East Palestine Clinic to Provide Long-Term Care

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio – The long-term health needs in the village may have been somewhat overlooked prior to the Feb. 3 train derailment, but not any longer.

On Monday morning, state and local officials, who had responded to the health concerns of the community following the derailment, opened a permanent clinic in conjunction with East Liverpool City Hospital.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said it became apparent as he spoke to people in East Palestine about their health concerns after the derailment that many did not have a medical home, a place with a doctor they saw regularly.

Vanderhoff and Gov. Mike DeWine both see the new clinic as part of the long-term commitment state and county officials made following the derailment.

“We saw this really as an opportunity, an opportunity to take something that began with a focus on responding to the health concerns that people had following the derailment and evolve that into a clinic that was able to not only continue to support patients’ questions, concerns, evaluations around that, but their comprehensive medical care, to really be a long-term medical offering,” Vanderhoff said.

The East Palestine Clinic is located on North Walnut Street.

The new clinic will be operated through East Liverpool Hospital. As opposed to the temporary clinic where residents were encouraged to go following the derailment, this clinic will be able to see patients in three examination rooms, do medical tests, provide treatment and write prescriptions.

“I think this is a logical step for us to take,” DeWine said. “Many people who I have talked to have a concern – Where will I be in a year? Where am I going to be in five years, 10 years? Having a clinic here, backed by the hospital, I think, goes a long way to answer that concern.”

Fire Chief Keith Drabeck told DeWine about the 300 first responders who were there the night of Feb. 3 and after, helping to battle the fires sparked when 38 train cars of a Norfolk Southern Railroad train derailed and an additional 12 cars caught fire.

DeWine said he believes those first responders all should be seen and have a health baseline completed.

DeWine also took the opportunity to thank the First Church of Christ, which allowed the first temporary emergency clinic to be housed there.

Dr. Gretchen Nickell, the chief medical officer at East Liverpool City Hospital, said the health clinic will treat newborns to the oldest members of the community for both primary health care, any ongoing chronic illnesses and screenings in regard to the train derailment.

Specialists in fields such as mental health, dermatology and ears, nose and throat may be brought in to help treat patients’ concerns.

For those without insurance who need care for train-related health needs, there may be no charge. DeWine said the cost of the clinic will be paid initially by the Ohio Department of Health, but he expects to request reimbursement through Norfolk Southern.

Dr. Gretchen Nickell is the chief medical officer at East Liverpool City Hospital.

Building Renovated

The location of the facility at 139 N. Walnut St. is centrally located in East Palestine, and Dr. John Koren was in the facility for many years. Because of that, DeWine said he hopes people will feel very comfortable coming there. 

The offices were cleaned and a ramp was added, along with an ADA bathroom.

Krista McFadden, president and CEO of East Liverpool City Hospital, said the important thing was that they made the April 10 deadline, which happened despite a large tree striking part of the building during one of the most recent storms.

“Thank goodness for my team of IT and facilities, as well as our medical staff, to be able to work that quickly and understand the importance of getting it done,” McFadden said.

Improvements will continue to be made, but McFadden said the location already had the bones that made it possible to get it up and running swiftly. 

Unlike the Wellsville Rural Clinic, which the city hospital opened within the last week and required a lot of remodeling to convert a prior bank into a health clinic, this building was already a health care facility.

To make an appointment at the new clinic, residents can call 330 383 6020.

Lasting, Positive Impact

Those opening the clinic hope it will have a lasting, positive impact on East Palestine and the surrounding community.

“People, I think, post-pandemic have changed their attitude towards where and how they will seek health care,” McFadden said. “So it really has been for both the rural health clinic in Wellsville and this clinic, about taking the care to the people, providing that outreach. Because we know that screen events, wellness events, those sorts of things, people are not plugged back into that. So if we can make it easier for them to have access, that’s where you start to see the results.”

“From the very beginning, our focus has been on the health and well-being of this community, and we really see an opportunity to continue to make a very important investment in the continued health of this community, and that’s in this new medical office,” Vanderhoff said. “We are committed to this community, and we are together, supporting the ongoing health needs of this community.”

Vanderhoff credited DeWine with having the foresight to recognize the health needs both initially and now long-term in the community and thanked partners who have worked since the beginning to provide medical assistance to the residents, including the Columbiana County Health District, First Church of Christ and East Liverpool City Hospital.

Additionally, the Ohio Department of Health has been supporting local physicians and created a webinar to provide those physicians and practitioners throughout the region with a better idea of what symptoms and health conditions they might expect to see following the derailment.

The testing of water, soil and air continues, as well as the removal of contaminated soil and water, with more than 1,000 tons of soil removed at least two days last week.

Vehicle Accident

However, on Monday afternoon, it was reported by DeWine’s office that according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a commercial vehicle hauling 40,000 pounds of contaminated soil from East Palestine’s derailment cleanup efforts was involved in a crash on state Route 165. The Ohio EPA was on the scene Monday afternoon and had reportedly contained the spill of an estimated 20,000 pounds of soil that spilled onto the roadway and berm. Local firefighters were on the scene as well, and the driver sustained minor injuries.

Pictured at top: The ribbon was cut Monday to officially open the East Palestine Clinic. From left are Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health; first lady Fran DeWine; Gov. Mike DeWine; Krista McFadden, president and CEO of East Liverpool City Hospital; and Dr. Gretchen Nickell, chief medical officer at East Liverpool City Hospital.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.