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Group offers free medical care in L.A.

August 11, 2009 6:06:35 AM PDT
Thousands of people lined up before dawn at the L.A. Forum in Inglewood on Tuesday, waiting to get free medical care.The free health care is part of a global charity's efforts to help out. Remote Area Medical (RAM) has transformed the L.A. Forum into a giant clinic.

"I've been here since 2 o'clock this morning, and I'm number 319. It's a real blessing to come out here," said Edwina Leggette from Los Angeles.

The group says it didn't have to go to a remote area to find a great need. Medical, dental and vision services will be available for the uninsured or underinsured.

"I'm doing it all, might as well do the whole package. I'm doing the vision, I'm doing the dental, as well as the whole complete physical," said Melissa Perez from Los Angeles.

Medical services include exams, mammograms, chest X-rays, eye exams and root canals. RAM is also providing acupuncture and oral hygiene.

"Many of them have not been to a dentist at all, some of them have not been to a dentist in a very long time. Their needs are varied," said dentist Sanford King.

There's also a mobile unit outside making free eye glasses.

"I have regular insurance, but I can't afford glasses," said Marian Tell from Los Angeles.

Hundreds of volunteers were on hand, including doctors, dentists, optometrists and nurses, but there were not enough doctors on hand to meet the demand on Tuesday.

"I'm getting the optical. I need glasses and it's too expensive to get them, $400, $500, it's too expensive," said participant Hazel Vazquez.

Services are provided on a first come, first serve basis.

More than a thousand got turned away Tuesday. RAM had expected to treat about 1,500 people on its first day, but not enough volunteers showed up to treat everybody.

"I appreciate everything, everyone is working so hard and I completely understand, but you can't help but feel disappointed," said Casiah Rojo of Pomona.

Rojo needed a root canal and other dental work, which she can't afford.

"They estimated that it was going to be $2,000, like, that might as well be $2 million. I don't have $2,000," added Rojo.

Inside, organizers of the event tried to explain what happened. Brock says laws that don't allow volunteer doctors from other states to practice for free in California hampered their plans to treat more people.

"Somebody needs to change the laws in the United States so that doctors and dentists and nurses who are willing to provide free care are allowed to cross state lines to provide that free care," said Brock.

Brock is hoping more volunteers will come forward on Tuesday. Anyone who has a medical license and would like to volunteer is urged to come on down.

The volunteers that did show up Tuesday worked diligently to take care of as many people as possible.

"They take the time to talk to you. They don't just rush you through. You feel important," said Adrianne Bazile.

The event couldn't come at a better time for Williams Stokes from Inglewood, who needed a tooth pulled, but recently lost his health insurance.

"I'm a truck driver, but our company couldn't afford coverage, and just as of last week, they just pulled it out from underneath us," Stokes said.

RAM has been serving poor communities all over the world since 1985, and this is their first event in Los Angeles. An estimated 10,000 people are expected to show up in the next eight days.

The event will run until August 18. The L.A. Forum is at 3900 W. Manchester Blvd. in Inglewood. Doors open at 5:30 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.

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