Volunteers at Loris Family Clinic help farm workers stay well
BY TIM BULLARD
LORIS — The Loris Family Clinic is a free clinic for seasonal farm workers and their families. It is a direct way in which the health of Hispanic seasonal farm workers and their families is being bettered through a partnership between Loris Healthcare System and Little River Medical Center.
Dr. Luis D. Insignares, 40, of Little River Medical Center, sees the clients weekly. Whole families come in together. Many of the patients have conditions such as allergies, rashes, and reactions to chemicals used in fields — issues that can be treated with preventive medicine.
The center also has a clinic for the homeless in Myrtle Beach.
“It’s a good feeling, I think,” he said. “We just try to help out.”
Insignares, a member of Precious Blood Church in Pawleys Island, likes the social outreach.
“This is my second career,” he said.
Carlo Jose Victoriano, program coordinator for the S.C. Migrant Health Program in Columbia, is proud of the way the S.C. Primary Health Care Association is assisting the public.
“What the program does is actually provide health care services and enabling services to migrant and seasonal farm workers in the state,” he said. Pediatric, obstetric and gynecological care is offered as is dental, x-ray, eye, and pharmacy services.
“What we have is the hybrid service delivery model,” Victoriano said. “We have a clinic in the Upstate in Spartanburg, and we have contracts with local providers such as Little River Medical Center.”
He said that a good rapport has been established among the service providers.
“There is a lot of continuity in terms of staffing,” he said. “The trust is there, which is really key to reaching to a special population.”
According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Hispanic population has grown by 78 percent in the past 10 years and is expected to increase.
If there are bad conditions noted in the fields, they are reported.
“There are some parts of the states that are better than others in terms of violations,” Victoriano said. “If it’s … egregious, the violation, that’s something we should report. If it’s minor, we don’t want to mess up the relationship with the grower.”With the heat wave there is no shortage of illnesses, and some workers become ill working with tobacco.
“There is a lot of hypertension and diabetes,” he said. “There is exposure to the elements, pesticides and bites, heat.”
When the workers are finished at their labors on Thursday evenings, they go home, get cleaned up and come to the clinic, which is open from 6-8 p.m. Some of the workers are undocumented.
“They benefit the economy in such a big way,” Victoriano said. “They are not here to get over our system. They are here to work and survive.”
Victoriano said that sometimes people just do not realize that there are children directly involved.
“We do serve some kids as well,” he said. “To me it just goes back to the principles of the Catholic Church —helping those who are unable to help themselves.”
Judy Eastwood, clinical support and compliance director for Little River Medical Center, is thankful to the Loris Healthcare System for allowing the use of the center.
The free clinic was formerly located at the Loris Health Department, but it was downsized. They have been able to arrange for a van to pick up farm workers and bring them into town.
“Here we’ve got everything we need, we just bring in the supplies,” she said. “It’s what I went to nursing school for, to help people. I like working for a community health center.”
The migrant clinic has been in operation for about five years, according to Eastwood. The center has existed for 28 years.
“They don’t have insurance, and they don’t have the money,” she said of the clients. “A lot of times they don’t even have transportation. We see very bad diabetics, cardiovascular disease and asthma, lots of skin problems. Our patients are very complex patients.”
They are not able to come in for regular visits. Some are afraid they will be reported to immigration authorities, but the law prohibits that, Eastwood said.
“They are very happy to get the care,” Eastwood said. “They are very appreciative. We’re not sure how many will come tonight, but we’ll be waiting on them.”
She described the living conditions in the camps as horrible.
“There are lots of people in one place,” she said. There is no air conditioning, and the housing is run-down.
“I think a lot of the farmers are trying now to get these places fixed up for them,” Eastwood said. “The other thing that we have to do is … to balance what we see and what we report.”
This is hard to do, she said.
“We don’t want to get anybody in trouble,” she said. “All we want to do is get help for them.”