How did we get to this place with Health Care?

Triage medicine in the Cocke County Gymnasium

Triage medicine in the Cocke County Gymnasium

I got out of bed early today and took a ride over to Tennessee with a friend to see what is happening out there for the common American when it comes to health care. An organization called Remote Area Medical (RAM) out of Knoxville was conducting a free medical clinic in the Cocke County High School for all comers. When we arrived around 8:45 they were still letting people in. By 9:00 they were turning people away, telling them to come back tomorrow. People who began arriving 2 days ago were already inside availing themselves of free dentistry, eye exams, glasses and medicals. Walking through the parking lot on the way in, we saw signs that people had been and were still sleeping in their cars. Doctors, dentist, and nurses from all over the US donate their time through this organization to give care where it is needed to folks who would otherwise get none. When I asked about volunteering, they said that they were full up for next weekend, which I take as a good sign. People are willing to take care of each other.

The dentists’ nurse told me that the majority of their cases are pulling teeth. In other words, people are not getting preventive care, just coming in when they are in pain. A young mother with one child in a stroller and five more at home was there with her husband who does not have a job or insurance. Her school bus driver job covers only her and if they wanted to cover the whole family it would be $1000 they don’t have.

One of the nurses I met there was from Canada, though she works in the US, and laughed about the notion that socialized medicine was the bugaboo it has been made out to be. She and some of the other nurses have treated the Mountain Dew kids in Appalachia and are totally behind a real reform of the medical system here. _DEB0016_2Of course they are; they see people at their most vulnerable, the ones who have no insurance, the ones who fell through the cracks, the children who may not get the nutrition they need to form a great brain because they are dirt poor, the out of work and no insurance people like me. I could find myself there but for the grace of God and a mom with a checkbook.

I have no doubt that free clinics like this one are seeing more and more people these days and that is a scary proposition. It had the feeling of a M*A*S*H unit. One of the volunteers said they would treat about 480 people today and half again as many tomorrow because of church and the doctors’ schedules. This was a small town. And they will have treated about 700 people in 2 days. Extrapolated out, how many people in the country are in need of basic health care and are not getting any?

From the local paper Sunday
Article about upcoming event.


1 Comment

Filed under americana

One response to “How did we get to this place with Health Care?

  1. Patrick Ward

    Hi there,

    Good article. I wanted to ask if the photo you use to illustrate is yours? If so, could you drop me an email because we’d like to use it in a magazine article in the UK.

    I am on

    Many thanks, keep it up!


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