An estimated 1,000 people turned out Thursday for the opening day of an annual free clinic targeting the uninsured for free dental and medical care.
Care Harbor LA is hosting its annual clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena through Sunday, although the people lucky enough be seen by a doctor were treated because they had obtained an admittance wristband last weekend, when big crowds showed up, hoping for a place in line.
The clinic offers immunizations, women’s health screenings, dental cleanings, fillings, extractions and eye exams. Volunteers also try to connect patients with community clinics near their homes to improve year-round care.
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"I'm smiling because I'm happy," said Eunice Rucker, despite waiting six hours for a dental cleaning.
While some people would complain about waiting that long to see a dentist, Rucker said she's grateful to even get a chance.
"A lot of these folks have a lot of pressing needs and what we do is we set them up with thier local community clinic," said Dr. Mitchell Galper, a dentist volunteering for the program. "So we're education, we're prevention, but we're actually here to help them find a dental home."
Galper said more patients treated at a clinic means fewer turning up at the ER.
Although many formerly uninsured now have access to care because of the Affordable Care Act, organizers say there is such a pent up demand for healthcare that a spot at the event is still coveted.
"It's still too early to tell. It's a long process. We waited 40 years for these changes and (can't) expect 10 months to make all the changes happen," said Howard Kahn, chief executive of LA Care Health Plan.
During Care Harbor’s last three LA clinics, more than 10,000 patients were served.
Care Harbor is a Los Angeles-headquartered nonprofit organization that helps medically underserved people by organizing free urban health clinics.