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LOCAL

Meritus initiative means patients won't miss appointments because they don’t have a ride

Special to the Herald-Mail
The Herald-Mail

A Meritus Health initiative has made it possible for Joan Yarlick and hundreds of other patients to get to medical appointments they otherwise would have missed due to a lack of transportation.

Yarlick moved to Hagerstown 10 years ago, leaving behind her car in California. To get to the doctor, she had relied on other public and free forms of transportation, but they grew unreliable and unfriendly.

“That’s when I noticed the Meritus vans in the neighborhood,” the Baltimore native said. “The next time I had an appointment, I asked about them.”

Yarlick was among the early users this year of the Meritus Transportation initiative. As Meritus leaders continued to note a barrier for community members receiving care was a lack of transportation, they looked further into the issue.

Meritus Medical Center

“We are committed that no one in Washington County, for any circumstance, will miss a medical appointment due to transportation issues,” said Maulik Joshi, Meritus president and CEO. “Understanding barriers to receiving important care is paramount to improving the health of our community. We will continue to develop and expand our program to support the community’s need.”

Meritus has eight vans, and those scheduling medical appointments are asking patients if they need transportation to coordinate a ride, no matter where in the health system they’re going. The service is already averaging more than 300 rides per week, which equates to more than 15,000 free rides a year.

The Meritus Transportation service is an answer to a problem repeatedly raised by those surveyed in the Healthy Washington County FY 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment: Transportation to outpatient medical services is a barrier for patients who do not have independent transport.

Expansion was made possible with assistance from Maryland Physicians Care (MPC), a locally managed care organization owned in part by Meritus Health and three other hospitals in the state.

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“As Washington County’s largest Medicaid Managed Care Organization, MPC has a large number of members that lack access to transportation,” said MPC CEO Jason Rottman. “Transportation is critically important to allowing our members access to health care. This includes access to primary care, specialty care and pharmaceuticals. The transportation infrastructure Meritus Health created is a game-changing improvement not only for MPC’s members but also for other residents of Washington County who lack transportation."

Meritus helps patients with safe and reliable transportation, whether they don’t have access to a vehicle or the ability to drive; they are experiencing a short-term injury or driving restriction; they use a wheelchair; or they need more help walking than what might be available through public transportation.

As for Yarlick, she’ll continue using the courtesy van through the end of her physical therapy appointments this summer. In the meantime, she’s made friends with some of the drivers who have taken extra care to get her from her home to her appointments.

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To learn more about a free ride to a medical appointment, call Meritus' scheduling center at 301-790-9355.