|SAN JUAN, July 31 - A Brownsville teacher says those attending a VIP luncheon at PSJA ISD on Thursday to celebrate Operation Lone Star 2013 should also visit the school at four or five in the morning as well.
If they did they would see hundreds of Rio Grande Valley residents waiting patiently through the night to receive much needed medical attention, says Janie Infante. She says many of those waiting will not get the dental care or vision care service they need because demand far exceeds supply.
“I really feel sorry for those who do not have health insurance who have waited through the night and will not get seen. They are only seeing about 200 people a day. Many people are being turned away. We need for this service, dental and vision, to be available at all the Operation Lone Star centers, not just at PSJA,” Infante told the Guardian.
Operation Lone Star (OLS) is an annual joint military and civil humanitarian medical mission that takes place for one week every summer along the Texas-Mexico border. This year, the services are available at locations in Brownsville, Laredo, Mission, Rio Grande City and San Juan. The medical services provided through OLS include immunizations, blood pressure checks, diabetes screening, hearing and vision exams, medical evaluations, a sports physical checkup for students, preventative health education, social service program information, mental health services, and dental services.
As in previous years, dental care and vision care are in greatest demand. This year, these services are only available at PSJA High School. More than 1,000 people visited PSJA High School on Monday and Tuesday for medical services as part of Operation Lone Star. PSJA public information officer Arianna Hernandez said this is twice as many as last year. Hernandez puts this down to dental care and vision care services being available for the first time at PSJA.
Infante said she is lucky enough to have health insurance through her work as a teacher in Brownsville. However, she said the insurance does not readily cover dental or vision. To have this service, her co-payment would be much greater. “It is too expensive,” she said. The Guardian met up with Infante while she was waiting in line at PSJA High School early on Wednesday morning. She said she and a family member also stood in line early in the morning on Monday and Tuesday in the hope of getting dental care and vision care service.
“On Monday, we got here at 6:15 in the morning and I was given number 273. I got here too late for dental or vision so I just had the medical. On Tuesday we got here at 5:15 and I did get vision but not dental. So, this morning (Wednesday) we got here at 1:30 in the morning. I am hoping I get dental today,” Infante said. She explained that because she is a teacher she is off work during the summer. This means she has time to get the most out of Operation Lone Star. She said she finally left the temporary clinics in the middle of the afternoon on Monday and Tuesday. “Those who have to work can’t do this. If they do, they have to take a day off work,” she said.
The Guardian interviewed Infante at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday. She was waiting next to a family that had driven over from Rio Grande City for dental care and vision car. “In a way, it is kind of fun, you get to meet new people. But look at the line, there are so many people here.”
There were about 30 people in front of Infante in the line. The person who got there first did not want to be named but said she was from Harlingen. She said she had been waiting since 10:30 the night before. Doors open for the medical services at 8 a.m.
“Don’t get me wrong, Operation Lone Star is good. The service is good. It is just there is not enough of it,” Infante said. “Come the end of the week there are going to be a lot of disappointed people. They will have come here a number of days and will have not received the treatment they need. Why can’t they provide dental and vision at the other centers too? This service should be available in all four Valley counties.”
Infante said she spoke with some of the military personnel that are helping put on OLS at PSJA High School. She said they told her they were amazed at how many people needed medical services. “When you get here early and you are told there are no more slots for vision or for dental and you have been here for four or five hours, it is very disappointing. The military said they had enough the personnel here, enough doctors here, but I don’t know. I do not know why they are not providing more slots,” Infante said.
Editor’s Note: The Guardian will bring a response from the VIPs attending the Operation Lone Star luncheon at PSJA High School on Thursday.