Migrant workers get free health care

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The Emory University Physician's Assistant Program organizes mobile clinics in south Georgia each year. This year, they're seeing fewer workers.

This is the only time of the year some migrant workers in south Georgia receive health care. Students from Emory and Mercer universities along with volunteers saw patients at the Clarion Hotel in Valdosta.

"These folks are definitely under served and they work hard every day and provide for us and a lot of them, most of them don't have access to care,"  said Emory's Jeri Sumitani.

The is the 16th annual South Georgia Farmworker Health Project put on by Emory University. Migrant workers and their families can receive all kinds of care including wellness checks and follow ups on chronic illnesses.

"People should really come here," said Teresa Vasquez.

The mobile clinic comes to them. More than 1,600 workers were seen last year in Decatur, Echols and Lowndes Counties.

This year they've seen a decline in workers they serve.

"We've heard stories and again it's hard to confirm what actually is causing the decreases in numbers but the stories we've heard are that people are leaving the area,"  Sumitani said.

Iovanna Yanez and her family work in tobacco, blueberry and blackberry fields in Lanier and Lowndes County.

"I'm just hear to see doctors and nurses, it's a good opportunity," said Yanez.

She says a lot of her friends have left the state. "They're afraid of the new law that's coming, and it's just going to affect our economy, our farmers. Who's going to pick the food, the vegetables?"

Now with laws targeting illegal immigration, many farmers are losing their crops because workers are getting scared away. And Iovanna Yanez wants the government to find some way to let migrant workers get back to work.

Thursday's free migrant clinic will be at the Moreno Plaza in Lake Park. Valdosta State University's Council on Staff Affairs and faculty members from different departments have also been assisting with the mini clinics in Lake Park this week.

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