CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Children at three Bradley County schools have an extra source of medical help -- a pediatric clinic on wheels.
The pilot program is one of 44 Ronald McDonald Care Mobile clinics around the world.
The clinic, staffed by Dr. Melissa Hamp from Children's Hospital at Erlanger and nurse practitioner Wendy Beck, is at Ocoee Middle School on Mondays. Two days each week it is at Waterville Community and Black Fox elementary schools.
Those two elementary schools have more children this year because students from Blue Springs Elementary School were transferred to them after that school was destroyed by last April's tornadoes.
The mobile clinic is supported by Ronald McDonald Charities, Children's Hospital at Erlanger, SkyRidge Medical Center and the Bradley County Schools' Consolidated School Health program.
Parents have signed medical permission slips and supplied medical information at each elementary, allowing the school nurse to refer children to the clinic as needed. If the pediatrician sees a need, the child could be taken to SkyRidge and then Children's Hospital, officials said.
"Our philosophy is healthy students learn better, behave better and perform better in the classroom," said Andrea Lockerby, director of the Consolidated School Health program.
"We also know there are times when parents need to bridge the gap," she said. "Sometimes they have a hard time getting their children to the doctor, whether it be their work schedule or the time of day the child is sick. All those factors come into account."
With a grant from United Way of Bradley County and help from Erlanger and SkyRidge, the former traveling dental clinic was refitted to become a full pediatric clinic.
"We are a full-service medical van," said Wallis Davies, child care life manager for the Care Mobile.
Inside the van are two exam rooms. On Monday, a pediatrician, nurse practitioner and an Erlanger representative were onboard.
"It's a wonderful partnership," Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said. "Our goal is to keep children in school. Anything we can do to improve good health, that's what we are about."
Ocoee Principal Ron Spangler said parents are just getting acquainted with the pilot program.
"It may diagnose an illness at the onset and get treatment and get the child back in school quicker," Spangler said.
The clinic is not for walk-in patients.
"We saw a great opportunity to take care of children on site here, a lot of kids who may not otherwise get that help," said Coleman Foss, SkyRidge chief executive officer. "And if they need additional lab work, additional diagnostics, we knew this makes sense."
The clinic by no means replaces the family's pediatrician, Davies said.
"We in no way want to be the medical home for the child," she said.
Contact staff writer Randall Higgins at email@example.com or 423-314-1029.