ALBANY — Rural southwest Georgia residents will gain greater access to health care through $1 million in federal funding that will allow Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to double the number of mobile health units it puts on the road.

The hospital operates two of the mobile wellness clinics, and the funding, announced by U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, Tuesday, will allow for the purchase of two additional units.

“The first two were funded by the Phoebe Foundation,” Phoebe President and CEO Scott Steiner said during an announcement ceremony during which Bishop and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas also delivered remarks. “The mission then was to deliver vaccines.”

The two initial units have been to 284 locations in 18 counties, served 36 businesses and industries and administered almost 7,700 COVID vaccines, Steiner said.

But the mobile wellness clinics are outfitted for much more than giving shots, he said.

The health system CEO said the units will be used to provide prenatal care, behavioral health services, pediatric specialty telehealth visits, do health screenings and present educational programs and materials. Phoebe also is expanding its partnership with Flint River Fresh, an Albany-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to fresh and healthy food in the area and which will provide free produce at some clinic events.

“There is a dearth of health care providers in our rural communities,” Bishop said during an interview following the announcement. “This will help to address that.

“I hope it will extend the availability of the wonderful state of the art health care Phoebe is able to deliver to this area of the state.”

A number of other initiatives also are planned, including one to boost training in medical careers in the area, the congressman said.

“They’re all designed to make health care more available to the residents of southwest Georgia,” he said.

“Dougherty County is grateful for the funding for the units that will benefit the entire region, particularly those who are prevented from traveling to a facility like Phoebe due to lack of transportation, their finances or distance,” Cohilas said.

“This is an incredible ask and a critical gift for us to have here, and it took a lot of hard work. This will literally go and meet them where they are. This literally delivers health care services that are not emergencies.”

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