Around 33 million Americans have no medical insurance or even the means to pay for an emergency room visit. The poorest in the nation may benefit from Medicaid insurance, but many others aren’t eligible for this. These people cannot afford private health insurance or even cover the cost of an ER visit. But in the Wise County Fairgrounds of West Virginia, there is a hopeful new practice for those seeking free healthcare.
Since 1985, a non-profit organization founded by Stan Brock provides free services to over 2000 patients across the US. The organization, Remote Area Medical (RAM), depends entirely on donors and volunteers to provide free healthcare management. The clinic even provides portable emergency room services that cater to serious, immediate health problems.
RAM order numbers are given on arrival, first come first serve. As a result, patients have been camping on the clinic grounds for up to three days before gates opened. Volunteers were already issuing admission numbers as early as 4 AM on Friday. By 6 AM, over 1600 people have already received their appointment placement.
Specialized medical facilities are also offered on the camp. In fact, the 24-hour emergency room, the dental clinic, and the eye doctor were the most popular facilities. RAM set up over 80 mobile dental rooms complete with hygienists, fillings, and extractions.
In large vans or converted lorries, patients can find the X-rays, orthopedics and mammograms service. RAM’s services are quite comprehensive – and include counseling, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and a 24-hour psychiatric emergency room.
Similar RAM clinics are set up in other locations but are of a much smaller scale. In Smyth county, for instance, the clinic is based out of a hangar. In Tennessee, a racing track is a home to the clinics’ services. The West County Fair Ground camp is the largest. But no matter their size or location, all RAM Camps are providing an important service to patients.
RAM’s services were one patient’s ticket out of unemployment. After she lost several front teeth, she was laid off from a lengthy career in the hotel industry and attempts to be rehired elsewhere were futile. Only the RAM clinic’s dental care could help save her situation. Dr. Joe Skiddy, a long-term volunteer at the camp’s emergency room, shares that many patients are going through similar stigmatization, and only have their hopes set on these annual medical services.
Unfortunately, there’s a much bigger healthcare crisis going on in the country, and RAM can only help so much. Hopefully, one day there won’t be a need for such volunteer corps, and healthcare will be easily accessible to all.