Locals take advantage of free medical clinic

LOS ANGELES It was a cold and rainy night as hundreds waited in line to get access to free medical care on Wednesday at the /*Los Angeles Sports Arena*/. Many people in line said they have been dealing with aches and pains for months or years.

"It is worth the wait. This is worth thousands of dollars of work. I don't have insurance. This is my insurance," said Gardena resident Simoe Sapolu.

The floor of the Sports Arena is set up for eye exams, dental work and other needs.

The event is run by the nonprofit group Remote Area Medical. Organizers expect to treat about 1,200 patients a day. They say the biggest problem is many people simply can't afford basic or preventive medicine and by the time they come to the free clinic their health problems are more serious.

"It is hard when you've got no doctors that you can get into see. You've got another issue if you're out of a job because of the economic status," said Dr. Natalie Nevins, medical director. "You can't afford to pay your mortgage. How are you going to choose between getting the $1000 [dollar] root canal and the mortgage payments you've got to make, and put food on the table?"

Just before 10 a.m., organizers handed out the last wristbands for the weekend sessions.

Keisha Brooks, of Los Angeles, was one of the last people to get a wristband. She has to return on Sunday for treatment.

"This means for my family that I can take care of my vision. I can take care of my teeth. I can take care of the baby's ear," said Brooks. "I can take care of all of the medical necessities that I have been needing to take care of for months and years."

The clinic was able to treat just under a thousand patients on Wednesday. They are still in need of volunteers and medical professionals to help with the overwhelming number of people.

"Originally we had asked people to sign-up on the Web site so we could vet them overnight," said Nevins. "At this point if someone could show up today and bring their license and their malpractice insurance with them we will vet them here on site to make room to make it happen because we need to do it."

The free health clinic, which opens at 6 a.m., will run through May 3.

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