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Crowds wait for free health checkups at Inglewood Forum

August 11, 2009 | 12:34 pm

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Crowds of people were sitting today in stadium seats set up outside the Forum in Inglewood, waiting for their numbers to be called to receive free healthcare checks by volunteer doctors, dentists and optometrists.

The eight-day healthcare event will run from 5:30 a.m to 6 p.m. and is sponsored by Remote Area Medical, a charity that in the past has staged clinics in rural sections of the United States.

People started arriving before 3 a.m., many saying they did not have health insurance and saw this as an opportunity to be checked out.

“We’ve been here since 4,” said Vickie Zigetta, 52, of Lakewood.

Zigetta and others waiting for their numbers to be called were disappointed when organizers announced they would have no further dental appointments today. Medical exams and vision checkups were available, however.

“A lot of adults don’t have medical or dental insurance,” said Zigetta. “My three children are covered under Medical because they’re not over 21. The number we’ve got to get in is like gold."

Zigetta had No. 1,095. Organizers had reached No. 800 as she spoke. Zigetta said she wanted to get her eyes checked and a basic physical. She planned to come back for a dental checkup Wednesday.

Inside the Forum, people were waiting in the bleachers. Parked on the floor of the old arena where hockey and basketball games were once played were large RVs containing specialized medical equipment. The old lockers rooms had been turned into examination rooms.

In one of the old locker rooms, Phillip Clovis, 56, Inglewood, was waiting to receive chiropractic treatment. Clovis said he arrived at 2:15 a.m. and was handed No. 348.

“So far I’ve had acupuncture and seen a doctor. I have back problems and after the acupuncture I feel much better," Clove said.  "If this service was provided to a majority of Americans, you wouldn’t have 3,000 people lined up at the door of the Forum. It’s such a blessing.”

Clovis, an unemployed auto mechanic, said he learned about the clinic while job hunting.

Officials with Remote Area Medical began communicating on Twitter before 4 a.m. with regular alerts:

“As of 3:30 a.m. p.t. all 1,500 tickets hav bn distributed to patients on first day of RAMLA. Police turning away lines of cars tryng to entr.”

“Crowds orderly waiting entry as numbers called. Heard one patient cry ‘Haleluia!’ upon entering.”

“Starting to dawn. Those who didn’t get number r invited to return next 7 days. Those leaving are silent.”

This is the first time the mobile clinic, staffed with hundreds of volunteers, has visited Los Angeles. By midmorning, through its @RAMLosAngeles Twitter feed, the organization was putting out calls for more opthalmologists and opticians to volunteer – and for water too.

-- Bob Pool in Inglewood and Kimi Yoshino

Shirley Powell, 53, tries to get some sleep before the start of the Remote Area Medical expedition's first day at the Forum in Inglewood. She had been at the site since 10 p.m. and received her ticket for free medical care at 3:30 a.m. The event lasts for eight days. Photo by Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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Dozens of volunteer dentists work on participants in the Remote Area Medical expedition.

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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Volunteer Belynda Holmes, center, gives Elon Kleckner, left, and daughter Ayana Kleckner a hug after signing them in for the free medical clinic.

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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