The non profit organization Doctors of the World is filling a gap of unmet medical needs in the Rockaways as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
The Rockaways area of Queens, NY was one of the hardest hit areas in Hurricane Sandy and medical care remains a burden for many residents now three months after the storm. In addition to a number of doctors’ offices and pharmacies destroyed by flooding, one of two hospitals in the area closed down just months before the hurricane hit. The subway that runs from the Rockaways to Manhattan was destroyed by the hurricane and is not expected to reopen until June, leaving residents with one less option for medical care and prescriptions. The Long Island Rail Road did restore its Rockaways service in December.
Since November, Doctors of the World-USA, has been deploying volunteers to canvas much of the Rockaways and address local health needs. Going door to door, they have identified more than 100 individuals in need of ongoing care and expects to locate many more.
“We have encountered people who vitally need critical health care: the elderly, vulnerable and ailing, people who have lost their homes and their access to medical professionals and nearby pharmacies,” said Henry E. Chang, the Executive Director of Doctors of the World-USA. “Thanks to a small but growing crew of medical professionals, we have begun to treat those with pressing medical conditions. But the need is much greater, and we could use more help.”
One resident who is enormously grateful for Doctors of the World coming through her apartment building is Theresa Racine. “It was just when I needed them, the day they knocked on my door.” Already dealing with back and knee problems, compounded by no electricity, heat, or hot water, Theresa developed a terrible cough that quite a few residents came down with. “Everyone’s been calling it the Rockaway cough. My regular doctor is at Bellevue Hospital and I couldn’t get there with the subway down, plus it’s expensive because I’m on Medicare. But it got worse and these people from Doctors of the World just showed up and asked if there was anything I needed. I was so amazed, they came right to my apartment door!” The team set up an appointment for a doctor to visit her the very next day. “It turned out I had a lung infection! The doctor prescribed an antibiotic right there. They also said I was anemic, just from looking at me and looking at my fingernails. All I needed was a simple vitamin with iron and the antibiotic and I started feeling better in a few days.”” Racine has received several follow up calls and visits from Doctors of the World, checking to see if she’s ok and reminding her she can call them if she needs anything. “As far as I’m concerned, these people are terrific…..they treated me with dignity. You don’t often get such personal care like this.”
To date, volunteers have surveyed the area between Beach 117th and Beach 57th streets and have identified the need for treatment for asthma, respiratory conditions, flus and colds, as well as for mental health services. They also found residents who were unable to obtain medical supplies and much-needed prescription medications to treat serious chronic illnesses. Stress, including symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, and depression are among mental health concern the Doctors are encountering. “We refer them to psychiatrists or counseling centers and follow up with them,” stated Mr. Chang.
“This will be the start of a substantial, long-term effort to bring crucial health care services to the area,” Mr. Chang said. “We have begun to treat people with pre-existing and new chronic health ailments, and we need to ensure that we provide ongoing care through the difficult winter months when people without heat and other vital services or access are more vulnerable. As the Rockaways rebuilds, we will be there to rebuild lives and health, too.”
Currently under consideration is the possibility of a clinic where free assessments can be offered, regardless of health insurance. The organization is beginning discussions with NYC hospitals about co-orodinating a local clinic there, and funding talks have begun.
Doctors of the World-USA treats people regardless of citizenship and insurance coverage. The organization’s main activities in the Rockaways now are:
- Treating the most vulnerable individuals with unmet health needs by providing sub-acute care, home-based care, and hygiene kits;
- Connecting pharmacy services, such as prescription medications and refills, and primary care providers with affected and displaced individuals, regardless of their ability to pay;
- Restoring the local health service delivery capacity and system by working with local providers, city health officials, and community organizations.
Volunteers can sign up at the Doctors of the World-USA website – www.doctorsoftheworld.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doctors of the World is an international humanitarian organization providing medical care to vulnerable populations affected by war, natural disasters, disease, famine, poverty or exclusion. Originally established in France in 1980, the Doctors of the World international network now has offices in 14 countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, including the U.S. office in Manhattan, which launched in 2012. In 2010, Doctors of the World’s global network used $152 million to run 365 programs that provided medical care for more than 1.6 million individuals in more than 70 countries. Learn more about Doctors of the World-USA at http://www.doctorsoftheworld.org
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