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Hundreds spend night at the Forum to get free medical care

August 12, 2009 |  6:47 am

More photos Hundreds of people spent the night outside the Forum in Inglewood in hopes of getting free medical and dental care.

More than 2,000 sought services on the first day of the medical clinic -- and hundreds were turned away. People were lined up Tuesday night, hoping to get in. The MTA announced it was extending service of Line 115 because of "overwhelming demand" for service to the clinic, which runs for eight days.

The Remote Area Medical Foundation is a trailer-equipped service that has staged health clinics in rural parts of the United States, Mexico and South America. It brought its health camp to urban Los Angeles County on Tuesday to begin a stint that the group's officials described as its first foray into a major urban setting.

Organizers expected big crowds in a county with high unemployment and an estimated 22% of working-age adults lacking health insurance.

On Tuesday, the turnout was so large that hundreds had to be turned away.

"We're shorthanded," said the mobile clinic's founder, Stan Brock. About 100 dentists were needed, but only about 30 showed up Tuesday. Twenty eye doctors were required, but only about five were on hand, Brock said.

The mobile clinic, based in Knoxville, Tenn., has staged 576 medical clinics over the last 25 years. They have treated nearly 380,000 patients and provided care valued at $36.9 million, said Executive Director Karen Wilson. The group raises money through contributions.

Doctors, nurses and other medical workers who donated their time said most visitors' ailments were basic. But "many have chronic diseases -- high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma -- conditions we can't deal with in just one day," said Dr. Nancy Greep of Santa Monica. Some had problems, such as a recurring cancer, that demand long-term treatment.

-- Bob Pool and Kimi Yoshino

Photo: Dozens of patients receive dental care Tuesday at The Forum in Inglewood. More photos

Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.

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