The flooding in Eastern Kentucky has disrupted much of life, and health care is no exception.
“The floods dealt a devastating blow to the ‘safety net’ system of federally-designated community health clinics throughout Eastern Kentucky which focus on medically underserved areas and low-income patients,” reports Deborah Yetter of The Courier Journal. “In addition to primary health care, the clinics provide behavioral health, dental care, and social services. . . . Now clinic operators are scrambling to try to clean up and reopen or find alternate sites. They also must replace equipment, supplies, medication, and other goods lost in the flood. Some remain without power, water or phone service.”
Yetter cites a Facebook post from Dr. Van Breeding of the Whitesburg Mountain Comprehensive Medical Clinic: “We will be open but are literally using paper charts, stethoscopes and cell phones to try to take care of people. Please, if you are in the medical field and can help us, send help, we lost our lab, X-ray, dental equipment and most clinical supplies but we are still helping our patients who lost everything. . . . The horrific tales of loss are extreme. We and the people we take care of are in shock and near exhaustion. Please help in any way you can.”
Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports on the response of Breeding and staff: “They evacuated a nursing home, they rescued people from their homes with kayaks, boats and jetskis, they helped set up a shelter at the CANE Kitchen in the old high school, and by Friday, they turned their attention to the flood clinic on Medical Plaza Lane. It wasn’t as bad as some places — just a few inches of mud as opposed to total immersion — but patients were already starting to trickle in. By Friday, the clinic was back open. On Monday, the clean waiting rooms were filled, as nurses and aides cleaned others.”
“It’s a miracle; we worked around the clock and reopened,” Breeding told Blackford. “You don’t have time to think about it, you just do it.”
Also in Whitesburg, the headquarters of Mountain Comprehensive Care Corp., which operates 13 clinics, “is unusable from floodwaters that swept through and destroyed records and equipment. A supply warehouse was also wrecked,” Yetter reports, citing CEO Mike Caudill.
“MCHC is now servicing patients out of the old Whitesburg High School located at 58 Walnut Street and limited operations utilizing a mobile clinic at the Isom location, the Kentucky Primary Care Association, the trade group for the clinics, said in an update Tuesday.
- Kentucky Mountain Health Alliance (Little Flower Clinic), Hazard: Needs drinking and distilled water, tetanus and Hepatitis A immunizations, portable oxygen tanks, home oxygen concentrators, insulin, medical supplies, sleeping bags, personal care supplies, nonperishable food, cleaning supplies, shower truck, laundry truck.
- Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky in Hazard: No water; staff have lost homes, cars; needs for supplies.
- Dr. Clemente Zulueta, Jackson: clinic destroyed.
- East Kentucky Health Services, Hindman: All needs for patients and staff.
- North Fork Valley Community Health Center: June Buchanan Medical Clinic damaged; requesting supplies.
- Juniper Health, Jackson: Facilities okay but needs water, supplies for homeless and medical needs.
- Quantum Healthcare, Hazard: same.
Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Kentucky.