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GUEST COLUMN

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Volunteers needed for Medical Reserve Corps

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a new program was formed to supplement the health system.The Medical Reserve Corps provides a volunteer pool that can enhance and support public health agencies and the health care infrastructure during a crisis. Since 2002, the program has grown to more than 200,000 volunteers in nearly 1,000 units across the country. Northern Kentucky’s Medical Reserve Corps unit has 382 members, including nine from Grant County.

Local Medical Reserve Corps volunteers have participated in a variety of exercises, testing patient transfer, patient decontamination and even for a mock airplane crash. Most importantly, they provided support to the health department during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccination clinics. The beauty of the Medical Reserve Corps program, I think, is its flexibility—both in the time commitment and the type of assistance needed.

Volunteers can decide how much they want to participate. The only required aspect is a two-hour orientation training (the next one is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on April 17 at the health department’s district office in Edgewood). After that, volunteers can simply be on reserve—credentialed and ready to assist if needed or they can be more active, participating in additional training and exercise.

When the Medical Reserve Corps is called into action, again, the volunteer chooses whether or not he/she is able to respond. Some volunteers may be willing to travel (we’ve helped staff hurricane evacuee shelters in Louisville) or they may only want to volunteer close to home. They may want to give a few hours of time or they may be able to devote more. Don’t let the medical part of the name be limiting, either. Volunteers are needed with backgrounds ranging from physicians, nurses and veterinarians to chaplains, truck drivers and interpreters. Everyone, no matter what their background, has a contribution they can make during an emergency.

For example, during the 2009 swine flu vaccination clinics, we had Medical Reserve Corps volunteers who directed traffic, guided patients through the clinic lines and did data entry. We also had medical volunteers providing shots or screening patients. If someone wanted to help in the response, we found a job that he/she was comfortable and qualified to do. With each training, preparedness exercise and emergency response, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers are protecting the health and safety of Northern Kentucky. As the program moves into its second decade, we look forward to continuing to nurture our volunteers, as they are an important asset in our disaster response plans. If you’d like more information on the Medical

Reserve Corps, contact Jean Caudill at 859-363-2009 or visit http://www.nkyhealth.org/mrc.

(Dr. Lynne Sadler is the District Health Director of the Northern Kentucky Health Department, which includes Grant County.)