Free health clinic to help Cleveland uninsured
By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer
April 24, 2009 (AP): Jessica Cramer, a 24-year-old factory worker, is one of about 50 million U.S.-Americans without health insurance, the group targeted by a program offering free medical exams at the county fairgrounds next weekend.
Cramer was heading to a crowded MetroHealth Medical Center clinic lobby Friday to have the sore elbow of her 4-year-old daughter, Hailey, checked for a possible fracture. Cramer said her job doesn't provide health insurance, but her daughter, and 2- and 3-year-old children can get checked for free under a state-sponsored program.
Cramer, who is separated, is not covered by the program. She said she deals with any sickness she gets without medical insurance.
``I have no choice because I can't afford to go emergency (room for treatment) and get a bill,'' she said. ``I can't afford it.''
The weekend clinic in suburban Cleveland on May 2-3, 2009, is welcome news for Cramer and others without medical insurance.
The program, RAM Ohio for Remote Area Medical, has attracted about 1,100 volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists and other health care professionals and about 1,000 nonprofessional volunteers.
Thousands of people are expected, and the organizer, Zac Ponsky, said no one will be turned away. The parking lots open at midnight and the doors of the makeshift clinic open at 6 a.m. each day. Volunteers have been warned to expect 12-hour days—or longer.
The event is intended for people like Cramer, who said her family medical history and her own recent abnormal test for cervical cancer worry her.
``My main thing is, I have three kids to take care of,'' she said at MetroHealth, which gets about 100,000 emergency-room visits yearly, most by people without health insurance.
``My health is important to take care of my kids and without health insurance I don't know what could happen,'' Cramer said. ``My family history is so bad. There's a lot of things I need to worry about and I can't take care of my kids if I'm sick.''
The RAM Ohio event will offer medical exams, mammograms, cardiac and diabetes tests, dental exams, fillings, extractions, root canal procedures, vision exams and eye glasses, all with the help of volunteers from Cleveland's well-regarded medical research centers, corporate backers and donated equipment and supplies.
There will be dozens of social workers trying to link patients with ways to handle their future health care needs. Doctors have agreed to a check further on patients with serious problems, Ponsky said. He knows the weekend event won't be a cure-all.
``We are a bunch of volunteers doing the best we can, but certainly we are not going to be able to solve the health care situation in this country just by ourselves,'' he said.
The event will be staged at the Cuyahoga County fairgrounds in Berea, with free transportation offered to those who can't get to the event on their own.
The event is modeled on those pioneered by Stan Brock, a 1970's ``Wild Kingdom'' TV personality who founded a medical aid program in 1985 in the Amazon rain forest. The project expanded to impoverished areas of Appalachia and has free clinics scheduled this year at more than a dozen locations.
On the Net: http://ramohio.org