Monday, January 09, 2006

In Charity's Absence: Neighborhood Healthcare In New Orleans

The Times-Picayune has an extensive treatment of the current healthcare crisis in New Orleans, including a piece on the closure of Charity Hospital, which was a trauma center treating the poor and patients who lacked insurance coverage, and another story on a neighborhood clinic that has stepped into the post-Katrina breech in healthcare.

The latter facility, the Algiers Health Clinic, functions on the West Bank of the Mississippi and in the Lower 9th Ward (which sustained the worst flooding). According to their website, the clinic grew out of community activists' work to set up a first aid station on September 9, 2005 in a mosque that had been offered to them. What began as 3 "First Responder" street medics answering the call for volunteers to staff the station grew into a political arm called the Common Ground Collective and a nonpolitical medical treatment arm of "doctors, nurses, herbalists and massage therapists" to staff Algiers HC. Algiers HC is "a professional and effective primary care clinic, offering free treatment along with free supplies like vitamins, baby food, and health and hygiene goods." It counts as its "allies": the military, City workers, FEMA contractors, and the Red Cross.

Algiers HC issued a call for medical and non-medical volunteers. Expectations include:
If you support building community-controlled free health care clinics, this is the project you are looking for. We also seek experienced volunteers for project coordination and development.
We treat everyone with care and respect. We see a lot of stress induced hypertension, and chronic illnesses of diabetes, asthma, CHF, etc. Many patients lack money for meds and good food, have poor health education, and don't expect much from the health care system, etc..There are not many children back in the area due to unstable living conditions.
This important neighborhood effort looks worthy of support to stem the healthcare emergency that New Orleans residents are facing with the loss of hospital facilities and with the lack of universal insurance coverage.

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