Rockaways: Residents still have poor access to healthcare

New York City suffered $19 billion in damage due to Hurricane Sandy. The hardest hit area of the city – The Rockaways section of Queens suffered from economic underdevelopment and insufficient health resources prior to the storm.

Just one week after Hurricane Sandy hit, Doctors of the World (MdM USA) became actively engaged in providing free healthcare services to the most vulnerable populations of the Rockaways. Now, months later, MdM USA continues these efforts to ensure that the region has access to medical care.

Relief efforts are centered on identifying local residents who lack access to healthcare through canvassing activities and external referrals. In the process of conducting home visits with doctors, the preexistent deficit in healthcare infrastructure in the area became starkly apparent. Seven months after Hurricane Sandy, many local service providers remain closed due to flooding or storm-related fires.

“This will be the start of a substantial, long-term effort to bring crucial healthcare services to the area,” said Henry E. Chang, the Executive Director of Doctors of the World USA. “We have begun to treat people with pre-existing and new chronic health ailments, and we need to ensure that we provide ongoing care… As the Rockaways rebuilds, we will be there to rebuild lives and health, too.”

In response to situational observation and direct community requests, MdM USA has started the planning process for a free clinic to service those who continue to lack access, especially the uninsured and undocumented. More than an extension of its post-Sandy activities, the Doctors of the World Rockaways Free Clinic will address the long standing disparities in healthcare access in the Rockaways. The clinic will focus on primary healthcare and provide case management services on-site with a long-term aim to integrate clients into the existing healthcare infrastructure and to ensure a holistic approach to both their medical and social needs.