.

“It was a population with the greatest need that we found,” she explained why TrueCare scheduled weekly visits to Brother Benno.

The new mobile service is a homecoming 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, he launched a health center at Casa de Amparo in San Marcos.

TrueCare plans to launch two more mobile clinics in the near future and should be able to reach an additional 3,500 people per year with the expanded fleet.

California Daily Newspapers

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