In a scene more reminiscent of the third world, hundreds of people spent the night outside the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles in hopes of getting free medical and dental care. The Forum, known for a time as the Great Western Forum, is an indoor arena in a suburb of Los Angeles. It is owned by the Faithful Central Bible Church, which uses it for its Sunday morning service.
The irony is complete - the once Great is becoming a shelter for those wrecked by the current economic meltdown, and in a city envied as the entertainment capital of the world.
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 Metropolitan Transportation Authority(MTA) announced it was extending service of Line 115 because of "overwhelming demand" for service to the clinic, which runs for eight days.
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 Remote Area Medical® (RAM) Volunteer Corps is a non-profit, volunteer, airborne relief corps dedicated to serving mankind by providing free health care, dental care, eye care, veterinary services, and technical and educational assistance to people in remote areas of the United States and the world.
Founded in 1985, it is a publicly supported all-volunteer charitable organization. Volunteer doctors, nurses, pilots, veterinarians and support workers participate in the various expeditions (at their own expense) undertaken by the mission. Medical supplies, medicines, facilities and vehicles are donated.
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. Twenty eye doctors were required, but only about five were on hand, Brock said.
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 reported for Los Angeles Times.
It should also be some eye-opener, coming as it does, at a time when right wingers are furiously seeking to derail President Obama's ambition to make healthcare affordable for all.