A team of medical professionals from Iowa are in Jamaica today. The 21 doctors and nurses are taking vacation time, but they won’t be spending the next week lying around on a beach. Instead, they’ll be providing free medical clinics targeting underprivileged children.
Diane Pollard of Altoona started the non-profit Issa Trust Foundation which organized the trip for the fifth straight year. She says the Iowa health professionals will be joined by others from Maryland and Philadelphia as they conduct clinics around Ocho Rios and Negril, Jamaica today through September 22.
“In all, we have 38 medical physicians, nurse practitioners and specialists,” Pollard said. The group will hold 11 separate clinics and help up to 1,200 children. “Many of these children have never seen a doctor or a doctor visits a clinic once a month, so this is of dire need to these children,” Pollard said. Doctor Stacey McConkey is part of the group from the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City that’s heading to Jamaica.
McConkey made the trip last year as well and says there’s a lack of pediatricians working on the island. “In most of the clinics we visited, they’re primarily staffed by nurses who don’t have the degree of training that our nurses do here,” McConkey said. “They see the children for needs in between the doctor’s visits which are anywhere between once a week to once a month in some of the clinics.” McConkey says she was astounded by the conditions in the clinics.
“They’re doing the best they can with what they have, but I’m sure it’s frustrating with the lack of equipment. For instance, (one clinic) had an X-Ray machine, but it was broken and they don’t have the people qualified to repair them. So, that’s a major problem for them,” McConkey said. The medical volunteers will provide preventative care for the Jamaican children, while also treating cases of malnutrition, asthma, skin conditions, diabetes and more.