By Cristiane Roget, correspondent PRGLOBALMEDIA
Bradenton, FL As the nation’s privileged and our politicians wage a pitted battle over a counter intuitive campaign to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, America’s most vulnerable citizens; that is the working poor and dispossessed are increasingly harmed by a medical system that is meant to heal them.
Served by an all-volunteer brigade of physicians, dentists, vision and health care professionals of every stripe; Remote Area Medical free clinics come together throughout the United states and beyond to counter the uneasiness and disruptive forces gripping the nation sans the politicking and proselytizing. This past weekend , November 11 through the 12th saw upwards to 830 volunteers applying a stint on hemorrhaging medical costs for over 940 patients.
Those at greatest risk and the physicians that treat them grapple with a national epidemic of opioid addiction, gross obesity and the sticker shock of life saving prescription drugs. “Is it any wonder that those seeking dental, vision and primary medical care arrive in droves?, opined Lori Dengler an APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) of Tidewell Hospice and veteran RAM coordinator.
Undaunted by what may seem insurmountable challenges the most recent iteration of Remote Area Medical’s all-free clinics played out in the spacious steel and glass Manatee Technical College, an alligator toss from Tampa in the bustling rural enclave of Bradenton, Florida. The Manatee Host Committee, under the skilled guidance of Dr. Richard T. Conard, confirmed, “We view our 3rd Bradenton RAM Clinic as essential to the health and welfare of our community. Forty- three percent(43%) of our population cannot afford basic necessities; with medical care and affordable housing at the forefront. Many are stuck in the revolving door of one check (or check-up) ahead of financial ruin.”
The state of current affairs is not all gloom and doom. Joining the over 120,000+ health and medical practitioners that consistently volunteer for Global RAM Clinics are a contingency of community outreach organizations displaying their wares along the Community Corridors.
The Animal Network and RAM Pet Treatment Clinic, Co-Modeco.com Compact and Affordable Modular Homes, that are called ‘Legos ® on Steroids’, Families Against Hit & Run Drivers, Early Learning Coalition, Sun Coast and the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Also the Patterson Foundation, under the tutelage of Beatriz Paniego-Behar, Tidewell Hospice and the Manatee County Neighborhood, Paramedic, Community Rural Health, Farm Worker and Library Services were there to do the “good work”.
The international NGO, Remote Area Medical, was conceived over three decades ago by its Founder and President, Stan Brock, a film star and author in the golden age of television and best known as an animal activist, conservationist and adventurer. To this add his role as ‘Humble Humanitarian in Chief’.
According to Dr. Valerie Viands, PHD in Education and Director of the Manatee Technical College, “We are in a unique and flexible position to turn our curriculum on a dime to meet the needs and requirements of students and employers throughout the region.” She confirmed their staff was delighted to provide the MTC location for the thirds years in a row a two day syringe and bandage cavalcade.
Among the special guests were Nate and Nikki Moore who had driven in from Charlotte, North Carolina to observe first-hand a Remote Area Medical Clinic in action. With plans to mount a RAM roll-out in 2019 they were asked, ‘why they would undertake such a labor of self sacrifice?’. The couple replied, “They were committed to fight the blight of inaccessible medical care. Firm in the belief that alternatives, grass-roots, relief aid organizations, community driven initiatives and volunteer clinics serve as a beacon of possibility and hope.” Among the contingent of unsung heroes was family doctor and Internist , Dr. Eric Lang, of Melbourne, Florida (and formally of the ‘City of Brotherly Love’), “We are driven to put a band aid on a billion-dollar problem”.
“We spend far more per capita on ‘health care’ than anyone other country for a system that is susceptible to abuse and in many cases inefficient.” commented Dr. Conard.
While the 1000’s of ‘at risk’ families representing a cross section of American’s from every imaginable socio-economic strata it is RAMusa’s cardinal policy to, “Ask no questions, other than, where does it hurt?”
REMOTE AREA MEDICAL CLINIC ROLLS IN
A Remote Area Medical clinic is a free mobile medical clinic on a grand scale. “They serve patients who arrive in some cases from hundreds of miles the previous morning. “They camp out in the vast parking lot with high hopes,” said Marisa Dawson, R.N. B.S, CHPN from Tidewell Hospice. ‘On set’ included an eye glass refactor cube truck, a 50,000-watt air and diesel powered power source and a Volvo truck laden with 100 state-of-the-art dental chairs along with advanced optical testing equipment.
ABOUT THE FOUNDER & PRESIDENT STAN BROCK
Remote Area Medical’s modest visionary, Captain Stan Brock in safari flak shirt stands steadfast at the entrance to greet patients with his Zen like calm. Unflappable he has orchestrated the set up and strike of the RAM relief aid for decades in treacherous destinations as far afield as Nepal, Haiti and most recently Houston and Puerto Rico.
PLANS FOR PUERO RICO
RAM detachment is gearing up for a 5th foray into Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Irma and some describe as ravaged beyond repair. VasilikiKarlin, a medical aestheticism and another veteran of the triage division at the Bradenton RAM Free Clinic, also helped last year to coordinate the RAMusa medical rotation in the Islands of Lesbos and Chios in Greece to stem the tide of the Syrian Refugee crisis. She and others are reaching out to her friends and associates at ZEP Cleaning Products and contacts in St Croix to assist in bringing desperately needed medical assistance to victims in Puerto Rico. Volunteers who have returned recently from Puerto Rico describe it as, ‘a blight that pales in comparison with what the news channels are reporting. “The devastation to the Caribbean Islands is hard to wrap one’s mind around”. says RAM CEO, Jeff Eastman.
ABOUT THE PATIENTS
It was observed that the lines were shorter than in the past with everyone being treated. “Not one was turned away this year as sometimes regrettably happens,” according to Vicki Gregg, RAM Clinic Manager. The decrease in overall patient attendance this year could be attributed to a baseless fear that those in need would be I.D.’ and potentially deported or incarcerated.
Patients span the spectrum from indigent and homeless, the proverbial ‘middle class’ unable to afford basic medical, dental and eye care while shouldering a back breaking tax burden.
THE STATE OF AFFAIRES
In spite of the partisan turmoil and threat of disbanding ‘Obamacare’, National Public Radio, reported this week that over 450,000 Americans signed up for the ACA in October in spite of avaricious insurance companies opting out of the program. Could this increase be attributed to Americans standing their ground with their pocket book?
ABOUT THE ORGANIZERS AND PARTICIPANTS
The Director of the RAM Community Host Group in Bradenton,Richard Conard, M.D., agreed with career Hospice counselor, APRN and Chairperson Lori Dengler, “Our country’s health care is by far the most expensive in the world. It is in practice a ‘Sick Care System’ said Lori at the conclusion of the intense 2-day RAM gathering.
‘By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care,”said former President Obama. “While Washington takes aim at health-care reform in an attempt to bring costs under control in spite of detractors, let’s face it, extending medical coverage to everybody should be an inalienable right,” says Conard.
A TYPICAL BRADENTON CLINIC ACTIVATION
The RAM medical equipment and technology is on par with what one would find at Cedar Sinai, Duke or the Mayo Clinic. It took only a few short hours to have the infrastructure in place and a cadre of medical personnel at the ready to morph into a fully functioning medical clinic, Dental and Vision Lab & treatment center ringed by consulting and educational organizations. Prevention, Education and Treatment was the three-pronged song sung at a low hum.
The advancement of literacy among children with gifts of 1000’s of children’s books, experts offering relief for debilitating drug dependencies and the Goodwill proffering employment opportunities were among the verses.
Nutritional and Delicious catering was donated by the community spirited Rotary and Kiwanis’s Clubs. As member of the Rotary Club Sarasota and Duty Free proprietor Michel Daigle said, “the organizational skills of RAM volunteers are nothing short of ‘chill worthy’. An atmosphere of controlled chaos prevails that could best be likened to the arrival of a block buster movie production. It was fully functional faster than you could say ‘quiet on the set’. “
The genesis of the RAM expeditions into Florida span years of navigating the byways of strict medical practice rules and regulations, fundraising and community outreach. “When primary medical care and treatment is out of reach, trained volunteers should be embraced rather than hampered. While RAM’s and Bradenton’s community leaders and resolute staff navigated legislative and bureaucratic labyrinths we stay on point with our core mission,“confirms Brock.
Under the guidance of Richard T. Conard, M.D. and in collaboration with Stan Brock, RAM Founder& President, the Bradenton Committee successfully stayed the course one more year. Tampa & Washington DC’s Michael Collins Public Relations summed the endeavor succinctly , “The spirit of community engagement and camaraderie also has a healing effect”.
CBS News 60 MINUTES segment RAMUSA http://vimeo.com/753559