The first remote area medical clinic in Alabama was scheduled to take place in 2020. However, COVID-19 had other plans.
“We were within two weeks of opening this clinic when Governor (Kay) Ivey shut down the state, so we had to file that,” recalled Angela Anderson, director of the area’s health education center. of east-central Alabama in February.
Next week, the dream will finally come true as the clinic prepares to welcome patients to Gadsden City High School on April 23-24.
The clinic is a way for local residents to receive the medical, dental or vision care they need, free of charge, no questions asked.
Anderson said the only things potential patients should bring with them are things they would like to have while waiting; no ID or proof of health insurance is required.
“The only thing people have to be prepared to do is line up and wait their turn,” she said. “Patients will be waiting a long time in their cars to enter the clinic, and we will have outhouses available for people to use while they wait.”
Anderson advises those considering coming to the clinic to have an idea in mind of what they want to do in the best case scenario. She said in February that potential patients can only visit two of the three centers per day, so if a patient wants everything done, they will have to come and wait for both days.
“The only limitation is that patients can only choose to go for dentistry or vision with medicine. It takes too long for a patient to get to both in one day,” she said. “However, these patients can also come back the next day and receive the other service that they did not receive the day before.”
While Anderson and clinic staff won’t know how many patients they’ll end up serving until official numbers are sent out a few weeks after the clinic, she said they’re preparing to see as many people as possible.
“We are ready to see a lot of patients,” she said. “I know I’ve been to clinics that have seen over 800 to 1,000 patients.”
Anderson said the number of stations that will be set up for the clinic has been confirmed: 60 dental chairs, 10 optometry lanes and three different bays for general medical care and women’s health care.
Services to be provided include pap smears, lab work, 360 degree x-ray and “fin parts” which can be created on site for small scale tooth replacement.
“They’re going to be amazed at the level of care they’re going to receive,” Anderson said. “We have some of the best dentists, doctors and optometrists in the state who come to help us, including some doctors who come from as far away as Oregon.”
She said patients will be able to browse additional services, such as COVID-19 testing and vaccinations for COVID, influenza and hepatitis A.
“We will also have tests available for HIV,” she said. “If a patient decides they want to participate in these, they will also be free.”
The hope is that most of the treatment patients need can be provided the day they visit the clinic, but Anderson said there will be a list of doctors for referrals. However, these will not be free.
“The gratuity ends when the patient leaves the RAM Clinic… and does not continue,” she said. “We try not to leave them out in the cold if they need more work. We’ll also have the work we’ve done on them in a folder with RAM forever, so they can access those recordings from (corporate headquarters near Knoxville, Tennessee).”
The clinic will make resources available to patients who may need help paying for these referrals, for example through its partnership with Quality of Life.
When she last spoke about the clinic, Anderson said the biggest challenge was getting enough volunteers together. This is no longer the case since more than 500 people have agreed to participate.
“It’s pretty amazing to see it all come together,” she said. “We have everything from the goggle station to dental care. Then we’ll have an estimate of how much free care we’ve provided.”
Anderson said accommodations will be provided for out-of-town volunteers in the form of hotel rooms, although there have been unexpected charges due to the Geico 500 NASCAR race taking place on the same day. weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
“We got hotel rooms for everyone who needed them, but we had to pay a high price for some of them,” she said. “Some people gave us a discount, but since it’s their big weekend, we really couldn’t refuse them.”
Community leaders have also found a way to help volunteers come to Gadsden for the clinic. Etowah County Commissioners Jeffery Washington and Craig Inzer helped secure a bus for UAB dental students.
“It helped us a lot because the dean of dental school decided that with gas prices and traffic he would rather his patients were on a bus where they could be transported back and forth” , said Anderson. “People at the school thought it would be safer for their students to have transportation. We paid for it, of course, but they (Washington and Inzer) put it in place. .”
“People in the community really bonded over it,” Inzer said. “We were able to have buses lined up to pick up students from one location in Birmingham and bring them here and bring them back safely.”
Anderson said the biggest problem they faced setting up the clinic was “trying to regroup after two years of COVID,” but setting up and finalizing plans went smoothly. .
“Things that I thought were turning into problems (were) all sorted out and went well,” she said. “Of course, the RAM people are super professional, so they know how to check this stuff, we didn’t miss anything, which is pretty amazing.”
She said the biggest thing the clinic needs from the community at this point is to spread the word and bring their neighbors who need these services to Gadsden City High in any way possible.
“If they have a neighbor who needs to come see us and they’re willing to, we need people to bring them here,” Anderson said. “If they can bring someone who is locked up, that would be really fantastic. That’s our key right now.”