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Health needs serious in MS

The waiting room is packed at the Katrina Medical Volunteers clinic in D'Iberville.

BY HEATHER MOYER | D'IBERVILLE, Miss. | March 30, 2006

The waiting room is packed at the Katrina Medical Volunteers clinic in D'Iberville, something that's not at all unusual.

Since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area, many residents were left without jobs. That left many without health care, and so medical volunteers stepped in to help those in need. As far as physical structure goes, the D'Iberville free medical clinic is nothing more than the front entryway of an old Kroger's Grocery Store. Volunteers closed in the entryway with plywood and tarps and set up a small air conditioner for the facility. Inside are several "rooms" - areas cordoned off by curtains. The volunteer doctors and nurses see patients with nowhere else to go.

"We deal with patients without insurance or money for medical care," said Beverly Squibb, a registered nurse and co-director of the clinic. "We see about 80 to 90 patients each day, and we're here six days a week."

Squibb's husband, a doctor, is her co-director. The two traveled to Mississippi in mid-September, motivated by what they saw on TV to come help out. They joined the D'Iberville Volunteers organization in creating the clinic, and then took it over themselves. They then created the organization Katrina Medical Volunteers and began recruiting medical volunteers to staff the clinic. The clinic is also now supported by Hands and Feet Ministry of Georgia, a non-profit agency that supports various missions around the U.S. and world.

Squibb and her husband also tackle the huge job of donations, and some might argue they've done a very successful job of that. "Everything you see in here is donated," said Squibb, pointing to all the medicines, office equipment, medical tables and more. "We run entirely on donations - medicine and money."

The need for accessible medical care is very present in the community. Squibb's clinic has helped patients discover medical problems they may not have otherwise known about. "We have helped folks discover that they have diabetes, hypertension - all kinds of illnesses," she explained. "We help all age ranges. We also help the large Vietnamese community in the area because their doctor had to move away after the storm. We're an anchor in the storm for many of these folks."

Standing amongst shelf-after-shelf of medicines, Squibb said the clinic gets so many patients that they are now moving into a donated double-wide trailer. The new clinic will sit on the property of the D'Iberville Community Center - a building all but leveled by Hurricane Katrina. Squibb said city officials recognized the value of the free clinic and allowed them to put the new trailer in the parking lot of the center.

The local hospitals also cooperate when more serious cases drop into the clinic. Squibb said she is grateful to the many doctors and surgeons who helped patients without insurance or money.

Sometimes patients need more than just physical medical care. While the clinic doesn't officially offer mental health counseling, Squibb said many times the volunteers just listen to people. The clinic is able to maintain its hours with a good amount of volunteer nurses and doctors, yet more are always needed. "We could always use volunteer doctors," she said.

The families are grateful for the help, often departing with a strong handshake, smile or hug. For Squibb, that's enough to keep her going.

"I hope to make this a permanent part of the community," she said.


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