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Free health clinic kicks off, draws thousands

October 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands attended a free health care clinic Thursday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Exposition Park.

Many people received special wristbands earlier this week to be seen at the clinic, and some even waited in line overnight to make sure they were treated.

Participants needed a wristband in order to be treated by the doctors at the clinic, which took over the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Exposition Park.

Downtown Los Angeles resident Patricia Hopkins said she could not get her hands on a wristband last year, so she made sure to get it this year.

Armed with her wristband and a tent, Hopkins waited in line since 10 a.m. Wednesday to make sure she was first in line once the clinic opened its doors at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Hopkins said she was hoping to get both dental and vision treatments at the clinic. She also said she wants a doctor to inspect her knees because she feels she has poor circulation and arthritis that cause a lot pain.

"I'm just tired of taking pain pills all the time, all the time," she said.

Hopkins said she has Medi-Cal, but she is not satisfied with the service.

"If you go to the county hospital, your appointment may be like two months away, so you know, you'll still be suffering regardless. The Medi-Cal system is really messed up," she said.

Once inside the arena, one thing many people want is to get their eyes checked. A machine looks at their eyes to determine what kind of prescription lenses they'll need.

"I can't see far away at all, and it's sort of like the whole world is a blur. So it's going to be real exciting," said San Pedro resident Candie Anderson.

Patients without health insurance or who are under-insured can get dental checkups. Lillian Williams said she hasn't seen a dentist in about two years.

"I have a real bad tooth that's infected, so it needs to come out to preserve my health, so I told them to take it out," said Williams.

Hundreds of doctors are volunteering their time to help during the four-day free clinic hosted by CareNow LA.

Dr. Darrell Yamada replaced a filling for a patient. The service would have cost her upwards of $200 out of pocket.

"I know there's a need out there especially in these times. So, you know, I want to take my time out and do the best I can," said Yamada.

There is also a women's clinic to provide preventative care including mammograms and pap smears, which are important tests many women go without because they can't afford to be screened.

"Pap smears are so important because cervical cancer is a killer, and in patients who don't get pap smears regularly, there is a chance cervical cancer could be missed," said Dr. Aisling Murphy, a UCLA Family Medicine volunteer.

Patients requiring follow-up care are being referred to free clinics in their area.

Clinic officials handed out about 4,800 wristbands earlier this week. They are still looking for more volunteer doctors for all four days of the event, specifically dentists and hygienists. Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of the volunteer doctors and was said to be at the event Friday.


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