Eight hundred ninety-nine times, Remote Area Medical has set up to provide a blitz of health-care to hundreds of underserved and uninsured people in a matter of days.
Now, just back from a mission in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, the nonprofit will mark its 900th clinic in the town where it was first based, with free mobile medical care provided Jan. 31-Feb. 4 at the Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park, 3301 E. Magnolia Ave. in Knoxville.
Founded in 1985 and now based in Rockford, Remote Area Medical reports a 33 percent increase in the number of patients it treated at clinics in 2017, including patients in large metropolitan areas like Houston, Texas, and during post-hurricane devastation in the continental U.S. and the Caribbean.
“We are facing a serious crisis and it is not just poor folks who are suffering,”said RAM Founder and President Stan Brock.
“Washington continues to debate the cost of health care, the costs continue to rise, and our numbers are not getting any lower.”
At RAM clinics, services are free, and no insurance or ID is required. Services available at the Knoxville clinic will include dental cleanings, dental fillings, dental extractions, dental X-rays, dentures (on a limited basis), eye exams, eyeglass prescriptions, free eyeglasses made on-site, women's health exams, and general medical exams.
Patient parking in Chilhowee Park for the Knoxville clinic will open at midnight Jan. 31, and RAM will begin distributing tickets at 3 a.m. When doors open at 6 a.m., patients will be seen in chronological order according to their ticket number.
Though they can’t bring their pets with them, patients at the Knoxville RAM clinic will be able to register their pets for free spay/neuter surgery.
RAM officials said they expect around 2,500 people to be treated during the five-day clinic.
Dental Assistant Paula Nidiffer removes a mold from patient Robert Thompson's mouth at a Remote Area Medical mobile clinic in Chilhowee Park on Feb. 4, 2017. CAITIE MCMEKIN/NEWS SENTINEL(Photo: CAITIE MCMEKIN/NEWS SENTINEL)
The nonprofit spent December in Puerto Rico, operating five mobile clinics providing free dental, vision, medical and veterinary care for 2,377 citizens. Besides RAM staff, more than 250 volunteers took part.
“Many of the local volunteers who helped us in Puerto Rico have been living without power or water for over 100 days, but they still took a leap of faith and gave their time in the hopes of changing lives,”said Jeff Eastman, RAM’s chief executive officer.
“And our mainland volunteers didn’t hesitate to fly on red-eye flights, take on new diets, or adapt to challenging living conditions — all in the name of improving the health of fellow Americans. It was truly remarkable.”
In September, RAM’s executive staff traveled to the Caribbean to assess damages, meet with officials there and recruit volunteers for humanitarian aid. The nonprofit said it also oversaw the shipment and distribution of more than 63,000 pounds of disaster-relief supplies — including donations from East Tennesseans — flown into Puerto Rico.
RAM has said it hopes to partner with the Roberto Clemente Foundation to bring additional mobile medical clinics to Puerto Rico in 2018.