Medical house calls are a rarity, particularly at Vega Place Senior Apartments, where most of the residents are on Medicare.
That is changing, however, and it could be catching on elsewhere.
Through a new program, partially supported by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, doctors and nurse practitioners are visiting many of the 109 residents at Vega Place, a government-subsidized apartment complex for senior citizens and people disabilities.
It’s called the House Call program, said Ja’net Huling, who dreamed up the idea, which has received a three-year $176,000 HUD grant.
Huling said the goal is to help people “to age in place longer and better.”
Everyone benefits by keeping as many people as possible out of more expensive nursing homes and hospitals.
Huling said many seniors don’t get the care they need. Some have trouble traveling or getting rides. They don’t like the long wait at the county hospital and they don’t like seeing a different doctor each time.
“It’s a problem of access” said Dr. Ray Lewis, a Fort Worth geriatric specialist who will oversee the house calls at Vega Place.
Lewis said preventative medicine always is better and less expensive.
“If we can keep people out of nursing homes and hospitals, it can have a positive effect on the entire health system,” Lewis said.
“The House Calls program is not a HUD program. However, we think it is a great idea and would like to see it duplicated in other projects for the elderly and disabled,” said Patricia Campbell, a HUD spokeswoman.
“This really was Ja’net’s idea. Many of the residents there don’t have transportation and this could be a real benefit to them,” Campbell said.
Huling said the word is getting out and mangers of similar apartment facilities have begun contacting her to find out how they might do something similar.
She said about 90 percent of the residents at Vega Place will qualify for house calls.
“I’m glad it’s here,” said Jewell Williamson, 69. “I’m OK now. I don’t need a whole lot of doctoring, but it’s good that it’s here in case I need it.”
Lizzie Phillips, 69, president of the Vega Place residents association, said having regular visits by doctors and nurses will help her stay healthy longer.
Ruby Howars, 75, has had three strokes along with osteoporosis, chronic fatigues syndrome and joint problems in her legs.
“Oh, this is wonderful,” she said. “I hate to have to call people to come and take me to the doctor.”
She said now she can get the regular blood tests she needs without having to leave her apartment, and that means she will have her blood checked more often.
“Please tell everybody this is wonderful,” Howard said.