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Mammography bus dedicated
Mammography bus dedicated

From St. Joseph's Mercy:

After more than two years, life-saving mobile mammography is back on the road in southwest and south central Arkansas.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mercy Hospital Hot Springs unveiled and dedicated the new Mercy Mobile Health Services Van before a crowd that included co-workers, volunteers and donors.

“Mammography rates are extremely low in Arkansas and by providing this service we can help get women to mammograms. That will ultimately save lives and that’s what we’re all about,” said Mercy Hot Springs President Tim Johnsen. “It has been a life-saver in many cases and the women of our communities very much need this service.”

The arrival of the health services van is the culmination of the work of the St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Foundation, community members, the Mercy Hot Springs Volunteer Auxiliary ($300,000 pledge), co-worker and private donations.

The bus, at a cost of more than $700,000, was ordered last October during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month after a $25,000 donation from the Olds Foundation of Amity. To commemorate that donation, the Mercy Mobile Health Services Van began its inaugural tour of the region with a stop at Amity City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

“The van has been a community effort with funds raised from the foundation, volunteers and co-workers,” said Marsha Oliver, Operations Manager for Women’s Services at Mercy Hot Springs.”They knew that we had this great need and they wanted to make sure that we met that. So we cannot thank them enough for all their efforts.”

Mercy Hot Springs previously operated a mobile mammography van. But it was decommissioned more than two years ago, leaving the region without the service. There are no fixed mammography services in Grant, Pike and Montgomery counties. Clark County (Arkadelphia) has the third highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Arkansas. Grant County (Sheridan) has one of the state’s lowest numbers of physicians (2.9 per 10,000). And Montgomery County (Mount Ida) has one of the highest percentage of female residents 40 years and older (53.1 percent).

The lack of access put women at a higher risk of late-stage breast cancer and death. And it made a difference for Debbie Gregor of Royal, Ark., who had her breast cancer detected at an early stage by Mercy’s previous mobile unit.

“I’m very thankful I went on a yearly basis for quite some time. Had it not been for the mobile down there that day when I went, my time might not be here right now,” Gregor said.

The new Mercy Mobile Health Services Van is 40-feet long and will travel throughout south central Arkansas. It is one of only five mobile units in the state and the only unit to serve Garland, Saline, Clark, Montgomery and Pike Counties.

It features the latest technology, including digital mammography – the same equipment utilized in the Mercy Women’s Center in Hot Springs. Slide-outs expand the intake and waiting area before patients enter the imaging suite, a separate room with a private changing area. The van also has a wheelchair lift to ensure accessibility.

The Mercy Mobile Health Services Van connects to Mercy Hot Springs’ electronic health record and MyMercy, making results available in the same timeframe as office visits.

“We’re so excited about having this top of the line van along with digital mammography,” Oliver said. “It is going to be going to those communities to reach those individuals who cannot come in here to have a screening mammography.”

Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in deaths among women in the United States. Only 53 percent of women 40 and older reported having a mammogram in the past year. In Arkansas, the American Cancer Society has estimated that 1,820 female Arkansans will be newly diagnosed and 410 will die of the disease this year.

Between 80 and 90 percent of all breast cancers in women without symptoms will be found with mammography. When it is contained in the breast at Stage 1, there is a 98 percent survival rate.

The public is invited to tour the van and the latest technology and ask questions of the staff during a tour of the region. The van will be at:

Tuesday, July 24

  • 9 a.m.-Noon              Mercy Hospital Hot Springs             300 Werner St., Hot Springs
  • 3 to 4 p.m.                Amity City Hall                               121 East Thompson St., Amity

Wednesday, July 25

  • 9 to 11 a.m.              Gurdon Post Office                         110 East Joslyn, Gurdon
  • Noon to 2 p.m.          First United Methodist Church         107 North 9th St., Arkadelphia

Thursday, July 26

  • 9 to 10 a.m.              Malvern Senior Adult Center            830 West Moline St., Malvern
  • 11 a.m. to Noon        Poyen School                                14296 Hwy. 270 W., Poyen
  • 1 to 2 p.m.                Sheridan Recreation Center             1511 South Rose, Sheridan

Friday, July 27

  • 8 to 9:30 a.m.           Mercy Clinic Mt. Ida                        320 Luzerne St., Mt. Ida
  • 10:30 a.m. to Noon    Mercy Clinic Glenwood                   234 E. Broadway, Glenwood
  • 1 to 2:30 p.m.           Mercy Clinic Murfreesboro               319 E. 13th St., Murfreesboro