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3,000 in line for free medical care at Sports Arena

October 17, 2011 |  9:20 am

About 3,000 people were waiting in line Monday morning at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena -- some since Sunday -- for a chance to get free medical care in a massive temporary clinic.

The would-be patients planted themselves in folding chairs and huddled under blankets in the hope of getting one of 5,000 wristbands that will be given out for admission to the clinic.

Organized by CareNow, the clinic will run Thursday through Sunday and will be staffed by cardiologists, dentists, pediatricians and other medical professionals.

Photos: Long lines for chance at free medical care

Among those in line was Karina Tench, a 27-year-old nursing student, who said she had been having seizures for the past year and did not know the cause. She went to the emergency room at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance each time but has yet to see a neurologist.

Sergio Hidalgo was in line with his wife and two teenage daughters. All four needed to see a dentist.

One daughter had a hole in one of her teeth, his wife had inflamed gums and all of them had pain.

"We don't have the money to pay for this," said Hidalgo, 36, who lost his job a year and a half ago. Hidalgo and his wife are undocumented immigrants, as are a number of others waiting in line.

Peter Montes, 59, arrived Sunday in hopes of seeing a dentist and an ear specialist.

"I have ringing in my ears," he said. "It's really bad."

He has not had his teeth professionally cleaned in eight years. He is homeless and on MediCal and disability.

He said Monday he would be grateful for the clinic's free care.

"You can't get it out there," he said.

CareNow president Don Manelli said people should not have to stand in line for basic healthcare, but he was pleased so many volunteers had come forward.

"It's the community coming together to help us all," he said.


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-- Anna Gorman at the Sports Arena

Photo: People line up overnight for a wristband for admission to a free clinic at the Sports Arena. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times