Deployed medical group members see huge demand for services

  • Published
  • By Capt. John Callahan
  • 176th Wing Public Affairs
When the 35 deployed members of the 176th Medical Group threw open the doors to their free clinic here May, 4, they were greeted by more than 30 people waiting to get in -- some who had even slept in their cars to ensure they were among the first in line.

Mid-way through the second day, final numbers for the first day still remained to be finalized. Unofficially, clinic members estimated that they had screened about 200 area residents.

The Alaska Air Guard members are here as part of operation TOWN OF  HAYNEVILLE  2011, a joint-services mission performed under the auspices of the Innovative Readiness Team program. This program, run by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, brings Guard and Reserve medical personnel from around the country together to train in real-world scenarios -- in this case, hosting a free medical, dental and vision clinic in a historically underserved rural area.

"We were expecting a high level of interest -- mayby 100 to 120 the first day -- so this was even a little higher than we anticipated," said Lt. Col. Steven D. Hall, the medical group's clinic administrator.

Hall said that the clinic's optometry and dental services drew the most demand. Throughout the day, the clinic's three optometrists -- including Lt. Col. Ron Kichura and Capt. Andrew Adamich from the 176th Medical Group; and a Naval Reserve officer, Lt. Commander Patricia Anderson, with the Orlando, Fla.-based Volunteer Training Unit -- worked at a furious pace to accomodate as many patients as possible. That pace lasted right up to the end of the day, Hall said.

"Quite a few folks came in late, but we didn't turn anyone away -- we just had them make appointments, and rescheduled them for later in the week," he said.

Meanwhile, the dental team improvised to overcome equipment shortfalls, making patients comfortable in lawn chairs propped up on a bed of wooden pallets. Hall said the bulk of the dental work consisted of exams, with the dentists taking appointments for more serious work, and a few procedures taking place on the spot when dentists determined that the work couldn't wait.

The joint-services effort will continue to see patients until May 10; the forces are scheduled to return home May 12.