Thursday, February 22, 2007

Doctors Wanted for California City Corps - News

Doctors Wanted for California City Corps - News

FREMONT -- Is there a doctor in the house?

Fremont Fire Department officials are asking that question as part of their preparation for dealing with a local emergency in the future.

To that end, the city's disaster preparedness leaders have begun recruiting retired or active doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to join the Fremont Medical Reserve Corps.

They hope to add as many as 400 medical volunteers to the group, said Vic Valdes, retired Fremont Fire Department deputy chief.

As coordinator of the Fremont Metropolitan Medical Response System, Valdes would lead the city's response to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

"We think of the improbable and start planning for it," said Valdes, a firefighter for 30 years before retiring in September.

Likewise, the Medical Reserve Corps will be asked to respond to the Tri-City area's health needs in case of a local emergency.

Valdes' job is to make sure their work in providing "mass medical care" is coordinated with other public safety agencies and volunteer teams. For instance, the Fremont Citizen Corps, a group of local volunteers, already has participated in two test response exercises related to dispensing mass medication.

The Fremont Medical Reserve Corps is the local branch of a national program started in 2002 as part of the federal Homeland Security Department.

Non-medical volunteers, such as bilingual speakers, also are urged to join the Corps. With nearly 140 languages spoken in Fremont alone, "people whospeak other languages are extremely important during a crisis because you need to do quick screenings of people's medical histories as you do a mass distribution of medicines and treatments," Valdes said.

Corps volunteers also would be asked to improve the community's day-to-day health issues, including youth obesity and the disparities in the quality of medical treatment among low-income families. Those efforts improve the lives of residents before and during an emergency, Valdes said.

"Disaster preparedness is not something you do once and put on a shelf," he said. "It's a daily thing."

For more information on the Fremont Medical Reserve Corps, call (510) 494-4244.

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