A team of grassroots organizers and volunteer doctors, nurses and social workers have pooled efforts to provide much-needed medical care in the Rockaways since Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, setting up a makeshift medical center along one of the main strips and canvassing homes to assess people’s needs.
The center is organized by Occupy Sandy, a coordinated relief effort loosely associated with Occupy Wall Street that also has several volunteer and donation centers set up in hard-hit neighborhoods, such as Broad Channel in Queens and Red Hook, Brighton Beach and Coney Island in Brooklyn.
The Rockaway medical center is located in a gutted building at Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 113th Street, across the street from an Occupy Sandy aid center and a block of burned down houses. Organizers have called it the Yana Medical Center, “Yana” being the name of the community center that houses the aid site across the street and now standing as shorthand for “you are never alone.”
A doctor volunteering at the center, David Ores — or Dr. Dave as he is known by organizers and patients — said efforts to treat residents can keep some of them out of emergency rooms, freeing up resources for others. He pointed to providing medicine to patients with asthma and diabetes as an example.
“It’s a minor thing, but it prevents a big mess,” he said.
He spent his second day volunteering at the center Friday, seeing patients and writing non-narcotic drug prescriptions for people who needed them. He said he was prescribing supplies for up to one month and once he first sees a patient at the center, he is able to write prescriptions over the phone.
Donning a leather biker jacket, he gave a short lesson to volunteers on how to spot a diabetic patient who may be in immediate need of medical care based on their regular insulin dosage.
“Believe whatever they say,” he told them, saying it would be rare to come across a diabetic patient who was unsure about his or her dose.
Meanwhile, another Occupy Sandy organizer, Sofia Gallisa, said Friday the group was sending nurses and other volunteers to go door-to-door to figure out where medical care was needed.
She said a number of residents who need medical assistance live in high rises and public housing that were without working elevators or water, in some cases, and they may not be able to get out to see a doctor.
“We find there are a lot of people who haven’t been able to leave their apartments, especially seniors,” she said.
Gallisa said she was frustrated with what she said was a lack of government response centered on medical needs in the area and said to her knowledge Occupy Sandy was one of the first groups in the Rockaways knocking on doors to offer help.
She made her remarks the same day city Department of Health medical teams started going from apartment to apartment in high-rise buildings in the Rockaways and Coney Island, an effort announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg the previous day on Thursday.
A spokeswoman with the Mayor’s Office, Samantha Levine, said 11,403 doors were knocked on in the Rockaways and Coney Island within the first two days of the effort and found that those people who required help most just needed food and water. She said only 16 people were taken out of their homes for medical treatment, but those people were not severely ill and needed treatment for diabetes, asthma and anxiety.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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