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Thousands Expected For Free Health Care Event In Oakland

OAKLAND (KCBS) - An organization which brings free health care to remote parts of the world will be in Oakland this weekend to as part of its new mission to help thousands of uninsured or under-insured Americans.

Remote Area Medical, commonly referred to as RAM, was scheduled to set up shop at the Oakland Coliseum April 9th through the 12th. Organizers were confident the need would be great throughout the community.

KCBS' Margie Shafer Reports:

"You'll find that most of the people are coming because they want to see the dentist and they want to see the eye doctors," offered RAM founder Stan Brock. "We've had over 65,000 volunteers in the field over many years. There will be several hundred to 1,000 volunteers at one of these large events."

Patients were advised to arrive by midnight prior to the morning they hoped to be seen, given the fact that volunteers would begin handing out entrance tickets at 3:30 a.m. Patients would be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 5:30 a.m.

"Everything is free and we don't ask any questions except where does it hurt," explained Brock. "We do expect quite a large turnout here in Oakland. We'll do the best we can."

Attendance at a recent, four-day RAM stop in Sacramento drove home the point that the need is great throughout California - more than 3,600 people showed up seeking some sort of treatment.

"It was people like you or me that were just kind of down on their luck," recalled organizer Pam Congdon. "It wasn't a lot of homeless and indigent. It was normal people that maybe could afford medical but they couldn't afford dental and vision or they could afford the insurance for their children but not for themselves."

Brock stressed that the need was expected to be overwhelming in the East Bay over the weekend, as well.

"It includes people who have jobs or recently lost their jobs, who simply don't have the money to be able to go down the road and get their teeth fixed or get their eyes fixed or to go to a medical doctor," he explained.

RAM survives on small cash donations, plus the willingness of medical providers to offer their time. In fact, medical professionals with expertise in the dental and vision fields were still needed, and Brock encouraged them to simply show up - because licenses could be reviewed and verified at the Coliseum.

"We wouldn't accept money from the patients," clarified Brock. "But it's those $5 and $10 contributions from the public that fund this organization."

Services expected to be performed during the weekend event included dental cleanings, filling and extractions, eye exams and preparation and delivery of glasses, breast exams and diabetes screenings.

"What we do is not a health fair, it's not a screening. We're actually fixing people's teeth. And some people, will be getting full mouth extractions where all the teeth have to come out because they're all bad, they hadn't been to a dentist in many, many years.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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