Health

WZZHC using new medical coach to expand healthcare efforts

Photo caption: On March 17, the WZZHC reported on social media that it received a customized RV medical coach, and the vehicle will be used to travel into communities across the Osage Reservation to reach more individuals for vaccinations and other services. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

As COVID-19 vaccination efforts increase thanks to supply availability, the Osage Nation Health Services Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center announced the arrival of its long-awaited medical coach to bring mobile healthcare services into the communities.

On March 17, the WZZHC reported on social media that it received a customized RV medical coach and the vehicle will be used to travel into communities across the Osage Reservation to reach more individuals for vaccinations and other services.

The WZZHC also reported that it purchased two medical coaches, with the second one yet to be delivered to the Nation. At a later date the WZZHC said it plans to have a ribbon-cutting event for the medical coaches.

On March 23, the newly-arrived medical coach, decorated with Osage ribbonwork and images by Osage artists, made its public debut at the two back-to-back vaccination events held at the Hominy and Grayhorse village community centers.

In recent weeks, Osage, along with several other Oklahoma tribal nations, expanded their COVID-19 vaccination eligibility criteria at a faster pace than Oklahoma and other states. Starting in early March, the WZZHC now offers the vaccine to all individuals (Osage, Native American and non-Native) who are age 16 and older at its vaccination events.

Local and national news outlets noted the tribal vaccination efforts and challenges and reported on them. News media outlets in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, as well as The New York Times and CNN reported on the Osage vaccination efforts. CNN also came to the Osage Reservation with a TV crew that traveled with the WZZHC staff aboard the medical coach to the March 23 Hominy and Grayhorse village vaccine events.  

“We’re wanting to take the vaccines to people,” Laura Sawney, WZZHC chief compliance and operations officer said in a Facebook post. “We often get questioned ‘why are not people showing up?’ Sometimes people can’t for whatever reason make it in to get vaccinated. So we’re trying to help eliminate that issue or problem by taking the vaccines to them, to their communities, to their backyards. So we hope that by doing this, we’re going to do future pop-up vaccination events, but we hope this will help people be able to get vaccinated who previously couldn’t for whatever reason.”    

The medical coach interior features include patient examination areas and its exterior designs and artwork is by Osage artists Jessica Rosemary Harjo of Weomepe Designs and Erica Pretty Eagle Moore of Pretty Eagle Designs.

Discussions on purchasing a medical coach date back two-plus years as Dr. Ron Shaw, CEO and Chief Medical Officer for the WZZHC, discussed the idea with the ON Health Authority Board. At the time (pre-COVID-19 pandemic), Shaw told the board he believed the mobile clinic is instrumental in reaching more patients for health screenings and vaccinations.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, the WZZHC COVID-19 vaccine hotline can be reached at (918) 287-0076.

Follow the “Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center” on Facebook for updates on the COVID-19 vaccinations, clinic services, planned events and information for patients and individuals.