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Demand high at free health care event

August 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of people who need health care and can't afford it are getting free treatment at the Forum in Inglewood on Wednesday. They waited in line overnight to get tickets to be seen by volunteer doctors and dentists.People were already lining up on Wednesday afternoon, hoping to get tickets for treatment on Thursday.

This is the first time that Remote Area Medical (RAM) has held an event like this in Los Angeles, and the demand has been extremely high.

Because there are only so many doctors who can volunteer their time each day, organizers have decided to hand out a limited number of tickets each day.

After more than 24 hours of waiting, Lawndale resident Edith Najer finally got her tooth pulled Wednesday morning.

"I came here Monday 3 a.m., and I'm done," she said.

Organizers are calling Wednesday a catch-up day. All the people who were not able to see a dentist on Tuesday will be the first to see a dentist on Wednesday. After those people are done, the rest of the people will be let in.

About 500 people were given tickets at midnight.

Evelyn Alexander from Inglewood was one of the many who couldn't get a ticket.

"It's really a sad day for the United States, for people in other country to see that we have to line up like this for health care," she said.

Still, many people got in line in hopes of getting a ticket.

"The wait is horrible. It is long, it's exhausting, it's been cold, it's horrible. I do not like the wait. But I am willing to do it for free health care," said Edward Hughes from Antelope Valley.

RAM founder Stan Brock said he was not surprised by the turnout.

"We know the patients are going to be there. Regardless of where we go, urban or rural, patients are going to be there needing the help. The big question is, are the volunteer doctors and dentists and nurses going to be there to help them," he said.

Organizers said they still need a lot of dentists and eye doctors to volunteer their time.

"I come here today not knowing who I'm going to work with or what I'm going to do," said Darlene Urmos, a volunteer nurse.

State law in California does not allow doctors from other states to come into California and volunteer, so they are relying on a small number of people.

Some say this is just a small piece of the bigger picture.

"We need health care right now, and our country is in desperate need of it," said Joseph Metoyer from the Wilshire district of Los Angeles.

"This is just the tip of the sword in terms of how many people really need it," he said.

The event offers free eye exams, glasses, full physicals and even acupuncture.

It will be running through August 18 at the Forum at 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. Doors open at 5:30 a.m., but you need a ticket to get in.

Tickets are handed out on a first come, first serve basis at midnight every day.

The MTA is extending their service hours for the 115 line from midnight to 5 a.m.

RAM has been serving poor communities all over the world since 1985. An estimated 10,000 people are expected to show up in the next eight days.

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