We got a few more details about the program the Arkansas Department of Health will begin offering on Tuesday to Mayflower residents who say the March oil spill there made them sick.
ADH spokesman Ed Barham said people will visit with a nurse who will assess their health with a questionnaire the department developed by looking at similar surveys used around the recent oil spill disasters in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. William Mason, who headed ADH’s role in the Mayflower spill response, and other physicians will evaluate those questionnaire results and make referrals accordingly, to UAMS doctors who specialize in inhalation injuries and toxic exposure. ADH will pay for the evaluations and making referrals through its general operating budget.
“We’ve been talking about how to do this and how to answer these questions for a while,” Barham said. “This is definitely something the governor wants to have done.”
Barham called the ADH plan “a phased process,” leaving the door open for a more comprehensive response from the department. Asked whether that could lead to a community-wide health assessment of the sort advocated by Emily Harris of the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, Barham said: “We don’t have a plan to do that right now. It may be that this would help lead us to decisions of that kind.”
Harris’s first impression of the ADH plan was that it amounted to too little too late. We asked her to send some thoughts after she had time to gather some facts, and here’s what she replied, via email.
FCCAG supports the efforts of the ADH to provide access to health care for effected Mayflower community residents. However, the group holds numerous concerns about this proposal for several reasons. One must wonder why these services are only being offered now 5 months post rupture in response to pressure from the community? Why were they not available immediately? What precisely the services will consist of is also in question.