With limited medical facilities available on the Coastside, in an emergency the area could become quickly overwhelmed with calls for service. To fill the void, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved $78,000 in Measure K funds to go toward restarting a Medical Reserve Corps on the Coastside.
Charise McHugh, former CEO of the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau, and Half Moon Bay resident Dr. Juliana Barr, who works at the VA Palo Alto Medical Center, assisted in spearheading the efforts.
“We need local doctors and nurses to be organized to assist during an emergency,” McHugh said. “This will be used as a prototype for the rest of the county.”
In the traditional sense, a Medical Reserve Corps is a network of community-based medical professionals who come together to meet the public health needs of their communities. However, McHugh and Barr are envisioning the Coastside’s corps will be designated to assist during large-scale emergencies, such as an earthquake or wildland fire.
“This is huge news for the community,” Barr said.
The organization works by having trained medical workers respond and set up at a shelter or at an emergency operations center.
“If there is a countywide disaster, our emergency medical services over the hill are going to have their hands full, and so we will only have the people on duty here,” McHugh said. “We will have doctors and nurses trained that can respond here. We will also have a trailer that will be fully equipped with bandages and gauzes, etc.”
In the coming weeks, McHugh and Barr said they are meeting with representatives from the county and coming up with a plan to get the corps up and functioning within the next 12 months.
The bulk of the funding is designated toward administrative costs, including verifying credentialing of medical professionals. The nature of the work requires a higher bar for credentialing medical volunteer disaster workers, Barr said.
Several years ago, a grassroots version of a medical reserve corps existed on the Coastside but dissolved over time because of a lack of participation and a lack of government support.
“It was a group of about 30 people, but it was more focused on attending to all health-related needs. We want this group, going forward, to be more focused on disaster preparedness medical care,” Barr said. “It will create a blueprint for other MRCs in the county.”
Both McHugh and Barr noted the plethora of emergency preparedness groups on the Coastide, with the Community Emergency Response Team being one of the largest.
“With growth of the CERT program, this is a perfect time to restart this again,” Barr said.