Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remote Area Medical treats mountains' uninsured

You've probably seen the national news coverage of Remote Area Medical's free, one-day clinics in Appalachia. There's good local coverage of the latest clinic, from Keith Strange of The Coalfield Progress in Norton, Va. (photo by Whitney Bentley):
The pulsating sea of thousands of people in urgent need of free medical care could have been a scene from the Sudan, Somalia or another Third World country. But the international Remote Area Medical organization was not providing care overseas. The setting for last weekend’s RAM health outreach was Wise County, in a country touted as having the world’s best health care.

As they surveyed the crowd Friday, RAM founder Stan Brock and local organizer Teresa Gardner were visibly shaken, despite the fact that this year’s event was the ninth of its kind in Wise County. The annual growth in patients coming to the county fairgrounds for care they can’t otherwise get is a testament to what’s wrong with the nation’s healthcare network, according to Gardner. “Every year surpasses the past. Our success is a failure. Our healthcare system . . .” Gardner shook her head as the words trailed off.

Preliminary tallies indicate that once again the Wise County RAM set records, a trend Gardner said is threatening to overflow capacity at the fairgrounds. Although Gardner said she expects the totals to grow by another 10-20 percent as final numbers come in, she said this year’s three-day event treated 2,539 patients, resulting in about 5,148 patient encounters. (Read more)

Strange also has a sidebar that begins: "Telling their personal stories, Remote Area Medical patients and caregivers illustrated both the enormous gaps in the U.S. healthcare system and the inspiration for thousands of volunteers to do something about it."

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