Clinic serves the under-served

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SERVING THOSE WHO ARE UNDER-SERVED, Raquel V. Ludwig, on the left, talks with a woman and her baby after being interviewed as part of the farm worker health clinic Saturday. The three-day clinic includes an army of volunteers, including students from Bainbridge College’s LPN program.

Serving those who are under-served is why Raquel V. Ludwig spent this last weekend participating in the annual migrant health clinic.

The clinic is sponsored by the Georgia Farm Worker Health Program, which holds field clinics in June and October with the assistance of Emory University students and community volunteers.

Ludwig, a physician assistant student at Emory whose mother was a farm worker, said she understands the hardships migrant farm laborers encounter.

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For example, on Saturday morning, Ludwig examined a female farm worker who was six months pregnant and hasn’t had any pre-natal examinations. Since Ludwig speaks fluent Spanish, she was able to convince the woman to schedule an appointment with a doctor in order to better monitor the woman’s and the baby’s health.

Ludwig said this experience had convinced her to steer toward serving the under-served after she obtains her degree.

Most of those coming to the field clinics don’t have access to health care, said Sheila Ramer, an RN who serves as the director of the farm worker health program for an area including Seminole, Decatur, Mitchell and Grady counties.

The federally funded program, which has been in Decatur County since 1992, provides free vision, dental and health care to anyone who receives more than 51 percent of their income from growing crops, regardless of their race or gender, Ramer said.

This past summer, the program treated 1,250 people through clinics held at 11 sites, she said. The previous summer, 1,340 people were treated. Workers include those growing tomatoes, corn and peanuts, as well as workers at area nurseries and cotton gins.

Ramer said she and her staff commonly find farm workers who suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure that are untreated. Because of the strenuous work they have to do, farm workers often have muscle or joint ailments. The Emory students have also diagnosed people with serious illnesses such as cancer and sexually transmitted diseases and referred them to other government health programs.

“We see the clinics as cost-effective health care,” Ramer said. “The people we treat don’t make a lot of money in the field, so the clinics treat people before they wind up in an emergency room.”

Other volunteers at the field clinics have set up a clothes bank and a food bank that is made available to workers after they are treated, Ramer said. Bilingual adults and youth who live in Decatur County on a permanent basis are also very helpful in helping farm workers fill out treatment forms and recording other data on the clinics.