Wise County

Thousands arrive for free care at RAM

Thousands arrive for free care at RAM

WISE, Va. - Thousands of people are enduring scorching heat and long lines in hopes of receiving free medical care. The annual Wise, Virginia Remote Area Medical event is set up and offering free care throughout the weekend.

This is the moment some people in this line have camped out and waited all year for -- when the gates to the annual Remote Area Medical event in Wise.

Now in its fifteenth year, RAM will attract more than 3,000 people from several states.

Founder Stan Brock told us more about the event. "I'm afraid its the same 3,000 or so folks that come here every year. In other words, the RAM event there at the fairgrounds has become their single source of healthcare for the year," he said.

For two and a half days the fairgrounds turns into a mobile and all-encompassing medical center staffed by volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses, and technicians offering free care.

William Mays is one of the attendees receiving care. "This is huge for me, because healthcare, vision and dental is somewhat unaffordable," he said.

Organizers say the number of people desperate to receive healthcare is growing after major layoffs in the coal industry.

Doctors like Ross Isaacs say they see several of the same diseases, including "asthma, lung disease, black lung disease, a lot of back pain, a lot of people who were bent over in a mine and bent over in a shop."

But the health screenings are also certain to identify several life-threatening diseases. Officials say doctors will diagnose several forms of cancer.

The care does not stop with this event. Follow-up for many of these patients comes through the local group Health Wagon. "This is a 'band-aid clinic'. There is an organiztion here, the Health Wagon, they are the ones that stitch the band-aids together," Dr. Isaacs said. "They are the safety net."

But the need expands beyond our corner of the world according to Stan Brock. "This is not just a problem for this region," he said. "We could stick a pin in the map and we are going have large crowds anywhere we go."

The RAM clinic runs through Sunday morning and patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis.

Organizers with the Health Wagon say one of their biggest challenges is finding enough practitioners licensed in the state of Virginia to agree to work the event, especially those with more specialized medical training.

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