Sunday, November 20, 2005

Drive-thru Health Care

It's been nearly three months since I received inoculations for tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis A and B in the days following Hurricane Katrina's landfall.

I got the shots because they were recommended for anyone traveling into the city while flood waters and debris posed safety threats.

I knew it was time for the second B shot, but I wasn't sure where to go to get it.

Turns out I didn't have to go far.

Driving along the edge of the French Quarter today I stumbled across a vacant lot at the corner of North Rampart and Esplanade streets that was filled with half a dozen tents. A large sign across the front of the property identified the site as a primary care clinic set up by the U.S. Public Health Service.

Five minutes later, I was sitting under one of the tents having my temperature and blood pressure checked. Then I was off to a second tent where a volunteer nurse from Iowa injected the second of the three B vaccine treatments into my right shoulder.

It was the her second volunteer trip to New Orleans since mid-September.

At other tents, people were getting flu shots, having their cholesterol checked and consulting with doctors about drugs and prescriptions.

The clinic was only at the French Quarter site for one day and was scheduled to relocate to the Convention Center on Monday.

I have until early March before I'll need the final shots for hepatitis A and B.
Given the short supply of doctors and operating hospitals in the city, makeshift clinics such as the one I visited have become essential.

Amazingly, I was in and out of the clinic with my shot in 10 minutes.

If only normal health care services operated with that kind of efficiency. I'll take a 10 minute wait under a tent over 50 minutes in a doctor's office any day.

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