Sentara rolls out fourth mobile healthcare unit in Virginia Leave a comment


PETERSBURG – Sentara unveiled its fourth mobile-care vehicle in Virginia Thursday, one that one company official called a step “to create greater health equity” in a city traditionally considered the commonwealth’s unhealthiest. 

In front of about 50 people in the parking lot of the Petersburg Public Library, representatives of the healthcare delivery system and Petersburg cut the ribbon on the newest of the Sentara mobile-care bus fleet. It’s the first one dedicated to a location in central Virginia – the others are in Tidewater and northern Virginia. This one will serve Petersburg and other central Virginia locations within an hour’s drive of the city.

Glenda Ruffin is a Sentara community health worker who will serve as the liaison for the local mobile-care unit, which contains two fully functioning exam areas and will be staffed by doctors, nurse practitioners and other healthcare professionals. Think of it as a traditional doctor’s office, only on wheels. 

“Whatever you go to your primary care physician for, we’ll be able to provide those services,” Ruffin said. 

The Sentara bus will start taking patients June 1 and will be available two days a week. It will bide it’s time for now between the Hope Center on Commerce Street and the library parking lot, but the company expects to expand that service to other parts of the city in the near future. 

In addition to providing comprehensive healthcare services, the bus also will be a rolling hub for behavioral health, and social support services. Sentara officials said long-range plans call for women’s health services also to be provided on the bus. 

“Health and well-being are not just the absence of illness and disease, but a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being,” Matheis said. He called the mobile unit a chance “to meet our community members where they are, where they work, play, live and more.” 

The Sentara bus is part of the “Partnership for Petersburg” program the Youngkin administration rolled out last August to address 49 areas of concern in the city, one of them being access to health care. The University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute has ranked Petersburg as the unhealthiest of all 133 localities in Virginia, and one of the factors cited is that access. 

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“When we started our work here in Petersburg, one of the things we discovered is that there are a sufficient number of medical services throughout the community, but people have a really difficult time getting to them,” state secretary of health and human resources John Littiel told the audience. “And it’s really important that we don’t sit around and wait for people to go get the care, that we bring the care to them.” 


Mobile healthcare bus opens for business

Leaders from Petersburg, the state and Sentara cut the ribbon on the healthcare system’s latest mobile healthcare unit that will serve Petersburg.

The Progress-Index

Following Littiel’s remarks, he, Matheis and others cut a ribbon officially opening the service. Attendees were given the chance to tour the bus and see what it has to offer. 

Petersburg leaders in attendance for Thursday’s ribbon-cutting included City Manager March Altman, Sheriff Vanessa Crawford and state Sen. Joe Morrissey. Mayor Sam Parham was not at the ceremony, but representatives of the event said he was expected later to tour the bus. 

Ruffin, the local health worker and bus liaison, said the unit will start seeing patients at 9 a.m. June 1 at the Hope Center and at 1 p.m. in the library parking lot. Walk-ins are welcome or appointments can be made by calling (703) 523-0998. 

During the ceremony, Sentara also announced a $2 million behavioral health innovation fund aimed at improving access to behavioral health services across Virginia. According to a Sentara news release, the fund will focus on enhancement of response times, improving access, finding innovative ways to deliver care and enhancing partnerships with what the company called “safety-net providers” in the behavioral health space. 

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Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at or on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.

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