Eula Hall

Eula Hall in 1991 at the Mud Creek Clinic in Grethel, Ky., where she offered counseling, health care, benefits guidance and more.

I just read an obituary for Eula Hall. She quit school after the eighth grade to work as a domestic housekeeper. She married an abusive husband and helped him make moonshine in Eastern Kentucky. She said it was “good, clean and safe.”

She saw a need for better medical care in her Appalachian Mountain community and lobbied tirelessly for it. She got her wish but the service the feds put up was “mostly just a glorified taxi service,” shuttling patients out of the area and bypassing local care and the local economy. Then in 1973, fed up with the failures of federal programs, she founded Mud Creek Clinic, an old trailer on cinder blocks in Grethel, Kentucky.

The clinic, staffed by idealistic young doctors and nurses, became a model for community health centers serving low-income areas. Mrs. Hall drove through the hollers and valleys to pick up people who had no transportation. Many of them had never seen a doctor before.

She told the son of one of those doctors (who wrote her biography), “I’m just too damn stubborn to sit by and let the world be cruel to my family and friends.”

Her clinic burned in 1982. She set up a picnic table and served patients next to the ruins. Hall began raising money for a new clinic by holding potlucks and yard sales. Sympathetic police officers looked the other way when she set up a roadblock to collect donations from passing drivers. A story on national television brought donations from far-off places which helped enable the construction of what is now called the Eula Hall Health Center.

The most interesting thing I found in researching this story was the number of times she was portrayed as advocating for government healthcare when her life epitomized the opposite, and proved it.

I have a young friend, self-employed. The other day he said, “I’m for universal healthcare.” Almost anyone who doesn’t have health insurance in a group plan is looking for a job that provides it. Costs are out of control. So naturally we want to control them.

The first step in trying to solve a problem is to look at the cause. Back in 1964 Medicare became law. Like the murder of Kitty Genovese, that same year, people stood by and let it happen. Medical costs have skyrocketed ever since because costs are best controlled by competition. I still hear people say the government should crack down and limit prices, completely ignoring the idea of individuals saying “no” themselves.

A 2013 study by Imperial College found that death rates in hospitals controlled by the National Health Service (universal healthcare) in the U.K. were 45% higher than in U.S. hospitals. Another study found that many of those deaths were from neglect and mistakes.

Are these really the kinds of things we are willing to accept because we actually believe medical care is free and all the research and work will be done by people like Eula Hall while we sit around and trust “universal healthcare?”

We’ve lost a few good people lately. We should honor their memory by taking over where they left off. Mrs. Hall wasn’t just a piece of the white 93-year old demographic. She was like each of us who sees something needs to be done and does it. Only individuals actually do something. She was one to emulate.

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