Final day at free clinic
As the Remote Area Medical Foundation’s huge, free health clinic winds up its eight-day run at the Forum in Inglewood this evening, organizers said they expected to be able to treat all patients who were given wristbands – or refer them to doctors who will provide free care.
During the organization’s first venture into a large, urban city -- and its longest-running health clinic in its 25-year history -- volunteer dentists and doctors helped deliver free medical care to thousands of patients. Many seeking care camped out overnight or slept in their cars; hundreds of others were turned away. Some had traveled from as far as San Francisco and Phoenix for the chance to be treated.
Final tallies were not available, but doctors performed an array of medical services, from root canals and mammograms to HIV tests and the dispensing of free eyeglasses.
“It went beautifully,” said volunteer Don Manelli, chief producer of the event. “The only regret is that we didn’t make it bigger. We could have seen more people. It went smoothly. We didn’t have any major problems. The only improvement we could have made is having more optometrists and dentists every day.”
Organizers said coming to Southern California was a challenge, in part because the local medical community had never heard of the Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical Foundation. The foundation primarily serves rural areas such as Appalachia, where access to healthcare can be limited. But as the clinic gained momentum -- and media coverage -- more volunteers turned out. Over the weekend, Manelli said there were more volunteer dentists than the 80 dental chairs set up on the floor of the Forum.
Manelli said no decisions have been made about whether to return to Los Angeles County, but he said, “We’re already thinking about it.”
Until then, the foundation is packing up its mobile medical expedition and heading to Utah, where it will open another free clinic Saturday.
Clinic officials said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is scheduled to attend the group's final news conference this afternoon.
-- Kimi Yoshino
Photos by: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times