Rosalynn Carter Visits Army’s Kona Clinic
By Judy Lee –
The day when former First Lady Rosalynn Carter toured The Salvation Army Kona Corps Volunteer Health Clinic and Ohana Keiki Day Care Center will long be remembered in Kona, a small community on the Big Island of Hawaii. She came to promote the early immunization campaign she and Betty Bumpers, wife of Arkansas senator Dale Bumpers, formed in 1991.
An epidemic of measles in 1989, which hit 53,000 children across the country and killed 135, led to the campaign called, “Every Child By Two.” To forward the immunization agenda, Carter and Bumpers have visited nearly two-thirds of the states, and pledge to get to all 50. In addition to its state activities, “Every Child By Two” provides ongoing technical assistance and resources to health care providers and to those who assist in state and local immunization projects.
Carrying her message that far too many of the nation’s children have not been vaccinated against a variety of diseases, Carter stated that immunizations are easy to give, and free if parents can’t pay. “It takes so little to prevent unnecessary suffering. Children should all be vaccinated by the age of two,” she said.
Captain Nancy Davis welcomed Carter to the Kona Corps following a luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Kona, where she addressed health care providers and community agencies.
Kevin Kunz, M.D., a volunteer doctor at the clinic, Clinic Coordinator Lindsay Alexander and Davis explained how the clinic is set up and who is served.
The Volunteer Health Clinic serves those who cannot afford medical services, on a temporary basis, with limited medical treatment and evaluation. The clinic is staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, and patients are seen Tuesday evenings by appointment only.
“Funding for the clinic is soft,” said Alexander. A grant from the State Department of Health for $23,000 will put the clinic on firmer ground. That’s good news to Dr. Kunz and the 23 other medical professionals and assistants who give their time to treat those in need.
The Salvation Army sponsors the clinic by providing clinic space, a part-time coordinator, corps director assistance, community relations, liability insurance, utilities, janitorial services, moral and miscellaneous support. Costs for supplies, prescriptions, and referral services are partially met by donations from individuals and community groups.
The clinic opened in April 1994 with a mission of serving the homeless and indigent members of the West Hawaii Community. Services are free and include initial medical evaluation and treatment. Episodic care, medications, well-child screening exams, pre-employment, immigration and school physicals, immunizations, and medical and social referrals are also provided. More than half of the patients seen at the clinic are children.
Carter stated that so many vaccinations are needed by children, 16 vaccinations by the time they are 18 months old, many doctors and parents can’t keep track. She suggested a state computer registry be established to keep track of the shots each child has had. Eventually all the state registries would be united into a national one.
“Some parents think they can’t afford to vaccinate their babies, but they really can’t afford not to,” said Carter. “The good news is, we have plenty of vaccine for everyone. The bad news is, not enough people take advantage of it.”
Davis hopes the media exposure generated by Carter’s visit will reach parents who have children in need of vaccinations and might not know about the clinic, or were concerned about cost.