Group to offer free medical care at state fairgrounds

The Journal Record — April 9, 2010

Group to offer free medical care at state fairgrounds

By April Wilkerson
The Journal Record
Posted: Friday, April 9, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY – The reasons Oklahomans aren’t receiving adequate medical, dental and eye care are as varied as the ailments that have ravaged their bodies as a result.

This summer, volunteers with a new state group hope to chip away at the problem. Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a national volunteer medical care organization that has recently begun an Oklahoma program. From July 9-11, RAM will offer free health care at the state fairgrounds to anyone who’s in need.

In other states, people have camped out overnight to make sure they’re in line when the doors open, said Tres Savage, RAM Oklahoma coordinator. In Oklahoma, he estimates they will treat 2,000 people.

“People will be triaged and sent to the type of care they need,” he said. “But one of the goals of RAM is to connect people to continuing care, whether it’s community health centers, free health clinics or Medicaid, so they’re not waiting around until next year for more care. Our goal is to augment the care that is already going on around the state.”

Dental care is one of the biggest needs at RAM events, Savage said. Two months ago, the Oklahoma Dental Association had a free dental clinic in Tulsa that treated more than 1,500. People may have medical insurance, but can’t afford the dental rider, he said. Or they simply can’t afford the deductible for their dental insurance.

Dr. Barry Amos, an Oklahoma City dentist who plans to volunteer his services, said finding dental care is more difficult because people can’t receive it at the emergency room, and the high cost of dental equipment prevents many free clinics from providing it.

“At the Tulsa event, adults and kids showed up with rotted teeth,” he said. “There are all sorts of systemic disease linked to the bad health of your teeth.”

Savage said representatives from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority also will be on hand to help people determine whether they’re eligible for Medicaid services. After this summer’s event, Savage said the organization would like to duplicate the services in rural parts of the state.

Savage also said he’s still seeking health care professionals to volunteer. Remote Area Medical sends in out-of-state volunteers, but more are needed, he said.

“Once you work at an event, you’re hooked because you are amazed to see the thousands of people who have waited in their cars overnight just to see a doctor or dentist,” he said.

For information, visit www.ramok.org or call Savage at (405) 410-5411.

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