The Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine’s mobile medical unit is preparing to return to Huntington after a week’s service in flood-ravaged Rainelle.
“This was our first deployment,” said Charles “Chuck” Clements, M.D., professor of family and community health and faculty advisor for Marshall Medical Outreach, a volunteer-staffed program providing health care to homeless people in downtown Huntington since 2011.
In response to the historic June floods in southern West Virginia, a partnership formed among the medical school, Marshall’s School of Pharmacy, Marshall Health, and Cabell Huntington Hospital to delivered much needed health care to the these devastated communities.
Clements led a team of about two dozen volunteers and the mobile medical unit on the 130-mile journey to Greenbrier County.
Under a series of white tents and in the mobile unit's two examining rooms, they treated wounds, administered tetanus shots, offered counseling services, and secured medicines for prescriptions that were lost in flood water.
“The big thing with disasters is people lose what we take for granted - water, electricity and heat,” said Clements. “We deploy (to downtown Huntington) every month without any of that, so we came prepared to operate without those necessities,” he said.
“We have lights that are battery operated, we have propane heaters, we have portable water containers. We are self-contained and can move very quickly.”
CEO of Rainelle Medical Clinic, Kristie Rader, said she appreciated the reinforcements.
“Our staff has been running nonstop, running on fumes since we were first flooded,” said Rader.
“It’s giving our staff a break to tend to their own families and clean-out their own homes, many were damaged and destroyed. So it’s been a huge help to us.”
Logistics for the effort were handled by Brian Gallagher, R.Ph., J.D., Chief of Government Relations and Health Care Policy for Marshall Health. Gallagher worked with state and local officials who helped identify Rainelle as a high-priority area.
“These are our colleagues in Greenbrier but it stretches statewide,” said Gallagher. “Marshall Medical Outreach will go wherever in the state that we’re needed.”
“The two prime directives that we’re trying to follow is to see that there are no redundancies, so we don’t want to double up on efforts. The second thing is we don’t want there to be what I call dark corners, somewhere where we’re not shining a light and people aren’t getting services,” he said.
Cabell Huntington Hospital provided personnel and the medical supplies for the temporary clinic.
Marshall’s Medical Outreach program was started by med students, has expanded, and now includes pharmacy students and providers of multiple disciplines, all volunteers.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.