Photo by Lisa Bicknell
One young patient gets a free eye exam on opening day of ‘Operation Bobcat.’ The military clinic is offering free medical screenings through June 24th at the Estill County High School.
By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Operation Bobcat, a military-sponsored medical clinic, opened last Friday at the Estill County High School to begin a ten-day session of voluntarily meeting the community’s medical needs.
Forty-one personnel from the U.S. Navy Reserve and the Air Force National Guard, many of them doctors, dentists and optometrists, make up the staff of Operation Bobcat.
The clinic offers free dental and eye screenings, as well as other general health screenings. Clinics are also operating simultaneously in Lee, Breathitt and Owsley Counties.
Sandra Dunahoo, Commissioner of the Department for Local Government which is co-sponsoring the clinics, said they are full-fledged military maneuvers designed to help troops be prepared in the event of a conflict or natural disaster.
At one time, the military would deploy to other countries for training exercises, but during the Clinton administration, they began to realize the need for such trainings within the country’s own borders.
The first clinic in Kentucky was in the Paducah area, and nearly 13,000 patient contacts were made during that time. The estimated economic impact of the clinic there was $1.5 million, but the experience was “invaluable to the military,” said Dunahoo.
“That convinced me to make it happen as often as we can,” said Dunahoo.
Not only does the community receive benefits, but troops have many opportunities to hone field operations and logistics skills, as they move into areas to which they are not familiar.
Personnel are 100 percent self-sufficient, Dunahoo said, bringing their own equipment, supplies, and pharmaceuticals (no narcotics).
The troops sleep on site and prepare their own meals on site.
To be selected as a clinic site, there is a “very competitive application” for communities applying to host the clinics.
Some of the free medical services being provided are very general medical screenings and sports physicals. If a serious problem is detected, patients are referred to local doctors or agencies.
Patients can walk in for dental cleanings, fillings and extractions. Optometry services include vision screenings and prescription eyeglasses (single lens only). Glasses can be picked up the day following the exam.
Jennifer Lee, Jacob Lee, Jocelyn Lee and Jessica Lee were among those awaiting their turn to get their eyes checked at the clinic on opening day.
Jessica Lee said she was instrumental in bringing the program to Estill County because she helped file the application in 2016 to get the clinic here when she was employed in the governor’s office.
She had seen first-hand what clinics provide to communities and wanted that service available here.
“You can’t put a value on being able to help,” said Lee.