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HealthFirst to Offer Patients Free Rides with New Van

healthfirst van

For some residents in the city, not having a car means not always making it to doctor’s appointments.

The HealthFirst Family Care Center, a community clinic located in the Flint, has known this for years. Having transportation for these patients has been on their wish list for just as long.

Their wish has come true in the form of a brand new Ford Transit van that will provide free patient transportation to and from physician and dental appointments at HealthFirst.

“It’s going to be great for us and for the patients,” said HealthFirst CEO Julie Almond. “It will help knock down the transportation barrier we’ve talked about for years.”

The van will operate Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. When patients make an appointment, they can also set up transportation. The van will offer service for same day appointments when space allows.

“I think it’s a great, great help for our patients,” said Dr. Khalid Anila, a dentist at HealthFirst.

Anila said transportation is a problem for a lot of patients who have to “look to others for a ride.”

The van can hold up to seven passengers and is wheelchair accessible.

“It’s very adaptive to whatever the needs are,” said HealthFirst Facilities Director Barry Pelland.

Pelland said the van will be equipped with car seats for babies and children. The driver, to start sometime in July, will have a cell phone to communicate with HealthFirst regarding pick-ups and can call patients if he will be late or is on his way.

“We know our no-show rates are going to drop drastically,” Almond said.

Some eight to 12 patients each day miss their morning doctor’s appointments. Overall, the no-show rate is 25 to 28 percent, according to Clinical Director Linda Medeiros.

The new van was purchased with a $41,000 grant from MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency.

It cost roughly $39,000, with the remainder of funds used for signage and other related costs.

“This will help the center be more efficient,” said Laura L. Canter, executive vice president of Finance Programs at MassDevelopment. “It’s something with a relatively small dollar investment ... that is so important to a community.”

Healthfirst has grown its patient base to some 9,600 patients in recent years. The center expects the addition of the van to continue to increase its number of patients.

“We’re very excited to break down the barriers to quality health care,” said Chief Medical Officer Christoph Sahar.

To learn more about HealthFirst Family Care Center and its programs, visit healthfirstfr.org or call 508-679-8111.