Free medical clinic helps Oakland's neediest

April 9, 2011 7:48:33 PM PDT
Thousands of Bay Area residents waited in line for hours for something most of us do without giving it a second thought -- a teeth cleaning and an eye exam. But with health insurance rates at record highs and many people unemployed, it's nearly impossible for many.

About 1,000 people each day are coming to the Oakland Coliseum to wait in line for hours, some even camping out overnight to meet with a doctor or a dentist. An appointment that could cost up to a few hundred dollars is completely free. There is no co-pay, no insurance needed, and every single doctor, dentist, assistant you see is here on their own time.

"Everyone here is a volunteer. Nobody here is getting paid to do this. It's a great commentary on the spirit of the American public," Remote Area Medical Founder Stan Brock said.

The makeshift medical clinic is put on by Remote Area Medical, also known as RAM. It's funded solely on donations and it receives no government help. Just a little bit can go a long way. A $14 donation can pay for a full teeth cleaning with fillings if necessary or an eye exam, including a pair of eyeglasses.

"Right now being unemployed, my mom, she's got to get a diabetes check and heart disease. So it really means a lot," Michele Feagley from Castro Valley said.

"They're saving me a whole bunch. Eye exams run $50 something. Glasses run into the hundreds, so it was truly a blessing," Allison Greene from Oakland said.

Oakland is just one over 600 stops RAM has made over the past 26 years.

"There are just so many less fortunate people. This is the only way I can help because we don't do free services at my office," Oakland dental hygienist Kelley Sanford said.

RAM will be in the Bay Area for three more days. After that, it will move its operations to Haiti.