Group helps migrant workers

There is at least one doctor in San Benito County who still
makes house calls. Carlos Lopez, a physician from Peru, can be seen
going door-to-door at the numerous migrant camps around the county
throughout the week, checking on workers and talking with them
about health issues.
There is at least one doctor in San Benito County who still makes house calls.

Carlos Lopez, a physician from Peru, can be seen going door-to-door at the numerous migrant camps around the county throughout the week, checking on workers and talking with them about health issues.

Lopez is part of the migrant health core from the San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency, who travels to migrant camps to spread the word of healthy living and prevention.

Last week at the county Migrant Housing Center on Southside Road, Lopez and two other health care workers traveled from house to house on the small hill, talking with residents who will only live there a month longer. The people who answer the doors are usually receptive to the various forms and information the group provides.

“It’s all designed around the idea that we can take a few dollars in prevention and spread them very far, where it takes millions when you get to the other end when people need tertiary care, when they’re hospitalized and need major treatment,” said Nancy Almerico, public health care nurse.

Many migrant workers don’t know about available medical services or health insurance, so one important part about the outreach effort is to refer sick workers to available services.

Almerico specializes in HIV prevention and hands out an information packet with a condom and a clean needle. The Hispanic population, and especially migrant workers, are one of the leading groups susceptible to HIV, and the primary ways of contracting it are through unprotected sex and using dirty needles.

Lopez talks with the migrant workers and educates them on diabetes, hyperglycemia and the importance of diet and exercise to the farm workers.

He was a doctor in Peru for seven years before coming to the United States in 2000. Lopez has worked for the health department for the past 18 months.

Although he cannot administer any medical check-ups or any duties of a doctor, his knowledge of medicine helps in his discernment of migrant workers that need medical attention.

For instance, the Hispanic population is more susceptible to diabetes than other ethic groups and many farm workers may not know they have the disease.

“Many migrant workers return from the fields and they are tired, they don’t have time to go to doctors,” Lopez said.

He goes to migrant camps three to four times each week and distributes informational packets, talking and answering any questions relating to health issues.

Most of the migrant workers don’t have insurance and don’t know that low-income based insurance is available to them.

“Access for them is difficult because they don’t have insurance,” Lopez said.

Lopez is currently studying English at Gavilan College and once he becomes more fluent he wants to become a doctor in the United States.

The numbers of migrant workers that seek treatment for diabetes at the San Benito County Health Foundation has increased as a result of the outreach to the migrant workers, said Josie Trujillo, who usually accompanies Lopez to the camps.

“Prevention is the key and a lot of people respond,” Trujillo said.

The health department has also done outreach in the form of car seat check-ups and distributing bicycle helmets to children.

The group of three are the only health care workers in the county to do outreach to the migrant workers. They also talk with people at juvenile hall and at the county jail.

“All of us focus on education, but outreach is a large part of it because we take our message to wherever the people are, and it’s to hard for them to come to us,” Almerico said.

“Because they don’t come to us, we go to them,” Trujillo said.

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