Tracking Homeless Health

Harris County has a large uninsured population and a portion of that population is homeless. Even if the homeless can get health insurance, keeping track of patient records is a problem. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports on one man's effort to find an answer to that problem.

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It's about 7:30 in the morning and a couple hundred homeless are lined up outside the Palmer Episcopal Church on Main Street.ξ The homeless come to the Way Station here for a hot breakfast.ξξξ Also here is Doctor David Buck who is walking up and down the line, in a sense, making a house call.

"Good morning, anybody have healthcare questions or concerns ... all right, or health care tips ... anyone have healthcare questions or concerns ... that kind of stuff."

Buck is carrying with him a type of hand-held computer to hold the medical records of the homeless.ξ Some people he knows their names.ξ Others he'll note in his street medical records as man with funny hat or a tattoo on arm.ξ

No one speaks up on the first pass, but coming back down the line, Buck catches the eye ofξa person who slightly raises his hand.ξ It turns out the man has type one diabetes.

"This is a man that if he's admitted to the hospital with diabetic ... will cost about $150 thousand to $250 thousand dollars.ξ The drug that he needs is about a ten dollar drug: insulin."ξ

Inside the way station, Buck is able to test the man's blood sugar and it's dangerously high.ξ With his laptop, Buck is able to arrange care.ξ All the medical information isξtransmitted to the clinic where the man will be treated.ξ Buck moves on.ξ Irvin is trying to figure out why his disability and medicare have been cut off.

"So you are out of medicine.ξ No, I'm on my medicine. ...great stuff with a really tough times."

Buck is able to get Irvin to the next step with updated records and another appointment.

"that's what we are going to try to do ... scary for anyone ... I don't know why some people give ... but you didn't do that this time ... says a lot of what you've accomplished ... It's great to see you again.ξ Same here, Doctor Buck."

Another man calls Buck over to let him know that he's had lab work done but is concerned things are falling through the cracks.

"So we'll see you Wednesday.ξ I'm glad I caught you ... you because ... ten weeks and wait ... too long, too long and I'm definitely concerned something's going onξ ... in my mind."

The man is pleased Buck can keep the process moving.

"We used to not have ... really need more than that out here."

And Buck will continue to work the lines with his street medical records trying to keep up with those who show up at the Way Station.ξ Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.


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