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HomeNewsMedical
Published: 8/2/2004

National Guard offers free health screenings

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Free health care, anyone?

Yes, for four days in August, we all can pretend we're Canadians - minus the cheap prescription drugs - and get some free health care courtesy of the Ohio National Guard.

The Guard is coming to the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Saturday and Sunday and Aug. 21 and 22 to provide a range of basic, free health services. The Guard is using the experience as a training exercise, but the public, including those outside of Lucas County, is invited to reap the benefits of that training.

"It's a win-win situation," said Barbara Gunning, director of health services for the Toledo-Lucas County health department. "Our population gets some free health care, and their units get to hone their medical skills."

People needing a kidney transplant, open-heart surgery, or other major procedures done: This event is not for you.

However, if your children are in the market for a sports physical, you're in luck. Physicals for children and adults, immunizations, hearing and vision tests, dental screenings, cholesterol tests, and several other services will be offered by Guard personnel.

About 70 Guard soldiers, all part of the Ohio National Guard's Medical Command Unit, will take part in the training, which is referred to as GuardCare.

The day jobs of most of these soldiers include professions such as physicians, nurses, or dentists. They'll set up shop at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department building in downtown Toledo, 635 North Erie St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Aug. 21, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 22.

No appointments are necessary, and there are no income restrictions.

1st Lt. Bernie Anderson, officer in charge of the Toledo training event, said his unit has done an exercise like this annually since 1995, but this will be their first time in Northwest Ohio.

Mr. Anderson, who lives in East Toledo and is a nurse when not performing Guard duty, said he expects a record turnout for the Toledo event. The previous events were in rural areas, and some of those attracted almost 800 people, he said.

He urged the public to come, and said in addition to getting some helpful training, the soldiers like helping out. "For us, it's a satisfaction of being able to give a little something back to the community," he said.

Last year, GuardCare was in southern Ohio's Hocking County, and officials there wish they could do it again. "It was absolutely wonderful and fantastic for our community," said Sheila Wilson, director of nursing for the Hocking County health department. "I can't say enough nice about it."

Ms. Wilson said 600 patients showed up for treatment, and most opted for a complete physical instead of just selecting one or two screening tests.

"It's such a complete physical, with lab work and EKGs, and there's no charge," she said.

"We've had some really great success stories," Ms. Wilson said. "One guy came through and they found an abnormality on his EKG. He had it checked out [by his physician after the Guard visit], and he had a stent put in. If we hadn't found that, he might have had dire consequences."

James Sims, deputy director of public affairs for the Ohio National Guard, said the Guard expects to bring in some military equipment as well, including Humvees, for the public to look at. He stressed that all the Guard members taking part are professionally trained and certified medical personnel, with many of them, for example, having their own medical practices.

Paperwork is prepared so patients can take it to their own physician, or to their school in the case of school physicals, which is one of the most popular free services offered.

Ms. Gunning said local health department officials will be on hand to answer questions. If Guard personnel turn up a problem they are unable to address, health department officials will offer advice and assistance to patients on connecting with the appropriate local medical care.

Contact Luke Shockman at: lshockman@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.



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