Getting much needed medical help to migrant workers - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Getting needed medical help to migrant workers

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There are thousands of migrant workers who come to Northwest Ohio every year to help bring in the crops. Getting much needed medical help proves to be difficult for many of them, but there's a program that brings medical help right into some of the migrant camps. It's basically a hospital on wheels.

Medical checks that a lot of people take forgranted are often tough for these workers to get, but thanks to this program they can get just about any medical help they need and it's all thanks to a legion of volunteers and donations.

The mobile health clinic has been making trips into migrant camps for 17 years. There are doctors, dentists, translators, nurses, medical students and all kinds of other volunteers who make it happen.  It's all free, from the testing to the medicine. Dr Richard Paat is one of the volunteers. He has traveled the world helping others. He says this work at home is just as important, "For me it's like doing a medical mission in my own backyard. The need is just as great and it's an under-served population with huge needs. Many of them have limited English proficiency and no access to medical help in this situation and a lot of them are scared."

Many of the migrants spend ten hours or more a day working in the fields. So many of them don't have the time or the often the money to get the medical help they need. Some times the medical problems are life-threatening, and that's where this clinic comes in.

During a trip to a camp last year, doctors found a man with extremely high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate. Tests found that he had atrial fibrillation. He got the treatment he needed thanks to the clinic, and Dr. Paat says today he is healthy and back at work, "If he didn't come to the clinic there is no doubt they would have found him dead in the fields."

Rosalinda Perez has been working in the fields of Northwest Ohio for more than a decade and she is appreciative of the free clinic, "This has helped us so much because we don't get medicaid, so this is a godsend for us to get this mobile clinic."

The mobile clinic was started by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee or FLOC, which is headed up by Baldemar Velasquez. He says it could not continue without the volunteers and the local hospitals that donate supplies and medicine. He spent a number of years working in the fields alongside his family, " I always think back to what would have helped me , what would have helped my Mom and Dad. I always try to think in those terms."

There are at least a half dozen of these mobile health clinics at migrant camps around Northwest Ohio every summer. This was the last one of the season. In addition to the medical help there are also groups that provide a free meal and clothes.

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