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COVID-19 rural clinic bus made in Roanoke could be first of many

Vehicles would reach underserved commnities.

The bus makes it easier to take COVID-19 shots and other care to inner city and rural areas.
The bus makes it easier to take COVID-19 shots and other care to inner city and rural areas.

ROANOKE, Va – A mobile COVID-19 relief clinic built in Roanoke may be the first of many to help reach underserved communities in Virginia.

The original vehicle, an RV converted into a clinic with the addition of specialized, medical-grade equipment and monitoring systems was built in Roanoke for Hampton University.

In the time since, STX Inc., which is based in Ashland, Virginia, has received interest from other parties and foresees the possibility that a number of these clinics may one day be rolling out to help underserved communities whether they be in the inner cities or rural communities.

“People who are getting left out are always the same people getting left out. Older people, minorities, people in geographically isolated areas. This brings us to a point where we can now reach out to people who can’t reach in,” said STX President Terry Looney, whose company specializes in the design, building and construction of laboratories.

Looney believes the life of such vehicles will extend beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID’s not going to be around forever, but the vehicles are going to be around a lot longer. And we’re building in such a way that they are more or less convertible and modular. So there’s a lot of opportunities for other uses to get to these communities that don’t normally get coverage.” explained Looney.

He said he is still not sure how a fleet of mobile clinics might come into being, but he is looking at options that might include major hospital systems, the State of Virginia or others.

What’s important, he said, is that they have proved the clinic can be built and that it works.

“I think mobilization of COVID vaccine distribution is critical to getting to underserved communities, and of course in Hampton, the story of underserved communities is mostly underserved urban communities. Being in Roanoke, there are other underserved communities in rural areas. And I really believe the mobile units have more value there,” Looney said.

He said that if there are additional orders, he plans to continue to create the clinics in Roanoke.

About the Author:

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.