WISE COUNTY, Va. - Despite limited availability and other challenges, thousands of southwest Virginians now rely on getting routine medical care at RAM clinics. RAM stands for Remote Area Medical cinics. The latest RAM clinic started Friday and runs through the weekend at the Wise County fairgrounds.
Rosa Hancock is back for a check up after getting hearing aids here at RAM five years ago. They are free hearing aids she otherwise could not afford.
"Now I can hear the rain on the roof, I can hear if someone's hollering at me from off in a distance, I can hear them. I can hear the sounds of the birds. It makes a big difference when you're able to hear them and you haven't been able to," Hancock said.
She is among nearly 3,000 residents from the region expected here through the weekend for mostly routine medical care.
Lev Smith has been coming for the last three years. He has already received prescription glasses and now needs dental work.
"I don't have any dental insurance, but I'm just thankful that I can get this done because of the money situation," Smith said.
RAM founder Stan Brock said repeat visits have become more and more common as routine medical care is too expensive and there is a shortage of doctors and dentists.
"We've been doing this for 18 years here, and every time we come here, we see the same people and they're all here to see the dentist and to see the eye doctor, get a pair of glasses because those two specialties are not available to them unless they're able to afford the necessary insurance," Brock said.
While a plan is still possible soon from the senate on the possible repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia is at RAM volunteering. Kaine is a strong opponent of repeal and replace.
"This is always a really powerful event because the magnitude of need is really heartbreaking in this great country," Kaine said.
Kaine, a member of the Senate Health Committee, said this helps him connect directly to the problem.
No matter what happens in Washington, southwest Virginians in need are thankful for a resource despite limitations of availability, and in exreme heat, the challenges of waiting and hoping to get in.
"A lot of these people are coal miners, and they don't have jobs. So this really helps with them to get medical assistance," Hancock said.
RAM will continue in Wise through Sunday. The clinic opens at 6 each morning.
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