A dozen classrooms at Massac County High School have become doctors’ offices as Operation Healthy Delta provides free health care in the area.
Until Monday, the clinic is providing quality health care to uninsured or underinsured residents, ages 5 and older, of southern Illinois and western Kentucky. School exams are also provided free of charge to students. No proof of insurance or identification is required for processing.
Patients are seen on a first come, first served basis. They will have to wear a mask. The opening hours are as follows: today from 8 am to 7 pm; Friday and Saturday 8 am to 5 pm; Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Operation Healthy Delta is brought to the region by the Shawnee Development Council, in partnership with Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation (DAEOC). It is a Department of Defense (DoD) and US Army Reserve Force Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program that has been in existence for approximately 25 years.
“The US government annually seeks ways to increase training and effectively provide a deployment readiness capability. At the same time, local communities do not have the medical care they need for various reasons. The DoD provides a platform through the IRT to provide free community care and training for us, ”said Captain George Bates.
The 70 military personnel from Metropolis are part of a 225-person operation, which DAEOC is simultaneously hosting in Sikeston and Caruthersville, Missouri. They are members of the Reserve, Active Service and National Guard representing the United States Air Force, Army, Navy, Air National Guard and Marines and from across the country, including Pennsylvania. , Missouri, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona and Florida.
“These people are truly dedicated to duty. They want to do the job. They spend a lot of late nights and early mornings to meet the needs of the community, ”said Bates, assistant officer in charge of the Metropolis mission, who is part of the US Air Force 514 ASTS reserve unit of the McGuire Air Force Base. , New Jersey. “All of this is voluntary. There is no one here who has not shown this enthusiasm.
The group met on Friday and spent the next four days turning part of MCHS into a mobile medical clinic offering optometric services, including the manufacture of single vision glasses, which are mailed; basic medical examinations, including physical examinations, especially for young people; dental, including extractions, cleanings and fillings; Mental Health; and orthopedics and physiotherapy programs. Pharmacists are also on site.
Bates noted that “together with our community partners, we try to have continuity of care. We are not here to cure diabetes, but we will have resources available in continuation of the things we recognize as necessities for the community – we want to see you healthy, happy and whole. The role here is really to be a good resource and to help the community where the need is there.
Operation Healthy Delta began seeing patients Tuesday with around 50 in its first hours.
“Everyone was incredibly grateful to come in,” said Master Sgt. Robin Barber, with the 349th ANDS unit at Travis Air Force Base in California. “I do pediatric nursing on the base. I wanted to learn more and expand what I do on the base – we work with all branches and all service levels in addition to the public.
Metropolis is one of the few places that has orthopedics and physiotherapy as an option.
“They work hand in hand,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Elvis Smith, 169th Fire Wing Squadron, Columbia, South Carolina. “We see a lot of spinal problems with the neck and back. Once we see symptoms like numbness and tingling, we go back and learn it is from the neck or lumbar spine. We can help with medication or manual manipulation.
The MCHS chemistry lab has become a dental practice.
“It calls into question their readiness,” said Major Mary Hook of 162nd Air National Guard Wing in Tuscon, Arizona. “It’s not normal to be like this, but if you have to deploy, you have what you have. I have participated in some of these missions to other countries. It challenges you to problem-solve – to make things work when you don’t have the normal resources.
The mission challenges its military participants in another way
“There are certain medical requirements that we have in the military, including annual exams,” Hook said. “Something they experience is seeing conditions that they might not otherwise see when treating patients as part of their regular service. “
Pediatric dentist, Captain Neal Esplin with the Air National Guard in Tuscon, Arizona, performs dental screenings on children. “I am happy with the number of children who have left school,” he said.
He carried out three other medical missions. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding. It is difficult to create a field environment from a church or a school and then to work with people from different backgrounds, but eventually everything freezes and it is very rewarding to work with colleagues who want to being here and bringing their own skills, but also working with patients and making a difference is very rewarding, ”said Esplin. “It’s a great opportunity to use the skills I’ve learned, especially since many dentists are reluctant to see children. It’s nice to use this skill set in a different environment.
Patients arrive through the main entrance to the school where they will be greeted and asked to complete paperwork before being taken to triage to get their vital signs – temperature, weight, blood pressure, oxygen level, heart rate – then wait before being taken to their area of care. Those seeking multiple care will have to line up for each service or may have to come back on another day.
While rapid COVID-19 tests are available, those who show symptoms or have been around others with them are urged not to participate.
In addition to providing medical examinations, there are also brochures and leaflets from various organizations in the area to help patients improve in other areas.
“We want to make sure that we take care of the people who go through the facility,” Bates said.
This is the fifth IRT Bates – which has been in service for 27 years, six in active service in the Air Force and 21 so far in the reserve – to which it is a member. The two-week training not only helps doctors, but others gain experience in everything from logistics and public relations, to transportation, management, meal preparation and administration.
“There are a lot of parts that work behind the scenes,” Bates said. “Finding ways to serve the community is not an achievement we take lightly. We really love to give back. I haven’t met anyone on this tour who isn’t in human service and doesn’t give.
IRT offers different categories of assignments. Bates said his favorite part of medical IRT is the interaction with the community, which “makes me want to do more for the community if I can.” Its second is to “provide the service to people who otherwise would not be able to see a doctor or might not be able to get care until the next time this program comes to town because they don’t have it. insurance or funds. It means a lot to me, ”he said. “I have two kids and the ability to tell them I’m helping people is what it boils down to.
“We want to encourage people to come and get tested,” Bates said. “If you’re ready to come downstairs for treatment, we definitely want to see you. More the merrier, the merrier.”