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Free Salvation Army Clinic Opens

Dec. 7, 2007 — At 1 p.m. Friday, Salvation Army Sergeant Major Doris Archibald stood ready to greet folks coming to the official opening of the organization's free health clinic, as Majors Federico and Doris Craig hovered nearby.
Friday marked the beginning of the clinics, which will run on a regular basis the first Friday of the month. The clinics have been in the works since last year, one of many innovations the Craigs are bringing to the organization since stepping in to head the local chapter two years ago.
An even dozen folks showed up over the afternoon. Archibald said she was pleased with the turnout.
"Actually," she said, "we had a trial run last month, and we saw 10 people."
The clinic is small and clean, with white tile floors, a single bed enclosed with a curtain, an oxygen tank, a blood-pressure unit and a table full of blood-testing equipment. It offers cholesterol checks, blood pressure, breast exams and blood-sugar counts, as well as care for minor wounds. It is situated in a building, acquired last year, adjacent to the organization's regular headquarters.
Archibald, who worked at the Roy Lester Schneider hospital for 25 years as a licensed practical nurse, knows her way around the medical community on St. Thomas. Born in St. Kitts, she worked in New York before coming to St. Thomas, where she received her LPN training.
"Nurses from the Schneider Regional Medical Center have volunteered to help out for a few hours," Archibald said. Nurse Celestine Belsejet was on duty Friday.
The screenings are a "pilot project" for a permanent medical clinic Federico Craig plans to establish.
"We want to see what we can do now," he said Friday. "We are waiting to get a doctor on board so we can do referrals."
In the meantime, Archibald said, surgeon Frank Odlum is helping out. She said said the clinic is careful about patients' medications.
"We can never tell anyone what to take, but we can monitor their medications, remind them to remember to take them," she said. "We give them pamphlets on cholesterol, diabetes or whatever they need, and we follow up on their progress. If a person needs medical care for a wound, I take them to Dr. Odlum."
People who come to the clinics are not the homeless, but "mostly middle-aged folks, people who work," Archibald said. She continued, "We had one older lady maybe in her 70s today, and another who was downtown shopping and wanted a breast exam. We had a few men who wanted to take advantage of the free checkup."
It's not easy to get the homeless to come in for care, Archibald lamented.
"The thing is," she said, "you have to guide them. You have to rope them in. When they come in for lunch, that's all they want. You can't give them nothing else but lunch."
Still, Archibald was pleased at the 12 people they saw on Friday.
"That's a good start," she said.
Early in the afternoon, with no one else to serve, Archibald cajoled Major Craig into having his blood-pressure taken.
"It's fine," he protested. "It's always fine."And it was.
Then she moved on to a reporter whose cholesterol she found to be a bit high.
"What will I do over the holidays?" the reporter asked.
"Well, you can have some sweets then," Archibald said, "but the first of the year you must purge yourself of all that."
She ended the interview by handing out a bright red piece of candy wrapped in cellophane.
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