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While dire reports continue in the media about the lack of hospital services in New Orleans, post-Katrina, residents of Pass Christian and Biloxi in Mississippi have been fortunate. Thanks to a collaboration between AmeriCares and Coastal Family Health Services (CFHS), primary health care services as well as dental care are available to local residents, even those who lack health insurance.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better than those mobile units,” says Joe Dawsey of Coastal Family Health Services, referring to the mobile medical trailer and mobile dental van purchased for CFHS by AmeriCares. “The medical clinic is fully staffed and operational, operating five days a week with a nurse practitioner and a physician as needed. The dental mobile clinic is in Biloxi, also five days a week, with a dentist, a hygienist and an assistant. Plus we’ve got a clerk in a double-wide trailer outside the unit, where patients come in and register.”
Mr. Dawsey would like to offer more hours, but has been hindered by a lack of medical professionals in the area. “The biggest thing (in the second year) is that it is harder to find help. We had hundreds of volunteers here looking for work last year, but that has completely dried up. I’ve also lost staff because people are leaving because of the hardships here. It is just about impossible to recruit.”
Even a few more medical staff would provide an enormous benefit, Mr. Dawsey explains. Having one more dentist would mean Saturday hours for the dental clinic; half a dozen physicians would greatly increase the patient volume for the medical unit.
Despite the challenges, Mr. Dawsey remains optimistic. “I’m moving forward with a recruitment and retention plan. We just started another mobile clinic, for expectant mothers, and I hope to expand to provide mental health services in the coming year.”