Outreach to help flooded clinic turns competitors into life-long friends

Outreach to help flooded clinic turns competitors into life-long friends

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - A health care provider with clinics in Mississippi is reaching out to help those in need after floodwaters in Louisiana destroyed buildings and lives.

The flood disaster was a total loss for Total Family Medical clinic in Robert, La.

"We lost everything. Every piece of office equipment, down to every last paper towel," said Peggy Gautreaux. "We walked out with a box of Band-Aids and 10 alcohol wipes."

Gautreaux has owned the rural healthcare clinic with her husband since 2013. But, losing the clinic wasn't the only thing on their minds.

"You've lost your business, but where are your patients? And what do they need? And what's going to happen to them?", said Gautreaux.

The clinic is temporarily located in a former dentist office, but still doesn't have Internet or telephones on site. And, they still haven't gotten in touch with all of their 2,000-plus underprivileged clients.

But within hours, a phone call came from competitor Zach Allen with Children's International Medical Group's rural health division.

"They started to think for us. They started making phone calls," Gautreaux said. "The only thing they said was, 'What do you need? What do ya'll need? What can we do? Get as specific as you can. We're going to help you.'"

Allen is not only a vice president with Children's International, which has clinics in Gulfport, Bay St. Louis and Picayune, he's also with both Mississippi and Louisiana Rural Health Associations.

Through both, he has helped collect and donate to residents in the hardest hit areas of Louisiana. But, those rural health clinics destroyed are also important.

"It was extra personal in that it not only was a fellow rural health provider, but it was also one of our neighbors," Allen said. "Some might say a competitor, but we really try not to look at it that way because I think if something positive can come from a situation like this, is that you realize in life what's really important."

The Mississippi Rural Health Association is helping to raise money for the clinics.

If you'd like to help, visit the association's website, www.msrha.org/.

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