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Friday, April 18, 2014

Marianas Eye Institute’s mobile clinic ‘doing well’

The Marianas Eye Institute’s mobile clinic used to be a Tasi Tour bus that was gutted from the inside out to accommodate equipment for a complete eye exam lane. (Mark Rabago) Marianas Eye Institute’s mobile clinic has been a boon not only to the Beach Road eye clinic but also to community members who don’t have easy access to transportation but still need to have their eyes examined.

“The mobile clinic is doing quite well. It’s been a big help as it allows us to bring eye exams out to the community,” said MEI founder Dr. David Khorram. “We did this because gas prices were rising and a lot of people just weren’t able to come here. So we decided to go to them. It really improved the access. ”

Aside from residents of Kagman, San Roque, and other relatively far-flung villages from Garapan, MEI’s mobile clinic can also be utilized for companies or organizations that simply want their employees’ and members’ vision checked at one time.

“If you want to organize something within your company or organization, let us know and we can come over. Our motto is ‘You call, we come!’” said Khorram.

MEI CEO Russ Quinn said the mobile clinic was built a year ago and is a retrofitted Tasi Tour bus.

“We gutted it and basically rebuilt it from the inside out to accommodate equipment and be a complete eye exam lane. We did this so we would be able to conduct eye exams on location and where there is no ideal situation for someone to take an eye exam, we’re able to take the exam to him or her. We go around the island if someone has a conference or a hotel or a big business wants not to disrupt business and just let their employees do their eye exam out there, we’re able to do that.”

Aside from schools, the mobile clinic has also visited the Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamp building in As Lito and has also serviced clients in Kagman, Quinn said.

Khorram reminded the community that MEI honors Medicaid recipients again after problems collecting from the government forced the eye clinic to stop receiving Medicaid clients in the past.

“Medicaid is welcome! For sometime we we’re not able to provide glasses to the Medicaid population because of some difficulties with cash flow at the Medicaid office,” he said. “I want to encourage our congressmen to continue to fund the Medicaid office. It remains underfunded. [In] most states in the U.S., a third of their budget is dedicated to Medicaid and here it’s about 5 percent or less. Please keep that in mind because the health of the island depends on it, especially as more people are filing for Medicaid.”

Even as MEI unveiled its expanded optical showroom last month, Quinn said the company is getting by amidst the slow-recovering local economy.

“Business is a little bit slow. It could always be better. I feel like we’re working out in just keeping our name out there and letting people know that it’s important to get annual exams, especially with the diabetic population. So we really try to educate people about that. Plus, we’ve been recognized as the diabetic eye care center in the CNMI.”

Meanwhile, Quinn said it would probably be awhile before the MEI and other health providers in the CNMI feel the full brunt of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

“Right now I think nobody knows how Obamacare is going to affect any of us. We’re doing business as usual until we kind of know how it’s going to affect the CNMI. At some point it will reach our shores but, as of right now, looks like the CNMI is not yet there. 2014 may be the year will see it but we don’t anticipate it affecting us in a negative way.”

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