Shelby County struggles to find volunteers - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby County struggles to find volunteers

In the event of a community wide health disaster the burden of care rests on the shoulders of the local health department. They have a plan to enlist the help of medical and non-medical volunteers but they still don't have a full staff. The county needs helping hands--thousands of them just in case of a health emergency.

"We have almost 6000 volunteers at this time, last year we had 2500 - 2700," said Lila Stafford of the Memphis/Shelby County Health Department.

Health department volunteer coordinator Lila Stafford is talking about the public health reserve corps. They're the workers who step in when a disaster or epidemic hits the area. The corps is called up to staff 20 emergency clinics that would open during a crisis.  Stafford is happy with the number of volunteers but she says the health department needs more.

"We're falling about 4 - 5 thousand short and we're continuing to recruit," said Stafford.

It's a gap that needs to be filled with more urgency now that the Bush administration has warned the country to be prepared for a bird flu pandemic that they say could kill nearly 2 million Americans. Memphis and Shelby County EMA says the area is ready.

"That's a never ending process for us at the ema and the health department. This is nothing new just an increased warning coming from the administration that we need to be watching for," said Randall Roby of Shelby County EMA.

Watching for a potentilly deadly virus that president bush has given top billing on the national agenda. Lila Stafford attributes the recent boost in volunteers to Hurricane Katrina. She said thousands of people asked how they could help Katrina survivors and most of those people have remained in the public health reserve corps.

To learn more about volunteering click here .

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