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Free health care clinic closes shop

August 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
As the nation debates a health-care overhaul a charity group, formed to provide medical care for third world countries, spent a week at the Forum in Inglewood. The world's largest free health care clinic has come to an end.The final numbers from the eight day event are in. Volunteers helped thousands of people, but not as many as they had hoped to.

And although the arena sized event captured the attention of the nation, it also shined a spot light on the fact that there are so many people without access to health care.

After eight days of offering free care volunteers say that they have done all they could with what they have.

Optometrist Jayme Chiu logged nearly 100 hours.

"I am so tired, but I told them to keep them coming. If I couldn't help them that day then they came back the next day. But being that today's the last day I am pretty sad," said Chiu.

This is Remote Area Medical's 576 free health care event. But it is the first time that they have offered one in a major metropolitan area.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa saw the work being done first hand.

"Health care is a right, not a privilege. The idea that RAM and organizations like this have to provide that care when we're not, is not acceptable," said Villaraigosa.

Umasia Morris is a city employee who lost her health care coverage.

"I have been on workers comp. They have denied me the use of both, my sick leave and vacation. So I have no insurance and I get medical care where I can," said Morris.

Charlene Stall got laid off from a movie theatre a year ago. She got new glasses and a new prescription on Tuesday

"I love my glasses. These are my favorite. I am going to cherish them with all of my heart," said Stall.

Organizers had hoped to help at least 8,000 patients, but due to a shortage of licensed California volunteers they fell a bit short.

Staff reports say they administered the following:

  • 14,000 patient services
  • 6,000 patients
  • $3 million cost of services
  • 4,000 volunteers
For the 6,000 that received help many more had to be turned away.

"We've got to acknowledge that there are too many people that go without health care in a country that spends more on health care than in any nation in the world," said Villaraigosa.

A pair of glasses and a root canal may be just a drop in the health care bucket, but for someone like Umasia Morris it's going to make a world of a difference.

"These people are the salt of the earth. They are angels with invisible wings," said Morris.

The people who did not get into the free health care clinic Tuesday were given a Citizens Guide to County Services. It contains about 20 pages of low-cost and no-cost health care clinics.

They also received a list of dental services as well.

The big question is whether Remote Area Medical will come back to the area?

Organizers, community leaders are talking about it and would like the clinic to return. But as of now there are no plans for it to return to L.A. Their next stop is Utah.

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