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Interview with Ann Zuvekas

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Ann Zuvekas was director of Migrant Health Services, Inc., from 1974 to 1976. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Migrant Health Services, Inc., including its history, organization, funding, objectives, services, innovative projects and achievements, new programs, goals, and areas needing improvement.

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TRANSCRIPT OF AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH
ANN ZUVEKAS

This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Ann Zuvekas, Director of Migrant Health Services, Incorporated, Moorhead, Minnesota, discusses the past history, present goals, and objectives, accountability, accomplishments, innovative projects, plus future hopes for the organization. This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. The original tape recording is

available in the Audio-Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH ANN ZUVEKAS July INTERVIEWER:
14~

1976

RAMEDO SAUCEDO

Saucedo:

I am Ramedo Saucedo.

I am at the offices of Migrant Health Services, Inc.
Services~

With

me is the Director of Migrant Health

Ann Zuvekas.

My first question,

Ann, is do I have your permission to do this tape? Zuvekas: Saucedo: Yes, of course. Can you tell me then, how Migrant Health Services was organized? Who were the leaders? Zuvekas: Who were the officers? In what year?

Who were its founders? Congress passed a Migrant Health

Perhaps I can give a little background on that. Act in 1962.

Health Services were first offered to Migrants in Minnesota in 1964.

About the end of the 1960's, HEW, who had responsibility for Migrant Health, felt that it was getting nation-wide, not just for Minnesota. not much action. A lot of statistics, but

They set up non-profit corporations, on the old OEO model from They have contracts

the 60's, which were corporations that were consumer-dominated. with the Feds to run Health Services. Inc.

In 1973, Minnesota Migrant Health Service, The

was then called and organized in the fall of 1972 and spring of 1973.

leaders at that time were those that I've seen in the file, I was not around then; Tony Martinez, Roberto Trevenio, and Ramiro Rodriquez. the key leaders, some community people: I think that those were

Jim Demsey, from East Grand Forks; Jim

Laughlin, who is now in Illinois; also Denny DeMur, who is with the Tri-Va11ey Opportunity Council. I think those were probably the key leaders. The first

contract, then, was on May:-;- first, 1973. November of 1972.

We were incorporated in the fall, However, most of the contract

We first began services in 1973.

was through the Minnesota Department of Health, as a transition year in 1973, so 1974 was our first full year.

-2Saucedo: Zuvekas: What is the area that you are serving? Our area is the Red River Valley of both Minnesota and North Dakota; the Renville area, and sugarbeet area in the Minnesota River Valley in Minnesota; and south eastern Minnesota. Just recently, starting May 1, 1976, we have funding from the

State, which enables us to serve }ligrants in southern Minnesota through a mobile unit. We changed our name in the fall of 1975, to reflect our increased services We dropped the Minnesota from our name.

to North Dakota. Saucedo: Zuvekas:

What are the objectives of the organization? Well, for too long migrants have been subjected to second-class health-care, in fact, it's just been full medical-care, rather than full health. very high-risk-population. the National Average. Migrants are a

The infant-mortality-rate for example, is four times We're trying to do

Life expectancy is about forty-nine.

something about that, both through assisting with euphonic care and emergency care. That's when somebody's sick or already injured and getting into preventive

health through screening; health-education; teaching people to recognize symptoms and so forth. We hope to eventually make an impact on the Migrant's Health Status;

to make those kids healthier and have people live longer. Saucedo: What problems are you having? Are you limited in anyway? Are your hands tied?

Are you limited in scope in anyway? Zuvekas: We have two main problems. One is financial. When I came on the program in

September of 1974, we had about ten dollars per migrant to run a comprehensivehealth program. We are now up to about twenty-five dollars per migrant, but that's There are a lot of things we can't do. We can't afford the

still very limited. staff.

We can't afford the follow-up and so forth.

The second thing is because

of the nature of where migrants are and the fact that they are moving; some follow-up is limited. Migrants tend to be in rural areas of course. Our medical

facilities are limited, so that some specialist, for example, are not abailable. Doctors are busy and what not. They also, by definition, move. You may have, for

-3-

Zuvekas:

example, regulated a diabetic, only to find that he goes off his diet when he goes to another state. I think those are the frustrations.

Saucedo:

Is Minnesota Migrant Council duplicating any of the health services that Migrant Health Services, Incorporated is also performing?

Zuvekas:

I don't think so. '76.

This was the subject of long negotiations in the winter of 1975-

As Minnesota Migrant Council's funding was greatly increased for the calendar We had long discussions about

year of 1976, they decided to get into health care. this.

We were concerned with the duplication of services, but also we were conFor example, if someone was sent to a doctor by the

cerned with medical dangers.

Minnesota Migrant Council and still wasn't feeling well and came to our clinic that night and was given a second prescription, which might be incompatible with the first or whatever, we were really concerned. The arrangement we had with the

Minnesota Migrant Council is first that we have a sub-contract with them for $20,000 to provide services -directly. Secondly, they are not in the areas with We think that has

health services that we are, during the times we are there. solved the problem. of Labor. Saucedo: Zuvekas: How does the Minnesota State Board of Health assist you?

We are glad of the additional resources through the Department

The State Board of Health has been a big help over the last two years.

I suppose

there were hard feelings when the State Department of Health lost the federal contract in 1973. I don't know, but it would be understandable. They weren't really

interested in giving us additional services, even those services that are supposed to be available to residents of the State. The State Board of Health became inter-

ested in the fall of 1974 and has pushed the Health Department to, for example, lobby for funding a mobile-unit; giving us family-planning funds; and so forth. found them very helpful. Saucedo: Are there any other agencies that help you or work along with you? We

-4Zuvekas: Yes, of course. One of the things that we are most concerned about is not dupliWe work with Tri-Valley Opportunity Council. They

cating and not leaving gaps.

have a contract for Migrant Children's Pre-School Education; the State Department of Education, Pete Moreno, Title One Migrant; Local County Welfare Offices through Medical Assistance, for example, or General Assistance; County Nurses, and City Departments of Health; many agencies are involved. Saucedo: Zuvekas: Who are you accountable to? I personally am accountable to the Board of Directors, because it is a non-profit corporation. Saucedo: Zuvekas: And the Board of Directors? The Board of Directors is accountable to the funding agencies. agency is HEW. The biggest funding

We report to them monthly, but we also have Department of Labor

money, we report to them and so forth. Saucedo: How do you avoid having a Migrant come up from Texas to ask for services, without working in the fields? to get medical services? Or say he comes up for a week to work in the fields merely Do you have anyway of investigating and checking and

following through back to Texas? Zuvekas: Yes, we are hooked under the National Migrant Referral System and of course we can always pick up the phone and call
his~' local>;

clinic in Texas.

I don't think that

has been a problem, I really don't.

I know there is a rumor going around, I have

heard it many times in the communities here that Migrant Women plan conception so they'll have their babies while they are in Minnesota or North Dakota. that implies a great deal of sophistication, in the first place. I think

I do think that

there are times when people decide to have medical work done in Minnesota or North Dakota. For that reason we are very careful in voluntary surgery. Perhaps people I don't

come a little earlier or stay a little longer than they had intended. think they come for that reason.

-5Saucedo: Zuvekas: Approximately how many migrants do you serve? Last year, we served between four and five thousand. this year. There are more migrants in the State. We expect to increase that

We serve them an average of

two and a half times each. Saucedo: According to the latest report I have seen, there are approximately fifteen thousand migrants that come to Minnesota. figures you have seen? Zuvekas: I personally think that the figures are higher. the sugarbeet and asparagus migrants. That survey was done just with Does this coincide with some of the

There are also other crops in the state, I think it is

and there is also canning, where people are considered migrants. on the low side. Saucedo: Zuvekas:

Could you outline the services that Migrant Health Services provides? Okay. We do provide screening and examinations, looking for example, for diabetics We provide screening for the school children. We

or hypertensives or whatever.

have a maternal and child-nutrition program, providing supplemental foods for pregnant women and for babies. our locations. We have family clinics in the evenings on most of One of the

I think we are doing some rather exciting things.

problems in Migrant Health Care, as I mentioned earlier, is that Migrants are in medically underserved areas. We use our nurses. There simply are not enough physicians to.go around.

They are in trained and extended roles, in other words, they

can take part of the load that the physician usually has and provide minor treatment. They also have the mobile-unit to provide screening and follow-up. We have

a Health-Education Project, which is going to expand into an Environmental-Health Education Project, this fall, in which we put together materials that are being used allover the country now. I think we are into some real exciting things. It's

a real challenge to make the dollars stretch to where they have to stretch. Saucedo: What are your future hopes and goals for the Organization of Migrant Health Services?

-6-

Zuvekas:

For the Organization and the people it serves, first of all, I would like to see more Mexican people and preferably ex-migrants, involved as health care and professionals. nurse's aids. Also I would like to see more Mexican American nurses, doctors, Right now, there are many projects going on nation wide to entice Secondly,

migrants into those fields, but the effects thus far have been limited.

I 'd hope that we could get into more than euphonic care, get into more of the things that are going to make a difference. feet wet on that. themselves. We are just beginning to get our

Thirdly, I would like to see more leadership come from migrants

I think one of the problems that is developing, when people- are in

the area for only a short time, is developing indigenous leadership, so that migrants themselves are making more of the decisions. It is very difficult. I

think we do tend to hear from the people who can shout the loudest, rather than from the people who are the actual leaders. administratively solvent. I would hope that we would remain

Of course I suppose that I am prejudice, because I

think we are now administratively solvent now. Saucedo: Zuvekas: Saucedo: Thank you ever so much for the interview. Oh, you are welcome and good luck. This interview was conducted on July fourteenth, 1976, at the offices of Migrant Health Services, Inc., located in
Moorhead(~"

Minnesota:..,