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Massive free health clinic opens at Sports Arena

October 20, 2011 |  9:00 am

Hundreds of would-be volunteers filed into the Los Angeles Sports Arena early Thursday morning for the first day of a massive clinic that will offer free care by doctors, dentists, optometrists and other volunteers.

The clinic, organized by L.A.-based CareNow, will run through Sunday and expects to treat roughly 5,000 patients.

One of those patients, Arsie Taylor, 65, said she has Medi-Cal but does not have dental insurance and had not been to a dentist in about three years.

"It's a good opportunity for people who don't have insurance," she said.

Taylor sat down at a registration table, and a nurse asked her when she had last had a mammogram.

"I don't know," she replied. "I want to get a mammogram too."

Nearby, a nursing student took Paul Siebert's blood pressure -- 145 over 100.

"That's high," he said. "I'm on medication for it."

Siebert said he also hoped to see a dentist.

"I still have all my teeth, but I'm about to lose them if I don't do something," said Siebert, 42, who has diabetes.

Inside the Sports Arena, doctors and dentists waited for patients to finish registering; volunteers from the American Diabetes Assn., Planned Parenthood and other organizations set up information tables.

Casey Patterson, 35, who just graduated from dental school, said he was volunteering because he wanted to get some experience and help the community.

At about 7:45 a.m., the dental chairs were still empty, but he knew it would not remain that way for long.

"So far it's pretty organized," he said. "We'll see how it looks in an hour."

Monya De, a physician, said she expected to see patients who hadn't seen doctors in years, either because they didn't have access to care or because they couldn't take off work to go to the doctor.

"Many of them don't have sick days," she said. "They don't have that luxury."

With limited time to see patients, De said she planned to figure out the most pressing issue and treat them for that.

"It could make the difference from five years of life expectancy to 20 years, simply by taking care of somebody's blood pressure," she said.


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-- Anna Gorman at the L.A. Sports Arena

Photo: The scene is set for the first day of the CareNow free health clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Wristbands were issued to people seeking the free health services which includes dental, vision and medical. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times