Los Angeles Times — Healthcare Gap: Thousands of needy seek free care – latimes.com

Free health clinic treats 1,200 patients on opening day

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Free health clinic treats 1,200 patients on opening day | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times

More than 1,200 people flocked to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on Tuesday for the start of a weeklong free clinic.

Organizers tried to shorten the lines this year by distributing color-coded wristbands in advance, signifying the day and time when patients will be treated, about 1,200 a day.But scores of those with orange Tuesday wristbands lined up outside the arena overnight anyway, concerned they would miss their chance for free care from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Many did not have health insurance, or had insurance that did not cover eye and dental care provided at the clinic. Dozens more without wristbands also showed up hoping to get inside.

They were told to return Wednesday at 10 a.m., when about 1,600 remaining wristbands will be distributed. They left without incident, most vowing to return.

Wristbands are numbered, and patients are treated in order, with groups such as parents and children allowed in based on the highest number among them.

By afternoon, hundreds of patients waited in red folding chairs on the arena floor for eye exams, dental cleanings, HIV tests and Pap smears, among other services. Some eye care stations and dental chairs were unstaffed.

Organizers said they had fewer than the 300 medical volunteers expected, partly due to cancellations, partly due to low turnout among doctors.

They still need dermatologists, ophthalmologists, obstetricians, gynecologists and family practice doctors, said Dr. Natalie Nevins, who was coordinating medical care at the clinic for nonprofit sponsor Amrit Davaa World Health.

Nevins and other organizers said they also need nurse practitioners and general volunteers to help usher patients through treatment stations.

“It’s always a challenge to make it work,” Nevins said of the clinic, urging doctors to participate because “this is an L.A.. event. This is us showing L.A. we care.”

Shortly before noon, as Nevins checked on doctors and Brown and Thornton waited for new glasses, the last of 1,200 patients filed inside and Maria Shriver arrived to tour the clinic. She saw women who had never had Pap smears, mammograms or dental exams.

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Hundreds line up at L.A. Sports Arena for first day of free health clinic

About 250 people lined up outside the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena overnight for the first day of a free health clinic sponsored by Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical.


At 6 a.m. Tuesday, clinic volunteers called out for the first patient. No one responded. So they called No. 2. No. 2, Alisha Brown, is an unemployed mail carrier from Los Angeles. Brown wept as she was ushered inside.

Beside her was Christi Thornton of Inglewood, just licensed as a phlebotomist and also looking for work. The pair met Sunday while waiting for wristbands outside the arena, stayed in touch and waited together Tuesday morning.

“It means everything,” Thornton said of the clinic, “An opportunity to get glasses, dental work — that’s important when you’re trying to get a job.”

Within the hour, Brown had two teeth pulled and Thornton had a new filling. Brown was disappointed to discover she could not get caps on her teeth or a partial bridge. Volunteer dentists are not performing molar root canals, either.

The seven-day clinic runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Patients with numbered, color-coded orange wristbands will be served in order. Those without wristbands can return at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Gilbert Ortega, 53, an unemployed machinist, joined the line Tuesday morning after waiting seven hours Sunday for a wristband. He said he needs reading glasses and to get his teeth fixed.

“It’s worth it if I’m going to get this done and not have to pay for it,” Ortega said as he stood waiting for the clinic to open.

Dozens showed up without wristbands and were told to return Wednesday.

Shaunte Davis, 43, an unemployed day care worker from Los Angeles, heard about the clinic Sunday, arrived Tuesday looking for a wristband and left vowing to return Wednesday at 6 a.m.

“It’s confusing,” she said.


But Mark Nobel, 52, of Twentynine Palms said he knew to line up Sunday. His wristband was number 19, making him among the first allowed in at 6 a.m.

“It’s great because I tried to get in last year and couldn’t,” he said of the last free clinic at the arena in August.

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Thousands of patients await free dental, medical, vision care at Los Angeles clinic


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