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Health Department’s Mobile Medical Unit Set to Arrive

WHEELING – The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department’s mobile medical unit will be launched soon.

Speaking at the Board of Health meeting Tuesday, department administrator Howard Gamble said the new unit will be picked up in Columbus next week and driven to Wheeling, where finishing work will be done.

A surface area is available where the unit can be parked. Gamble said the department is in discussion to secure an enclosed storage space for the large unit, which is 27 feet long and 11 feet tall.

The unit will be used primarily for Project HOPE’s medical outreach to the local homeless population. New Life United Methodist Church on Wheeling Island donated $100,000 for the unit’s purchase.

In other matters, the Board of Health voted to give department workers one-half day off on Dec. 24; state officials have declared a half-day holiday for Christmas Eve and a full-day holiday on Christmas. The health department’s office will reopen Dec. 26.

The board also approved its 2020 calendar of six meetings. Sessions are scheduled at noon on Jan. 14, March 10, May 12, July 14, Sept. 8 and Nov. 10. Special meetings can be held as needed, the administrator noted.

Dr. William Mercer, county health officer, and three other representatives of Project HOPE attended the 15th annual International Street Medicine Symposium, held in Pittsburgh in October.

“In the world, there are 90 street medicine programs. We (Project HOPE) are one of 90 in the world. What we do here is significant,” Mercer said.

Locally, about 100 homeless people, including approximately 40 women, are sleeping outdoors now, he said. Five of the women are pregnant; arrangements have been made for them to see a local obstetrician, he added.

Youth Services System’s Winter Freeze Shelter is opening on Friday, a month earlier than usual, to accommodate women only, Mercer said. The change is necessary because the Salvation Army’s shelter no longer accepts women.

The Winter Freeze Shelter, which is located in the Hazel Atlas Building, 87 15th St., will begin accepting men again in December, at its normal opening time for the season.

During current weekly visits to homeless encampments, Project HOPE volunteers are treating abscesses, giving breathing treatments and administering flu shots and hepatitis A vaccine. Volunteers also are trying to get the homeless into primary care settings through Wheeling Health Right, Wheeling Hospital’s family medicine residency program or private physicians, Mercer said.

The latest influenza reports shows the number of cases in West Virginia rising from sporadic (the second lowest ranking) to local, which means more cases are being reported, Gamble said.

Meanwhile, a national outbreak of measles and hepatitis A is continuing.

Gamble said New York, California and Maine have joined West Virginia and Mississippi as states that allow only medically-based exemptions from mandatory requirements for childhood immunization.

The stricter regulation “is what they need to do to prevent their outbreaks,” he added.

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