LA sports arena hosts health clinic of last resort

Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:09am EDT
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By Dan Whitcomb

INGLEWOOD, California (Reuters) - Inside an aging sports arena, where rows of dental chairs and a hospital smell have replaced the former Los Angeles Lakers basketball court, thousands of Americans are seeking free healthcare.

Hundreds were turned away just on Tuesday, the first day of a weeklong clinic run by the nonprofit Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corp as part of its mission to provide free health, dental and eye care in needy spots around the world.

It marks the first time in RAM's 25 years that it has gone to a major U.S. metropolitan area -- a reminder that even in Los Angeles, with world-class doctors and hospitals, many do not have access to affordable healthcare.

RAM is apolitical, but its mobile medical center has sprung up in the working-class LA suburb of Inglewood against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter public debate over President Barack Obama's proposed overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.


Its organizers, including founder Stan Brock, have steered clear of the healthcare battle in Washington, which centers on Obama's pledge to provide for the nearly 46 million uninsured Americans and charges by conservatives that he will only make the situation worse by "socializing" medicine.

Brock said he started RAM, which is best-known for its work in Third World countries, to provide healthcare in remote parts of the world where people have no access to doctors and medical supplies.

His mobile clinics are not seen as a solution to America's complex healthcare issues but the turnout in Inglewood has offered a glimpse into the depth of the problem.   Continued...

<p>Optometrist Greg Pearl (R) inspects the eye of Kenneth Spann at the Remote Area Medical (RAM) health clinic in Inglewood, California August 11, 2009.</p>