• Doctors, nurses in Everett use street medicine to stop spread of infectious disease

    By: Joanna Small

    Updated:

    EVERETT, Wash. - You’ve seen them through the car window as you drive by and on the sidewalk, where you pick up your pace to avoid them. But Dennis Kelly and his team of volunteers who make up Mercy Watch really see the homeless.

    Kelly, a deacon in the Catholic Church, helped found the nonprofit in 2016.  

    Every Tuesday and Thursday night, they fill their cars with food, clothes and blankets then hand them out to the homeless at several sites around Everett.

    But there’s another piece to the Mercy Watch puzzle. It’s called “street medicine.”

    “Street medicine is no different than what you’d find if you went to see your doctor,” Kelly explained.

    Thanks to a grant that provides them medical malpractice insurance, Mercy Watch has a team of volunteer doctors and nurses who treat people on the spot.

    The Thursday night KIRO 7 went along with the group, it was Dr. Tim Mcnamara and his wife, Judy, a nurse.

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    The Mcnamaras bring their own medications to treat serious infections like MRSA, a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to antibiotics.

    “We certainly open abscesses, give people antibiotics. Infectious disease is a major problem with people on the streets—cellulitis, pneumonia. We carry antibiotics for that sort of thing,” Dr. Mcnamara explained.

    About a third of the people they encounter have some kind of infectious disease they can treat and nearly every patient is a candidate for prevention.

    “We have just immunized 120 people for the flu, and our next immunization attempt is for hepatitis A,” Dr. Mcnamara said.

    Left untreated, many of these people would die, but most would never go to a doctor on their own.

    “It’s just meeting people where they are,” Kelly reiterated.

    He says that means opening your eyes and your heart when others look away.

    "Our goal is to stand with people who are demonized, those who are despised and let them know we shouldn't be throwing people away in our society."

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