ROGERSVILLE — Last year the Church Hill Medical Mission served 675 uninsured patients who are now unable to visit the office due to restrictions created by the COVID-19 crisis.
But that doesn’t mean the clinic’s volunteer doctors and nurses have stopped working. Instead, the CHMM is now doing telephone screening and delivering medications to their patients’ doorsteps.
CHMM administrator Kathy Christian told the Times News Wednesday that if the mission stops supplying its patients with medication, undoubtedly some of them will die.
As a result, the CHMM’s demand for medical masks for making home deliveries has increased dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis began, adding to the financial burden of the cash-strapped free clinic.
On Wednesday, however, the CHMM was among several recipients of a big bundle of free masks manufactured and distributed by a group of volunteers from the Rogersville-based Project Serve Our Soldiers and the Happy Hearts Quilting Guild.
“We’re not going to quit serving our patients”
Christian told the Times News Wednesday that the donated masks are a godsend.
“When they (patients) call us, we take our medications to them, and we mask up and glove up,” Christian said. “So this (mask supply) is going to be great. We actually had a patient that we thought might be positive. Praise God, he was negative, but you never know. If he had come up positive, we would have all been tested.”
Christian added, “Fundraisers have been canceled and we’ve lost a lot of funding already. We have applied for several grants and we’re praying they come through. We’re not going to quit serving our patients because some of them could die.”
4,700 masks distributed as of Wednesday
Every Wednesday since March 25 — as well as most Fridays — the group of volunteers led by project coordinator Corki Weart has been distributing newly manufactured medical masks to the essential workers in Hawkins County who need them most. The distribution takes place at noon at the Rogersville National Guard Armory.
This past Wednesday, the volunteers distributed a total of 676 masks to nursing homes in Rogersville and Church Hill, both Holston Medical Group offices in Rogersville, and the CHMM. That brings the four-week total of medical masks distributed to a little over 4,700.
The first mask distribution day, March 25, they handed out 169 masks for local police and first responders.
On April 1, they focused on fire, rescue and EMT services and sent 500 masks to Hawkins County Memorial hospital.
On April 8, they focused on more law enforcement, including the entire sheriff’s office, as well as county offices, the courthouse and courtroom personnel.
Next Wednesday they will concentrate on getting masks to more medical clinics in the area, as well as veterinarian offices and the Hawkins County Humane Society.
“We’re doing our best to keep everybody supplied”
Bill Hewitt, who is in charge of distribution, said 950 masks have been requested for next Wednesday, which will put the group well over the 5,500-mask mark.
Hawkins County’s army of sewing soldiers currently stands at about 20 volunteers who are able to make more than 1,000 masks per week as long as the fabric and elastic contributions are still coming in.
“There’s going to be a shortage no matter what we do, and this isn’t going away because even after we’re allowed to come out, people are still going to need their masks,” said Weart. “We’re doing our best to keep everybody supplied, and of course once we’ve gotten everyone supplied once, then you’ve got to turn around and do it again for all of our first responders.”
“These will come in very handy”
On Wednesday, HMG LPN Jennifer Lawson picked up about 20 masks for each of the practice’s two Rogersville offices.
“This is great,” Lawson said. “These will come in very handy. We do have other boxes of masks right now, but we give them to patients when they come in without a mask. These we can use for ourselves and give more of ours to our patients.”
Here’s how you can help
Contributions of fabric and elastic can be delivered in person Wednesdays and Fridays at noon at the Rogersville armory or mailed to Weart i/c/o Project Serve Our Soldiers, 183 Manis Road, Rogersville, TN 37857. Anyone interested in volunteering or contributing can also call Weart at (407) 883-2036.
Any first responder, medical employee, or essential worker who comes into contact with the public is invited to request newly manufactured masks by calling Bill Hewitt at (321) 693-1548 to confirm the number of masks needed so the packages can be prepared and ready to hand out quickly. Hewitt can also be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.