|Dr. Dale Betterton and OBI staff help unload boxes of medicine to stock the clinic.
|OBI staff and Americorps volunteers stand in front of the clinic. Once the more permanent structure arrives, this single-wide trailer will be converted into a pharmacy.
- When entering New Orleans East, the former bustling community looks like a
ghost town. Nonfunctioning street lights are replaced by stop signs, battered and torn buildings
lie adjacent to debris piled five feet high, what’s left of a boarded up shopping mall sits solemnly
in an empty parking lot, and the doors are closed to Methodist Hospital.
But there is hope for residents as they return back to their former community. Operation Blessing
opened a free medical clinic Monday in New Orleans East – one of the hardest hit areas by Katrina which
remained underwater for months.
Since the majority of hospitals in the New Orleans area were forced to close their doors after the
hurricane, the opening of the clinic is critical to help residents who are returning home. Husband and
wife team, Dr. Dale Betterton and Dorothy Davison, who oversee the clinic, estimate it will eventually
treat about 100 patients daily, both walk-ins and appointments.
The clinic is set up to help patients with minor acute problems and will be mostly geared toward
treating chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
"Our vision is a multi-service clinic . . . with dentistry and mental health counseling," said
Davison, a nurse practioner.
On Monday morning, OBI staff members and Americorps volunteers quickly unloaded the medications
for the pharmacy that will be housed in the clinic. The temporary medical clinic has three exam rooms
but the permanent structure, scheduled to open April 17, will house seven to eight exam rooms along
with two dental offices. The Greater St. Stephen Church has allowed OBI to use their parking lot as
the site for the medical clinic. Davison estimates the clinic will be open for at least a year due to
the dire need for health care in the New Orleans area.
According to Dr. Betterton, there are projections that 65 percent of the pre-storm population will
have returned to the city by July 1, many of whom are unemployed due to the storm-related economic
collapse. In New Orleans, 30 percent of the population is poor and 35 percent have no health insurance.
Currently, there are only 1,500 hospital beds that exist of the pre-Katrina 5,000 beds and only
30 percent of the Orleans Parish Medical Society has renewed their membership. Only 1,200 out of 4,486
doctors have returned to the three parishes in the area, Betterton said.
Davison and Betterton said they continue to recruit for volunteers for the clinic. "We need
doctors who can do primary care. We need nurses, medical assistants, mental counselors and we need
people who have office skills," Davison added.
The duo are the founders of the International Medical Alliance (IMA), an organization which
provides free medical, dental, surgical, veterinary and eyeglass care to people in need. OBI has
funded a partnership with IMA to open the free clinic which will offer primary care and dental care.
If you would like to volunteer for OBI’s medical clinic, please contact Davison or Betterton at email@example.com.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help by making an online donation toward OBI's disaster relief efforts. With your support, we can continue to provide emergency relief and recovery. Please make an on-line donation today.
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