MARK E. RONDEAU
County News Editor
BENNINGTON -- On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the Bennington Free Clinic will host a special day for local Latino farmworkers to get medical care.
"We’ve been working on this for some time," said Dr. Richard Dundas, a retired internist who started the clinic, which is located in the Nichols Education Building at the First Baptist Church on Main Street.
"We’ve been aware for some time of problems with health care for Spanish-speaking workers, mainly the farmworkers -- that’s who we’re targeting," he said. "Not too many farms in Bennington County employ such workers, but we knew there’s some pretty big farms over there in White Creek (N.Y.).
He added, "So we’ve invited some Hispanic workers to come to our clinic for a special day. And it involves transporting them, because transportation is an issue for many of them coming from the farm into town."
The effort will include providing the workers with a meal around noon, which they will eat in the church hall. There will be a form in Spanish the workers can fill out listing prior health issues. After that, the patients will see the workers and the doctors.
"For this Spanish day, we’ve lined up all Spanish-speaking staff and nurses and doctors," Dundas said.
Sue Andrews, general manager of the clinic, which is a program of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services Inc., said most of the workers on the local dairy farms are from Central America, with a few from Mexico.
The Free Clinic is for anyone in the area served by Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. "We don’t turn anybody down," she said. A person’s immigration status plays no role in who the clinic serves. "It doesn’t make any difference to us," Andrews said. "This is just about getting health care to people."
Clinic staff are eager to provide tetanus shots to the workers, for this infection is a particular hazard on farms, she said.
Dundas named the Spanish-speaking medical personnel and aides who will be involved. MaryLou Rivera will be a greeter. Auberta Galusha and Viola Moriarty will help the workers fill out the health questionnaires. Jael Palmer-Tarquino, Georgye Curtis, and Jill Robart are the nurses involved. The doctors will be Fred Loy, Sherrie DeHaas, and David King.
"We think that we will have about 15 farmworkers. We think that they have probably unmet health needs," Dundas said. "Some will come just for checkups; others will be coming for a problem that’s been bothering them.
"Also, we did this more or less as an introduction to our clinic, because over across the state line they’ve never heard of us," he said. "And they have no access to any health care." Dundas said that every farmer he has talked to has said the workers are "really good people. Good workers, but moreover really good people." Many of them have been here for several years.
Some of the workers will be coming from Strohmaier Farm in Pownal, and Landview Farm in White Creek, which has about 20 workers in total. A couple more workers may be coming from another farm in White Creek, he said.
Both Dundas and Andrews said that workers from Strohmaier Farm have come to the clinic before but those from New York have not.
As for the meal, Chili’s restaurant will be donating food; Hannaford supermarket is donating food; and Crazy Russian Girls will donate a cake, Dundas said.
Dundas, who is an outspoken advocate for single-payer health care, said he had the idea for the special clinic day for a long time.
"It’s been kind of festering in the back of my mind for about four years," he said. "So finally I said to myself, we can do it this winter."
Asked if she had anything to add, Andrews said, "We’re just glad to be able to do it and offer the care."
Contact Mark Rondeau at firstname.lastname@example.org or @banner_religion on Twitter.